Is the Corporate World Bastardising English Language?

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BusinessSpeak

with Bisi Daniel, bisi.daniels@thisdaylive.com; Blog: www.bisidaniels.com, 08093618000
Languages change over time. With new words coined and used widely all the time, vocabulary changes. It does more rapidly than grammar, but even English grammar is evolving. It is said that when a language stops changing, it becomes purely academic, like Latin or Ancient Greek.  But some people are alarmed at the rate at which the Corporate World is invading the language with jargons they call Business-speak. Market place is now a generic name for business, not just that location for buying and selling. Also common in Nigeria is the new usage of SPACE, such as in ‘political space’ and ARCHITECTURE, such as ‘security architecture.’ To google a person is easily understood because of the popularity of Google, but do you know what they mean by ‘boiling the ocean?’ Well, you will find out below. However there are really some funny ones like ‘Office pretty’, meaning a female coworker that is attractive only in comparison to others at the office. Interestingly, the use of these jargons has become a status symbol and a proof of loyalty in the ‘Corporates.’ (If you belong, you have to speak the language of the bosses). Some bosses even use it as a measure of competency.  I have gathered some of the commonly used jargons encroaching on the ‘language space’ from various sources including Forbes. Enjoy the added comments of language experts.

Drill Down: A phrase often wielded by superiors wanting a subject examined more closely.
Core Competency: This expression refers to a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength—even though that’s not what the word “competent” means. “Do people talk about peripheral competency?  Being competent is not the standard we’re seeking.  It’s like core mediocrity.”
Buy-In: This means agreement on a course of action, if the most disingenuous kind. Notes David Logan, professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s’s Marshall School of Business: “Asking for someone’s ‘buy-in’ says, ‘I have an idea.  I didn’t involve you because I didn’t value you enough to discuss it with you.  I want you to embrace it as if you were in on it from the beginning, because that would make me feel really good.’”
S.W.A.T. Team:  In law enforcement, this term refers to teams of fit men and women who put themselves in danger to keep people safe. “In business, it means a group of ‘experts’ (often fat guys in suits) assembled to solve a problem or tackle an opportunity” says USC’s Logan.
Empower: What someone above your pay grade does when, apparently, they would like you to do a job of some importance. Also called “the most condescending transitive verb ever.” It suggests that ‘You can do a little bit of this, but I’m still in charge here.: I am empowering you’”, says Dr. Jennifer Chatman, professor of management at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Drinking the Kool-Aid: A tasteless reference to the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, this expression means to blindly accept something, such as a company’s “mission statement.” Robotic allegiance is bad enough; coming up with tactless expressions for it is horrendous.
Move the Needle:  This beauty, which has nothing to do with heroin, is a favorite of venture capitalists. If something doesn’t move the needle, meaning that it doesn’t generate a reaction (like, positive cash flow), they don’t like it much. You could just say, specifically, how your plan and product are superior to your competitors’.
Open the Kimono: “Some people use this instead of ‘revealing information.’ It’s kind of creepy,” says Bruce Barry, professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Business.

Bleeding Edge: Someone decided that his product or service was so cutting-edge that a new term needed to be created. It did not.
Tiger Teams: A ‘tiger team’ is also a group of experts—specifically a bunch of tech geeks entrusted with curing your computer ills.
Make Hay: Jargon for being productive or successful in a short period of time. The phrase ‘to make hay’ is short for ‘make hay while the sun shines.’
Scalable: A scalable business or activity refers to one that requires little additional effort or cost for each unit of output it generates. Example: Making software is a scalable business (building it requires lots of effort up front; distributing a million copies over the Web is relatively painless). Venture capitalists crave scalable businesses.
Best Practice: Refers to a method or technique that delivers superior results compared with other methods and techniques. It is also perhaps the single most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up.
Think Outside the Box: To approach a business problem in an unconventional fashion. Kudos to a Forbes.com reader who suggested: “Forget the box, just think.”
Ducks in a Row: The saying apparently comes from the earlier days of bowling before machines set pins automatically. One needed to get his “ducks in a row” before hurling a weighty ball down the alley. Better: At work, “make a plan”; then later, if you’d like, “go bowling.”

Ecosystem: The vast, interlinked collection of designers, vendors, manufacturers, customers that defines a particular industry. When did business become aquaculture?
Vertical: A specific area of expertise. If you make project-management software for the manufacturing industry (as opposed to the retail industry), you might say, “We serve the manufacturing vertical.” In so saying, you would make everyone around you flee the conversation.
Over the Wall: If you’re not wielding a grappling hook, avoid this meaningless expression. Katie Clark, an account executive at Allison & Partners, a San Francisco public relations firm, got a request from her boss to send a document “over the wall.” Did he want her to print out the document, make it into a paper airplane and send it whooshing across the office? Finally she asked for clarification. “It apparently means to send something to the client,” she says.

Full Service: If you don’t work at a gas station, please please don’t use this expression. “If I hear one more professional describe their business as ‘full service,’ I’m going to scream,” says Deborah Shames, co-author of Own The Room: Business Presentations that Engage, Persuade and Get Results. Robust: Often used to suggest a product or service with a virtually endless capacity to please. A cup of good coffee should carry this adjective.
Take Offline: This means to postpone addressing an issue—one that may have nothing to do with the Internet. Unless you’re talking about removing your company’s Facebook page, you’re probably not taking anything offline. Synergise:  This word has infiltrated nearly every cube and conference room in the country. Blame Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. (No. 6 is Synergize.) Of this habit, Covey writes, “To put it simply, synergy means two heads are better than one.” The same advice was preached several decades earlier on the hit show Sesame Street. Big Bird called it “cooperation.”
Boil the Ocean: This means to waste time. The thinking here, we suppose, is that boiling the ocean would take a long time. It would also take a long time to fly to Jupiter, but we don’t say that. Nor should we boil oceans, even the Arctic, which is the smallest. It would be a waste of time.

Hard Stop:   An executive with a “hard stop” at 3 p.m. is serious about ending the meaning at 3 p.m. Very serious, and also very important—or at least that’s how it comes off, observes Patricia Kilgore, president of Sterling Kilgore, a Chicago area public relations and marketing firm. “To me it sounds like ‘This meeting isn’t really that important, so I need a way to get out of it,’” she says. A heart attack is a hard stop, Kilgore adds; anything else is just a conflict.
Giving 110%: The nice thing about effort, in terms of measuring it, is that the most you can give is everything, and everything equals 100%. You can’t give more than that, unless you can make two or more of yourself on the spot, in which case you have a very interesting talent indeed. To tell someone to give more than 100% is to also tell them that you failed second-grade math.

Body of Work:  A high-nosed way of summarising the total output of an industry or company. Stop trying so hard and just say “product line,” or some such.
Let’s Talk That: For some troubled souls this phrase takes the place of “let’s discuss that,” or “let’s talk about that.” Let’s talk that? Talk this.
Out of Pocket: Many auto-reply e-mails now carry the phrase: “I’m ‘out of pocket’ until next week.” Mark Daly, an account manager at the Davies Murphy Group, a marketing firm, astutely observes: “Expenses come out of pockets, quarterbacks come out of the pocket, but Johnny, well he’ll just be plain unavailable or out of the office.”
Peel the Onion: This means to delve into a problem, one layer at a time, to thoroughly understand what’s causing all the trouble. As metaphors go, there are worse. But like the actual vegetable, this over-used expression brings tears to the eye.
Cannibalise: To launch a new product that takes market share away from one’s own established products.

Jesus meeting:  A term of southern American origin that refers to a serious meeting with an individual or team. These meetings often involve ultimatums for performance improvement.
Compliment sandwich: A pointed criticism delivered between two compliments to dull the blow. Build them up, tear them down, then leave on a positive note.
Contraction: Widespread layoffs. “In order to prepare the organisation for sale, all employees should brace for further contraction.”
Deferred success: A term used to postpone the declaration of failure, as if a positive result is guaranteed (just not right now). “The project was a deferred success; we’re confident that things will pick up in the next quarter.”