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.


  1. consume your own smoke is one I heard

  2. I've always hated 'touch base'. Anyone who touches my base without a clear invitation is in big trouble. I recently emailed a piece of work to a client who responded: 'Will revise and revert.' How we laaarffed.

  3. Good points, folks.

    I did admit to one potential client that when she was talking about that classic of management speak, "thinking outside the box," I didn't really understand what she meant. And, I doubt, she did either.