By Tanya Silverman
“Gamify the onboarding horizontally. Skate to where the puck is going to be.”
“Next quarter we will launch our new incubator-killer which will move the needle the brand horizontally.”
“If we benchmark, we will unfortunately be lagging in strategic deep dive.”
Am I practicing the most invigorating points that I plan to announce at my upcoming business meeting? Am I cherry-picking from the most buzz-worthy statements I delivered in between changing PowerPoint slides at my last corporate presentation?
I’m actually just clicking the “New phrase” button below The Wall Street Journal’s Business Buzzwords Generator. The online tool works to “generate and share custom-built meaningless business phrases using overused business buzzwords” that were submitted by readers.
For better or for worse, The Wall Street Journal buzzword generator is not the only one of its kind. There’s also “The Corporate B.S. Generator,” which encourages the user to click to create a “random corporate bullshit statement to appear in the text field” and to “repeat as required ad nauseam.”
Well, let’s give it a shot:
“seamlessly enhance cross functional products”
“rapidiously drive leading-edge meta-services”
“uniquely reconceptualize pandemic web services”
Okay, that’s the ad nauseam threshold for me. I can only imagine how it must feel, sitting in a sterile conference room, clad in stuffy, starchy business attire, trying with all my might to prevent my eyes from rolling–or my palm from hitting my face–when the person speaking buzzes out these fluffy phrases.
Buzzwords seem to be a widely acknowledged component of the business and corporate world–and there is a myriad of them. Thompson Writing & Editing maintains a long list of buzzwords organized in alphabetical order. With the exceptions of X and Z, there are at least several stocked underneath each letter, from “alpha office” to “performance management” to “within a reasonable timeframe.”
The author of the Thompson Writing & Editing list advises readers to avoid the buzzwords when designing a presentation so that it sounds fresh and not tiresome. Unless: “Of course, if you’re making a presentation to a bunch of corporate wonks who revel in these terms, use this list as a resource and pepper your presentation with these terms to make them think you really know your stuff when you’re not really telling them anything new!”
Like slang terms, buzzwords go in and out of style and can reflect the times that they are coined. In early 2015, Business News Daily published an article under the headline “15 Business Buzzwords You’ll Need to Know in 2015” after consulting several business owners and experts on the topic. The list features hybridized concepts like “Mydeation” (essentially, using a group to assist an individual develop their idea for a new business product or venture), “Momtrepreneur” (a mother who has children but still runs a business), and mCommerce (commercial transactions performed on a cell). Freemium, Chief Culture Officer, and Smartketing were other named buzzwords.
It should be noted, though, the author explained to readers that although they should learn the meaning of these buzzwords, it’s up to them personally whether they wish to add them to their vocabulary–or blacklist them.
Business News Daily also published an article just four months before titled, “The 20 Most Annoying, Overused and Meaningless Buzzwords,” citing a survey by Accountemps that determined which terms employees found to be the most cliche and grating. Managers responded that “out of pocket,” “deep dive,” “pick your brain,” were annoying and overused to them at that point. Irritating buzzwords that never seem to go out of style included “value-added,” “leverage,” and “win-win.”
Noting that buzzwords peeved people, New England district president of Accountemps Bill Driscoll advised communicating with clarity rather than using jargon.
“It’s generally best to avoid the tired cliches and trendy buzzwords in favor of clear, straightforward language,” he noted.
It seems like there is disconnect between fundamental humanity and facets of the corporate and business world. While there are legal debates and psychological ambiguities as to whether we can consider corporations people, a social conception of corporate culture still permeates.
There’s the derogatory term, “corporate whore,” which refers to individuals who seemingly sell their souls for the purpose of profit. There’s the stereotypical corporate environment, perhaps a boxy, soulless structure that houses open floors of gridded cubicles and file cabinets. Then of course there’s the corporate look, which style experts are often offering advice on how to not appear like drones or still seem chic.
Sure, corporations and businesses are comprised of human beings. But whether it is uttering overused buzzwords or sitting in a cubicle environment that stifles creativity, it still falls on the staff to bring humanity back into the environment–however they want to phosfluorescently re-intermediate the optimal “outside the box” thinking.