September 23, 2014

Horse 1756 - The Language of Fox, Weasel and Skunk Pty Ltd

Meeting Opened by the Chair at 11:04am.

I like big words. Let it be said that I would like to work under a benevolent assiduous boss rather that a querulous one lacking in sagacity. Big words are fun. I also like the fact that you can say something with very short words and still be very precise - or multisyllabic words if you desire for loquacious obfuscation.
What I hate though; what I abhor; what gives me the irrits; gets my hackles, feckles and schmeckles up though, are management type phrases which are weasel words. Writing in the passing voice is all right I suppose but to tergiversate via subterfuge is bunk.

Why are these used? If speaking and writing is about communicating effectively, then who is this language designed for? If it is supposed to make employees hate management, it works. If it is supposed to make the speaker sound more intelligent it fails; this is something I need to be careful with.
During a meeting held in our offices of Fox, Weasel and Skunk Pty Ltd
 (as I was taking minutes), I took note of some of the weasel words and phrases being used - there were 22 examples.
These be they (with notes):

1. Wipe The Slate Clean
What slate? Who has a slate? Why do we have a slate? The only reason that anyone ever needs to talk about a slate, is when they are talking about a bar tab.

2. Whole Box And Dice
Monopoly? Risk? Why have we decided to play games? Do you really want to gamble with the future of the company or your employees' future?

3. Action (as a verb)
I have no problem with verbing nouns or nouning verbs. There is nothing strange about 'hammering a nail', 'nailing that exam', 'chairing a meeting' or 'tabling minutes' but there is a perfectly good word for 'action' - 'do'.
"Please 'do' this for me" sounds far better than "Please 'action' this for me", which in all honesty sounds like you're just about to do the Hokey Cokey.

4. Sea Change
Once upon a time, this meant a major change brought about because of the sea. It comes from Ariel's speech to Ferdinand in "The Tempest":
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Suffering a sea change here, invokes terror and visiting Davy Jones' locker (he has kept his gym shoes there for weeks); moving to a lovely new house does not.

5. The Reality Is...
Really? Is it? I reject your reality and substitute my own.
The reality is that the reality is that "the reality is" is a totally redundant statement from the redundant Department of Redundancy Department.

6. Ongoing Basis
This thing continues.

7. Synergies
Synergy comes from the Greek word συνεργός (synergos) and means "working together". It is the abstract concept that a thing is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the world of business, since marketing and management are either overhead or indirect costs, by definition, there is almost no synergy ever. Work is produced by people working. Overhead and indirect costs are largely dead weight.

8. Touch Base
I will telephone you later.

9. Blue Sky Thinking
And if the Blue Sky mining company won't come to my rescue; if the sugar refining company won't save me, who's gonna save me?
The company takes what the company wants and nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground.

10. Value Chain
6mm Stainless Steel, I can do for about $19/m galvanised.

11. Rationalisation Of Resources
Economic Rationalism was a buzzword in the 1980s which meant taking public assets and selling them. Rationalisation Of Resources means taking away your job and hiring someone in India to do it for $4 a week.

12. Moving Forward
The country that car is from no longer exists. Put it in H.

13. Integrated Solutions
I've got 99 calculus problems but f(x) ain't one?

14. Service Delivery Methodology
This means "I will do some work for you" or if you're feeling adventurous "This is how I will do some work for you". That five syllable word at the end "Methodology" can be replaced with a handy three letter word "way" in almost every instance.

15. Convergence
Things are coming together. A plan is afoot.

16. Proactive Approach
We will punch you first.

17. Holistic Approach
We're going to look at all of it.

18. Runs On The Board
19. Putting The Ducks In Order
20. At The End of The Day
After our openers got out, we had a middle order collapse and just before teatime, we are in utter peril at 108-9.

21. Outcome Orientation
This is what we want to do.

22. Push The Envelope
I know what this is supposed to mean and in the context of aerospace or mechanical engineering where you are meeting the limits of the laws of physics it makes some degree of sense. In the business world though? Really?
The only envelopes that get pushed in the city, are ones made of brown paper.

I'm pretty sure that everyone at the meeting including myself, would have been far happier if they were down at Balmoral Beach eating fish and chips and watching the waves roll in.
The only reason that I can see for using lifeless and cliched phrases and language like this is to lull the people that you are meeting with into a sense of brain fug so that they won't notice how much they're being taken for a rube.

The Meeting was adjourned at 11:57am

The directors of War, Famine, Pestilence and Death Pty Ltd are due to meet at 03:30pm this afternoon.

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