Business Talk

I have a few pet peeves. I’m sure everyone does. One that I have is business speak. It runs two fold:

  1. Double meanings or vagueness of what the point or promise is
  2. Inventing new words out of current words to sound different

Number 1 is certainly no surprise to anyone in a big business. Maybe to no one in a medium sized business either. But I see it all the time in the age of PowerPoint. It is similar to this:

    Our goal is to save the company costs from expense. Our plan consists of:
    Reduction of ordering
    Combining of purchases
    Tracking of use
    Full circle response

Now, on the face of it that doesn’t seem so bad, but what do any of these things really mean. The first two are basically the same thing, the third one seems to be something worth doing, and the fourth one just makes no sense. But what I observe, is that these aren’t really tested as often as they should be. Maybe it is just accepted or maybe it is politeness.

Number 2 is even more bothersome to me. Take for instance the term “decision.” Normally it is used like this “We need to make a decision by the 6 o’clock deadline so the team can act on it.” Then after the decision event the term usually changes to “decide” or decided.” What I’ve run across is the usage of the term “decision” in place of the term “decide.” So it is used like this” The group decisioned this last week.” Shouldn’t it be “The group decided this last week?”

I looked up “decisioned” and “decisioning” on both and and neither had an entry for these terms.

In a recent article by William Saletan in the NY Times called The Double Thinker, Saletan reviews several books by Steven Pinker. Saletan is fairly critical of Pinker and hones in on Pinker’s use of duality. One such statement is that Saletan writes is this:

That doesn’t mean we always use language to convey reality. Language is
a social medium with social purposes. Sometimes, we use it not to
communicate facts about the world but to filter them. We euphemize
bribes as “contributions” to preserve the dignity of lobbyists and
legislators. We phrase treaties vaguely because if they were clear,
nobody would sign them. We invent subtle sexual overtures to avoid a
confrontation if the other guy turns out not to be gay. We complain
about doublespeak but rely on double meanings.

I especially like the last sentence because even though I’m complaining about doublespeak right now, I use it.


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