As part of my ongoing search for things to make fun of, I’ve spent the last few years collecting Business Buzzwords-Biz Buzz, if you will.
I now know why they’re called buzzwords: Because if you read or hear more than two or three in a single sen
tence, you feel a buzzing sensation in the back of your skull. Followed shortly thereafter by a full-blown migraine. That is precisely what happened to me after receiving an e-mail in which two misbegotten paragraphs contained the following Biz Buzzes: Best practice. Skill set. Core competency. Empowered. Strategic alliance. At the end of the day. I read that and had to go lie down to keep my head from exploding. (OK, that’s a fib. Actually, I read it and laughed. Then I copied it into a file so I could make fun of it, much as I am doing now.) The writer was trying to get me to go in together on a project. Frankly, I would be much more inclined to do so if the proposal were stated that way (“Let’s go in on a project”) instead of as a big load of
cow flop (“strategic moo alliance”).
The clincher was the phrase, “At the end of the day.” I would like to propose a moratorium on “at the end of the day.” I say we stop using it … oh, forever.
This is actually a modification of my earlier position, in which I maintained that anyone who used the phrase “at the end of the day” should be smacked upside the head with a tire iron, from the time of the infraction until the actual end of the day.
I have no idea why “at the end of the day” took off the way it did a few years ago. The good news is, it has become so popular that it’s turning into a joke. “The end of the day” might have reached the end of its day.
I’ve come to regard Biz Buzz as being related to Jock Speak. They both involve people trying to fill up a conversation with words that contain something that sounds like communication, but is actually nothing of the kind. There’s a lot of similarity between a basketball player’s telling a TV sports guy that he had to just “play his game” and “give 110 percent” so he could “leave it all on the floor,” and some doofus in a meeting’s telling you to exercise “best practice with your skill set” so you can “go after the low-hanging fruit.”
The only real difference is that one sucks all the oxygen out of a locker room, the other out of a boardroom. In each case, the same forces are at work: Either the speaker is a dope who doesn’t realize how ridiculous he sounds, or the speaker thinks the listeners are dopes who don’t
realize it’s all word salad.
So where does this stuff come from? I believe there is an army of trolls tinkering away in an underground cavern, coming up with a steady supply of new and more god-awful ways to say something without saying anything. However, I’m told that some Biz Buzz is historical (best practice, for example, has supposedly been around for decades), some is legal (due diligence may have its origins in Lawyerspeak), some is the work of consultants (relanguaging showed up last year in Consultant Land; it means “say this a different way”); and some just popped up like toadstools (see above “underground army of trolls.”)
However it gets here, it is no doubt enhanced by today’s speed-of-light communication. Someone in a Web meeting mentions that we need to “drink from the fire hose on this one, people” and just that fast, they’re talking about drinking from fire hoses all over the world. Including places that don’t even HAVE fire hoses.
So what’s to be done about Biz Buzzers and their ridiculous patois? Call ’em on it. I believe the best response to Biz Buzz will always be plain-spoken English, but remember: For every buzzword you take out of circulation, the trolls will come up with two or three more.
Or, to put it their way, the relanguaging will continue long past the end of the day.
Mike Redmond’s “Funny Business” column appears monthly. Bruce Hetrick’s “Notions” column, previously found in this space, will appear here twice each month. Look for it next week.