A cynic’s guide to business jargon

Houston Chronicle business blogger Loren Steffy has compiled his personal list of the 20 most annoying business expressions. Examples:

paradigm shift: The most overblown euphemism for “change” since “sea change.”

leaving for personal reasons/to spend more time with his family: Yeah, right.

merger of equals: The business version of jumbo shrimp.

forward-looking statements: Lawyers must get paid by the word. For the rest of us, “forecast” or “prediction” works just fine.

pre-owned: A mangling of the English language to avoid the truth: used.

the customer experience: I don’t want to have an experience. I just want to buy stuff and leave.

Reminds me of a somewhat-old book I keep around: Business Babble: A Cynic’s Dictionary of Corporate Jargon,” by David Olive (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1991). Some choice (cynical) definitions:

corporate culture: The defining ethic of a company expressed in speech, dress and behavior deemed proper at the firm, which are carefully designed to ward off the incursion of dangerous new ideas.

guru: A prominent economist or management consultant whose credentials have been established on the corporate lecture circuit and in the bookstores, and whose savantry is all the more remarkable given that he has never piloted a national economy or a corporation.

meeting: Man’s most effective tool for preventing outbreaks of decisive action.

opportunity cost: The time or money that could have been better spent doing something else.

reality check: A way of curbing blue-sky conceptualizing that threatens to get serious. In meetings of planners, the accounting-minded participant eventually will feel compelled to raise his hands in the time-out signal, and say that while these grandiose schemes are all fine and good, “who’s going to pay for them?” 

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