Dig the lingo dudes!

A guest post by Zephyr or to be precise The Cyber Nag, who in her own words has spent much of her life perfecting the art of nagging 🙂 A writer par excellence and a very well known name on the Indian blogosphere, she needs no introduction. To read more, do visit her blog: CyberNag

Listen to this:

Teenage daughter on the mobile phone: ‘How about having an idea shower with the team to strategize optimum mobilization of surface transport for the congregation of culinary experiment?’

Father swells with pride at his brilliant daughter’s conversation but his pre-teen son bursts the bubble: ‘Dad, she is talking about arranging a car to take her friends to the restaurant.’

The above conversation is imaginary, but you get the drift don’t you, folks?

Everyone seems to be using jargon, never mind its absurdity or obfuscation. In this age of workshops, seminars, conferences not to speak of reorientation, how can we do without such gems as core competency, forward planning, (does one plan backwards too?) quality driven, monetization, horizontal and vertical migration (in an organization), strategizing, etc. etc. When I hear these words, I look up because that’s where the words are going – over my head. I suspect that half the time they are going over the heads of even the speakers! The key is to sound like an expert and impress the listeners, most of whom are there trying to look interested and desperately trying to keep awake only for the free papers, literature and other goodies including the buffet.

Come to think of it, even the Church is not above using it. Apparently the Anglican Church in London has substituted the word charity with provide excellence in hospitality! For centuries they did plain old charity till someone gave a complete makeover to it.

The more befuddled your words and sentences, the more intelligent you are deemed to be. One of the terms that I really detest is paradigm shift. In simple language it means moving from one model to another. It is used for policies, rules — in short anything you fancy. It does sounds very grand, doesn’t it?

Proactive is one word that is liberally sprinkled in conversations by everyone from society matrons to school officials to doctors and sociologists. Why, my maid accused me of not being a proactive employer, only the other day! You are not proactive in the upbringing of your child, the government is not proactive in dealing with poverty, officials are not proactive in attending to complaints….the list is endless.

Holistic is yet another much maligned word. From being a word denoting an integrated and comprehensive approach to something, mainly used in healthcare, it is used anywhere the speaker (or writer) can insert it. What gets my goat is the way it is spelled – wholistic – presumably derived from ‘whole’!

Have you ever touched base with someone? Can someone please explain what it means? It is said in the sense that one ‘connects’ with another. (See I am ‘with it!’) But what is touching base? Whenever I hear this term, I imagine myself scrambling to the home base (in baseball) to touch the person who is waiting to ‘touch bases’ with me.

And then have you heard the term ‘keeping one in the loop?’ That is another one that confounds me. While the term simply means ‘being appraised,’ I beg to differ. Blame it on my over-active imagination, but I can see people looking through or scattered over giant loops which are all interconnected. I can also hear them shouting, ‘Yay! I am in the loop!’ or the ones outside screaming, ‘Put me in the loop!’

Gone are the brand ambassadors, who promoted a particular company’s product. By itself a pompous term, don’t you agree that it sounds a darn sight more sensible than brand evangelists. And poor old me thought the latter had something to do with Christianity!

Life is certainly becoming colourful and pretentious. This is true of every walk of life. Even personal relationships are not spared. Today no one wants to get to know, contact, or make friends with another person. They want to connect, if you please. You don’t have a circle of friends but a ‘network’ or ‘group’. Making friends is as simple as the click of the mouse. Are words becoming empty devoid of any meaning? I would certainly think so.

You don’t thank someone for being a help in times of need. Instead you acknowledge their ‘support’. So much have these terms seeped into the vocabulary of the present generation that when you mouth the old terms, you get ‘the look’ for being an old fogey who has not kept up with the times.

Designations are becoming fancier and a tad ….pompous? Everyone is an executive. There are no more clerks in any organization, except in government departments. So a trainee in a bank is not a trainee but a Customer Relations Executive – even if his or her job entails just handing out pamphlets to the clients walking in through the doors. When you have completed the stipulated training you become a ‘manager.’ This was not so earlier when it took years of experience and passing of exams to attain the grade. Job tittles indeed come cheap today.

Just the other day, I heard a woman telling her friend that her daughter was a front office manager at a polyclinic. It sounded grand and I was impressed as was her friend. When I visited the said clinic a few weeks later I saw the girl – behind the reception desk. The good old receptionist had been upgraded to a ‘front office manager’. Similarly a mechanic or repairman is the back-end manager.

I remember all those years ago when my oldest brother had left his secure and comfortable clerical job in the Accountant General’s office to take up a job in a reputed private company since he got the designation of an ‘officer’. He had soon realised that the job was far less paying and more nerve wracking than that of his stenographer!

Not exactly a magniloquent speaker, but still her words go over the head of many

One of my friends with donkeys’ years of experience in teaching had taken her grandson for admission to a posh ‘world’ school. She asked the young woman in slacks and shirt, who was supervising the proceedings whether she was the teacher. My friend got a long and dirty look down the young woman’s nose, before she replied loftily, ‘I am the facilitator,’ laying particular stress on the word. My friend was struck dumb by the reply and thus unwittingly ‘exposed’ her ignorance!

So when she came back home, she wanted to make sure that her grandson didn’t reinforce the image of a country bumpkin and strove to teach him the niceties of dealing with his ‘facilitators’. She painstakingly taught him to say, ‘Excuse me ma’am. Can I go to the washroom?’ to prevent him inadvertently asking to go to the toilet. (horror of horrors!) The little one dutifully learnt to lisp the words. But after a few days grandma was surprised by her grandson’s, ‘I want to use the conveniences,’ reinforcing her ignorance further!

What an inconvenient way of asking to go to the loo! Back when we were kids, we used to stick up our little fingers while hopping from foot to foot demanding to simply ‘go’. Our teachers were experienced enough to know when one of us was faking the urgency and when it was genuine and bellowed, ‘Sit down!’ or ‘Go!’ respectively. Even during the time of my brats, kids used to ask ‘to be excused’ to make the trip to the loo.

I am hopelessly behind the times, aren’t I? Maybe I should take a crash course in the new lingo. Any facilitators for the job?

32 Responses to “Dig the lingo dudes!”
  1. Pzes says:

    Wow. You just gave me one long walk through a typical day in my life. In my world of sales to the US customers, words like monetize, keep me in the loop, prioritize, are regular words.

    As much as I HATE using them, I use them liberally now. I wish we’d normally say – “let me know”, “make money” instead. 😀

    nice post!

    • Zephyr says:

      If you started using the mundane equivalents of the precious jargon, chances are you will lose some good accounts! So continue spouting the jargon for the sake of increased sales 😀

  2. joshimukard says:

    Very well written post, Zephyr, and thanks to Snow leopard.

    Also, I don’t understand why most bloggers use hard-biting words when a simple sentence could be more charming and beautiful.

    • Zephyr says:

      Thanks Joshimukard. The reason why people use a lot of words best left in the dictionary or at least in literary theses, is to simply get an opportunity to use them, I guess 🙂

  3. Purbaray says:

    I think a lot has to do with the MNC culture and the emergence of a universally accepted corporate language which leaves ordinary mortals like us baffled. Somebody should tell our Corporate Gurus that genius lies in simplicity.

    A really well thought out article Zephyr – you deserve a standing ovation for it.

    • Zephyr says:

      *taking a bow* thank you Purba. If the corporate gurus were to use simple language, where will they get clients to impress and show off their vocabulary and of course rip them off in the bargain? Hasn’t Pzes said that she has started using the lingo as a matter of course? 🙂

  4. umashankar says:

    Respected Zephyr and Honoured audience of this weblog,

    I feel prejudiced to be visually assimilating the extant erudite discourse on ‘paradigm shift’ in the socio-corporate communication matrix on a media strategically hosted on the world-wide- web by an exalted celebrity who insists on being classified into certain feline species.

    Madam, your holistic approach combined with the mission critical precision of laser-guided projectile military equipments remains unparalleled. I am certain it has propelled my disposition to an exalted state.

    From my humble station I have the temerity to suggest that during your forthcoming augmentations on the subject, you will find it appropriate to dwell on “Affirmative Action” also, a term which leaves me in a state of awe mixed with bewilderment.

    Lastly, I cannot stop emphasizing how seized I am by this mesmerizing facility of the unassailable wizards to bamboozle a civilization firmly en route to decadence.

    • Zephyr says:

      Whoa Umashankar! Hold your horses! Please excuse any typos since i am looking up above my head at all the words and sentences hanging there as I type this reply. I hereby confer on you the honorary Ph.D in Jargon.

      That was some effort. Hats off!

  5. manju says:

    Great post, Zephyr! You’ve perfectly captured the way people speak today. Partly to sound important, and perhaps partly to be politically correct.

    Particularly liked the story of little boy learning to use the ‘conveniences’. 🙂

    • Zephyr says:

      And the kid can’t even pronounce the word properly! The poor thing 🙂 One must pull up these facilitators for putting the kids through such torture. 🙂

  6. haaah – I would have love to do that post myself. Use of heavy sounding words, am sure is a gift to society from the corporate. Maybe i should add a few, that I hate but use it nonetheless. I am part of that system you see.

    Getting Traction: Traction was an frictional force produced between two surfaces. Used now in corporates – “Are you getting traction on your project”. Exalted indeed.

    Root Cause Analysis: Well nothing to do with trees/ plants. In plain simple english is finding the reason for a problem. Thanks GE for that.

    One Pagers: We kill a language, it just means that someone somewhere wants a one page report on a subject / issue.

    Capitalize, Monetize, Strategize, Operationlise… and life goes on.

    • Zephyr says:

      Jargon is still ok within the walls of a corporate office, but outside? In nurser school, for heaven’s sake! Why don’t you do another post to supplement this one? One pager incidentally sounds like life-timer, don’t ask me why! 🙂

  7. sudhagee says:

    Zephyr, you would have fun in the academic world. I have to listen /read about words like paradigm, capacity-building, conscientization, publics, re-imagination, philosophication, human ecology, etc. etc. every day. Sometimes, I tell myself, that I started blogging as an act of rebellion against academic language !

    Simply superb post, Zephyr. Loved it 😀

    • Zephyr says:

      Are you really serious? I mean philosophication and publics — and you use them on a daily basis. Hats off to you for still remembering the good old simple language we mortals understand. 🙂 But one should thank the jargon that drove you to blogging, right? Thanks for the comment.

  8. alkagurhalka says:

    Very well written…English is a language of usage and as technology evolves the words/phrases used in daily lingo will become a part of our jargon.
    Umashankars comment was brilliant!

    • Zephyr says:

      Umashakar certainly deserves an award for erudition in jargonspeak 😀 I am yet to get used to jargon in daily usage and till I do, I will just nag 🙂

  9. magiceye says:

    this was brilliant, as usual!!
    loved it!

  10. bhagyareema says:

    I need some facilitators too 😀 . Thats because I am out of the loop (jobless errr… in between jobs :P)
    By the way Mami, please link this post to your post at your site, becomes easier to track your post

    • Zephyr says:

      I have linked this post from my blog. I will check it, anyway. Hurry up and get into the loop 🙂 The longer you are out of it,.the harder to get back in!

  11. Zephyr says:

    Umashakar certainly deserves an award for erudition in jargonspeak 😀 I am yet to get used to jargon in daily usage and till I do, I will just nag 🙂

  12. ravi says:

    🙂 Reminds me of my forgettable stunt as a student in a B school. The quaint thought about the corporate consultant is…seldom right but never wrong : a thought well packaged by nerve wrecking jargon. Lovely.. well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

    • Zephyr says:

      Liked the allusion to being ‘never wrong’ but seldom right 🙂 Jargon is just the way of the B school dudes to sound intelligent even if they are indecipherable 😀

  13. Dhakkanz says:

    Hahhaha..reminded me of my office on a Sunday! The phrases like, ‘keep me in the loop’, ‘stay connected with abc Sharma’, etc. have taken places from those old and fogey, but simpler and readily understood words.

    In today’s time of ‘staying connected’ and ‘ahead of times’, if you don’t know such phrases, you are looked down upon.

    By the way you missed some more phrases like – ‘shoot me that email’, ‘on the same page’, etc.

  14. sharbori says:

    Hi, this one is brilliant in the way that you have captured the essence.

    In my work as an “organisation consultant” (he, he, throwing jargon) I find most of these words are used in the IT/ITES/retail/service sectors and my humble guess is that some of the jargons have been invented to tackle some of the specific issues that are more relevant to them. hence at the cost of using some more jargons, let me try and explain what am I trying to say.

    these organisations have issues that other manufacturing organisations have less of:

    1. rapid pace of growth
    1. huge turnover of people (another name is rate of attrition)
    2. crunch of experienced and skilled workers (another name of lack of engagement)
    3. dealing with a homogeneous group, i.e. almost everyone comes from similar social and educational back grounds.
    4. the hierarchy structure are different from the traditional sets

    Hence earlier modality of authoritarian ways of managing people (hierarchical and seniors know best) can not work in an overt fashion. that does not mean that the mindset has vanished but a need has been felt to couch in the garb of different words so that words are used carefully since you are not talking down but talking with people.

    also I think there is a need for a global language (please read global means the US of A and partly the UK) so that people have a common language despite culture and language. In other words, there is a neo colonisation by language. But that is another story.

    to link back to your post, the latest one I heard was to “facilitating transition” which means handing over pink slips to the managers who were being let off by the organisation!! I think this is not only audacious but also patronising and in my opinion even dehumanising to an extent. (not calling a spade a spade)

    now I hope you are me “are in the same page”, eh?

    • Zephyr says:

      Your being an Organisation Consultant certainly shows through! I guess jargon does become part of one’s language after a certain amount of time. But my grouse is that it has seeped into daily interaction thus making for hard to comprehend lingo! i am desperately trying to be ‘in the same page’, but Sharbori, I am afraid it will be years before it can happen. 😀

  15. Deboshree says:

    Fantastic lingo advice! I still need to brush up my skills in that department…

  16. Dark Knight says:

    Wow, this is like a typical day at work! Upper management LOVES to use “Paradigm shift” a lot. I also hear “high performance teams” quite a bit…. douchebag managers like to use that a lot to pump up their already overinflated ego.

    Excellent article! 🙂

  17. Hiya again
    Did meet at the indiblogger meet. This time, took pleasure in sifting through your blog threadbare !!!! Well… great play with words.
    my earlier comment on your write is above…..
    ravi says:
    October 23, 2011 at 14:57

    🙂 Reminds me of my forgettable stunt as a student in a B school. The quaint thought about the corporate consultant is…seldom right but never wrong : a thought well packaged by nerve wrecking jargon. Lovely.. well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] that allows ‘speaking sms’  or something, let me enlighten you: when the sender is Snow Leopard aka Prateek, even an sms can growl! Not about to irk the Leopard, I sent off my post Dig the lingo […]

  2. […] that allows ‘speaking sms’  or something, let me enlighten you: when the sender is Snow Leopard aka Prateek, even an sms can growl! Not about to irk the Leopard, I sent off my post Dig the lingo […]

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