At the end of the day
September 6, 2005 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Weasel words 'Spare Don Watson, author of Death Sentences from all of these weasely, wishy-washy, and worst of all, ugly bits of management-speak that have drifted out of consulting sessions and into the social realm.' Your favourite spin doctoring ?
posted by johnny7 (31 comments total)
If I hear the expression "due diligence" used as a verb just once more, I'll go medieval on the speaker's ass.
posted by clevershark at 8:19 PM on September 6, 2005

I dislike hearing companies call themselves 'solution providers'.
posted by Miko at 8:32 PM on September 6, 2005

Servicing the target. US Army term for killing the enemy.

Either that, or the US Army is running a whorehouse ...
posted by bwg at 8:39 PM on September 6, 2005

Some phrases I hate:

1. "root cause"
I hate the phrase "root cause" because the people who ask me "what's the root cause?" really want "the reason I'm not to blame"

2. "Moving forward"
Prefaces just about every stupid idea I hear. Mangement tacks it onto the front of a sentence, particularly after someone has just expressed a conflicting POV.

3. "opportunity"
Why the hell can't they just say, "This is a shitty situation. Suck it up" rather than calling it an "opportunity"?

We're usually "Moving forward" to something that will be an "opportunity" for my team. Later I get to write a report with the words "root cause" in it.

I think I'll brush up my resume now.

/bitter rant

( I guess these are really examples of "managerspeak" rather than weasel words. Same sh*t. different pile...)
posted by login at 9:00 PM on September 6, 2005

Languagehat would have a field day with this ...
posted by bwg at 9:06 PM on September 6, 2005

Mad props to a related oldie but goodie: the Wankometer.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:16 PM on September 6, 2005

This isn't a weasel word, but I just recently heard it in a business context for the first of what I'm sure will be many nauseating times, and for lack of attention to lexicon and sheer ugliness it fills me with perfect disgust: what do you call a seminar conducted online? Why, a webinar!

(There's about 2.5 million google hits for it so I don't know how I avoided it this long, but it wasn't long enough.)
posted by melissa may at 9:31 PM on September 6, 2005

Weasel Words is an excellent book by a very clear and lucid writer, he wrote the best biography I've read, Recollections of a bleeding heart about Paul Keating, Australia's charismatic and arrogant PM in the mid 90s.
posted by wilful at 9:37 PM on September 6, 2005

Another oldie but goodie, Dack's Bullshit Generator.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:43 PM on September 6, 2005

Oh, and this CL ad is a prime fucking example of why certain HR peeps should be strung up by their nutsack.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:45 PM on September 6, 2005

Bullshit Bingo!
posted by login at 9:46 PM on September 6, 2005

Value fucking Added.

I heard it in private law and of course I hear it in government. I still can't fathom how the speaker fails to realize how stupid it makes them look.
posted by dreamsign at 9:59 PM on September 6, 2005

Oh and of course there is the continuum of proposals in order of diminishing expectations:

We have a policy
We have a draft policy
We have a plan
We have a strategy
We have a proposed course
We have milestones.

Friggin milestones?!
posted by dreamsign at 10:02 PM on September 6, 2005

In a previous job I used to sit in on meetings in which my presence really wasn't necessary. I ended up spending most of the meetings playing a little list-making game. I would basically make lists of management-speak expressions used by the people at the meeting, with each participant getting his/her own list as needed.

Those people must have thought I was a very meticulous note-taker. I found that the guy chairing the meeting would have a list that was invariably several times the length of his closest "rival".

In the end this taugh me that this was the guy you really didn't want to have around in case an emergency came up.
posted by clevershark at 10:17 PM on September 6, 2005

"Action item" is the one I hate the most. It sounds like something the League of Justice talks about at meetings.
posted by biscotti at 12:12 AM on September 7, 2005

I'm glad to see the world of teaching represented on this website. We use computer-generated comments for student report cards these days; I don't even understand what half the comments mean, so how the hell am I meant to expect parents to know what "At High Achievement, the student has consistently shown knowledge and understanding of how texts are constructed across a range of texts in a range of social and cultural contexts" means. It's so nice to see my state education department represented on such a website.

My job in a school involves being a literacy co-ordinator. Don't worry, I have no concrete idea what my job is either; as far as I know I'm in charge of a Flavour of the Month and not a real subject. My job involves talking about multiliteracies and life-long learning. My head hurts whenever I have to write a memo.

Oh yes, and I must confess to playing Buzzword Bingo more than once when deputy principals begin presenting during staff briefings. Productive Pedagogies (meaning "good teaching") is my favourite buzzword in the past 10 years.
posted by chronic sublime at 1:51 AM on September 7, 2005

The excellent (and very old) 'Action Item - Superhero' comic.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:26 AM on September 7, 2005

I hate being tasked. I honestly don't know how that became a verb, particularly when we have so many words that mean the same thing. In fact, the one that really gets me is when people say "can I task you with this?" when it's so similar to "can I ask you for this?"
posted by flameproof at 3:15 AM on September 7, 2005

I know we're supposed to hate the French and all, but the one I hate is the verb form of liaison: liase? It makes me want to rip people's throats out when I hear that one.
posted by psmealey at 3:19 AM on September 7, 2005

posted by pracowity at 3:28 AM on September 7, 2005

My all-time favorite comes from Vietnam, when an Air Force public-relations officer lost his temper at some reporters: "You're always writing 'bombing, bombing, bombing'! It isn't bombing! It's air support!"
posted by alumshubby at 4:57 AM on September 7, 2005

Indirectly related...

What's with being in an interview or press conference and asking yourself a question and then answering it?
Does it irk me? Yes.
posted by jaronson at 5:37 AM on September 7, 2005

Product. Grr. "Let's move some product, people!"
posted by scratch at 6:26 AM on September 7, 2005

What's with being in an interview or press conference and asking yourself a question and then answering it?

Its a time-honoured technique when you don't want to answer the question asked. Just ask yourself a question you do want to answer.
"Senator, why have you diverted $100 gazillion dollars from your campaign fund to your brothers advertising firm?"

"I think the real question we need to be asking here is why my opponent has consistently demonstrated a preference for sheep ....
posted by nogudnik at 6:28 AM on September 7, 2005

> Does it irk me? Yes.

Ewwww. I hate that.

"Does that mean X? Not necessarily. Blah blah blah..."

"Am I saying X? No, blah blah blah..."

Do people ask questions when they could instead make simple statements? Indeed they do.
posted by pracowity at 6:41 AM on September 7, 2005

The truly scary part is just how earnest the people who babble this crap are. The words actually seem to mean something to them. And when you call them on it, they honestly seem confused. Like I'm the one talking nonsense.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:11 AM on September 7, 2005

I love it when people use "status" as a verb.

Could you status that for me?

posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:59 AM on September 7, 2005

Best practices.

> Does it irk me? Yes.

You know who's a master of the self-question? Rumsfeld. I really think he helped popularize it.
posted by Miko at 11:16 AM on September 7, 2005

The words actually seem to mean something to them.

Like most jargon, these words do in fact mean something -- sometimes quite specific things. "Best practices" is a perfect example. In other cases they are metaphors for common business situations. They become tired from overuse, of course, and sometimes the metaphors are horribly mixed and mangled, but they are needed so frequently it would be insane to have to constantly invent and understand new phrases with the same meaning as, say, "on the bubble." Just as in the Tok Pisin language (a creole spoken in Papua New Guinea that is based partly on English) nobody who hears "gras bilong fes" thinks of grass (the phrase is a single "word" that means "beard"), nobody who hears "on the bubble" is thinking of bubbles or even thinks of it as a metaphor at all. Nobody who hears "milestones" thinks of stones or miles and "benchmarking" doesn't conjure images of benches.

Some business terms are fairly clever back-formations, IMHO. I think "incent" (derived from "incentive") is nearly beautiful in its economy, particularly compared to its alternative, "incentivize." "Liase" is another one like this, although admittedly the result is not as aesthetically pleasing. But what the hell should we call what a liaison does, if not liasing? In any case, business jargon is more about economy than aesthetics.

There is, unfortunately, a fair amount of simple parroting without understanding. Most people don't realize that "utilize" is supposed to mean something different from "use" -- which is not surprising because the difference was always rather subtle and difficult to explain, but I used to get the sense that "utilizing" something had more to do with putting it to work or deriving value from it than did merely "using" it. As fewer people understood this distinction, of course, it has become lost, and "utilize" is now primarily a long-winded way to say "use." This sort of thing is by no means unique to busisess, though.

Other business phrases are simply rote utterances that serve as markers for various types of conversational directions, sort of verbal punctuation. "At the end of the day" is one of these.

I suppose it means I've been around businesspeople too long, but I found the Craigslist ad fairly clear in what it was looking for. It could do with a bit of editing (the "pertaining to" stuff was fairly obnoxious) but it was clearly written by someone for whom business is a second language, so we should be forgiving.

Now when such phrases are intentionally used to obscure meaning, that does suck, but I think enough people are familiar with business jargon these days that it's pretty hard to truly bamboozle poeple with it.
posted by kindall at 12:46 PM on September 7, 2005

Stavros, what "At High Achievement, the student has consistently shown knowledge and understanding of how texts are constructed across a range of texts in a range of social and cultural contexts" means:
The kid is a master bookbinder.

If you guys are going to get all your ducks up to speed, you'll have to do a lot more proactive preplanning.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:06 PM on September 7, 2005

it was clearly written by someone for whom business is a second language, so we should be forgiving.

No, we shouldn't. The purpose of the CL ad is to make people understand quickly what the company needs. All padding goes against that purpose. For example, this line:
The Operations Technical Analyst is responsible for ensuring that the Data Center has the technical ability and capacity to accommodate delivery of services for the Business.
means something like
The Operations Technical Analyst ensures that the data center has the technical capacity to support business needs.
It probably could be shorter, but it's good enough for now. If it needs more detail than that, if it needs to be more legalistic, maybe it needs to be a contract, not an ad. In any case, the details are listed below that paragraph.
posted by pracowity at 4:13 PM on September 7, 2005

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