Sunday, January 23, 2011

Buzz Lightyear Says Buzz Off Buzzwords

Toy Story star Buzz Lightyear’s favourite saying is: “to infinity and beyond.”

And, to my mind, that’s where the list of business buzzwords and phrases featured here should go as well, leaving our world of written and verbal communication a more straightforward, clear-cut, plain speaking place.

It was a LinkedIn topic that eventually yielded a list of words and phrases that deserve to be binned.

Although many examples nominated came from our friends in the USA, many are familiar here, sadly.

So the Twaddle Top Twenty, with comments in quotation marks from Jim Bianchi in Detroit who instigated all this, is:

1. At the end of the day – “At the end of the day, it’s night. So what?”

2. Solutions / solution provider – “Everything is a solution, not a product or service. They’ve even turned solutions into a verb – solutioning?”

3. Low hanging fruit – “Can’t we just saying ‘quick wins’? And why don’t we ever talk about the ‘high hanging fruit?’”

4. Moving/going forward – “Shorthand for: whatever I say after this, don’t ever let it happen again!”

5. Leverage – “Bizspeak for ‘we’re really going to put the screws to someone now.’ And the someone may be you.”

6. Out of / outside the box – “Out of the box and into the garbage!”

7. Value add / value added / added value – “If you add up all the value adds, you’ll get 110 percent.”

8. Thought leader / leadership – “Or is it that you just thought you were a leader?”

9. Synergy / synergize – “Derives from the words synthetic – imitation – and energy, so we’re talking about fake energy?”

10. Cutting / leading edge – “Unless you’re talking about saws or airplanes, forget the edge.”

11. Circle back – “Consultant speak for what a group does after they put things in buckets, did deep dives in the fishbowl, performed a wash up and got on the same bus.”

12. Reach out – “Can’t we just say contact or call?”

13. Talk / meet offline – “Means I want you to stop talking now and will rip you a new one later, when there are no witnesses around!”

14. Granular / granularity – “Unless we’re talking about sand or sugar, let’s just say examine closely. Next we’ll be looking at the atomic level.”

15. Bandwidth – “Hijacked from the IT world, let’s send bandwidth back where it belongs, cyberspace!”

16. Utilize – “Like many verbs ending in -ize (especially those fabricated from adding -ize to a noun to try to make it a verb), could be said in a clearer, simpler way … in this case, use.”

17. Incentivize – see Utilize above.

18. Best of breed / best in class / world class – “Best of breed – yuck! Let’s leave the animal husbandry terms out of this!”

19. It is what it is – “Of course it is, otherwise it would be what it isn’t, which it clearly is not … is it?”

20. Engagement / engage – “Unless we’re talking about an impending wedding, engagement causes my enragement!”

I’m not sure what the comment to No 13 means and, of course, No 16 and No 17 would relate to –ise here.

And, for heaven’s sake, “boil the ocean”; “tick the box”; “no brainer”; “raft of ideas” didn’t make it. Oh, well.

And just in – “oppositionism” from an eminent Scottish journalist and “productise” from someone in business.

It would appear that there’s no end in sight to word mangling, as I pointed out to a national newspaper through its Letters’ Page.

I think the English language should be protected from abuse, misuse and the downright useless, who should watch what they say and, importantly, how they say it.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I have been amused, bemused and hugely entertained by a LinkedIn discussion that has focused on “buzzwords” or, more precisely, the “buzzwords” that should be erased, wiped out, eradicated, binned, dumped, banned, buried – for ever.

Like the word “buzzword” itself, as one contributor suggested prompting no argument from me. When a BBC2 Newsnight presenter used the expression “bigging up” one night last week, I knew that my time in the doldrums as far as blogging was concerned needed to end.

Apologies for being pedantic, but the “buzzwords” topic should really have been about ridding the world – pronto – of annoying and meaningless phrases or terms that people in business, mainly, have latched on to and use, remorselessly, thinking they sound authoritative, smart or contemporary.

Or, maybe, like bonus-winning bankers, they think they are hoodwinking us with their snake-oil jargon, the nest of vipers that they are.

That aside the LinkedIn conversation, started by Jim Bianchi, who heads his own PR company in the Detroit area, has been enlightening and informative.

Loads of us want this gobbledygook to end, the gibberish that clouds reality – words stuck together that mean little or nothing.

Even in the world of hiring new staff, the latest buzzwords and phrases are causing confusion leading to demands for plain talking from applicants.,0,82925.story

While, many of the examples responding to Jim Bianchi’s question were US- centric, we will recognise many and, worse, will be reminded of people who use them as naturally as they stare at their iPhone/Blackberry when you’re in their company.

One of the first to bob up was a belter - boil the ocean. Brilliant. What does it mean? I had no idea until some helpful US contributor suggested: "….if a member of the corporate pantheon suggests you are trying to ‘boil the ocean,’ he or she thinks you are doing something incredibly inefficiently.” Is that the same as “you’re making a mess of it?”

My tuppence worth included “raft of ideas” and the really annoying "ticking all the rihgt boxes" but this guy, Tim Trout - - had me in fits with this example he had come across.

“We are a full-spectrum consumer-focused solutions provider. Our teams are experienced in transitioning processes and systems to supply the platform your organisation and customers need. Our iterative product-development methodologies expedite the evolution of next-generation functionality. We can enhance your existing business and portal strategies or collaborate across disciplines to create new and exciting iterative change.” As Tim put it, “…a cool twenty or more for the price of one.” Utterly gruesome and shocking that some people are dim enough to fall or be impressed by such verbiage – or mince, to be more precise.

Action plan; 
at the end of the day; bells and whistles; best practice; blamestorming; 
blue sky thinking; goal-oriented; fit for purpose; moving the goal posts; 
multi-tasking; on the same page; open door policy; parachute in; tasked; touch base; transparency and value-added. A catalogue of the meaningless spouted by the vacuous, I suggest.

Not forgetting, of course, “thought showers” instead of “brainstorming.” To think someone, somewhere had enough time to sit and create this dross.

Any other examples? I’d love to hear about them. Or versionise, as I heard someone utter during a Radio Scotland interview recently.