Sunday, July 17, 2005

Business bullshit

I have one small bone to pick with the writer of this week's top link, an article about the empty rhetoric of corporate-speak. I'll save that bone for a moment, as this is a useful piece, clearly identifying some good examples of business mumbo-jumbo - the blend "creovation" certainly had me vomiting in my Frosties at its mind-bending meaninglessness. My own personal favourites, from a college I couldn't possibly name, are the words "rebasing" and "reshaping", the former applied to college finances, the latter to college staffing. What do they mean? Well you might ask. "Rebasing" one's finances means slashing budgets until the staff managing them bleed; "reshaping" means sacking people. But in the context of this article, at least the words mean something!!

The other reason I like this article is because, despite its righteous anger at business bullshit, it takes an intelligent approach to the wider subject, explaining the useful purpose "empty language" has in some contexts. We can perfectly well recognise this phatic function and not call the Queen a heartless cow because she doesn't actually mean it when she asks us how we are. But when language is supposed to mean something, we're into dangerous territory.

So, what can we do about it? Well, the Campaign for Plain English is a good start so check them out. Orwell's essay that is referred to in the article is still a very fine read. And if you fancy a little light entertainment, check out the Business Buzzwords Bingo - a bit Yankee in places, but as most of our business mumbo-jumbo arrives on the redeye that makes it a pretty useful exercise in spotting what's coming next. Try playing it next time the Big Cheese at work holds a "feel the love" staff meeting; run some searches of a blacktop newspaper; read your staff handbook or company memos...

And the question I'm dying to know the answer to if anyone knows anyone who knows anyone - does corporate communication at Ronseal do what it says on the tin too?...

An empty language for empty headed executives

Plain English Campaign

Orwell - Politics and the English Language

Business Buzzwords Bingo

(And the bone-picking?... Read the bit about the bullshit and the candy floss and tell me you didn't immediately compare eating the two things - yeugh!......)

2 Comments:

At 9:32 am, Blogger graham said...

I have, for many years, found corporate bull an amusing subject. If one took out all the bull from business meetings and discussions, you would be left with a lot of really unimportant and superficial stuff. I wrote an amusing "Corporate Speech Maker" entitled "Corporate Bull". You can find it here:

http://www.designedpresentations.com/documents/corporate%20bull.pdf

See my blog here: http://graham-mclusky.blogspot.com/ Its got nothing to do with corporate bull but we can always make an exception!

 
At 9:40 am, Anonymous Business BULLSHIT Generator said...

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