Pompous posers on parade

During my drive to work this morning, I listened to an NPR story about WalMart’s new merchandising strategy. (In a nutshell, WalMart is reducing the number of products it carries to make wider aisles and less-cluttered shelves, in hopes that shoppers will linger longer.) The story included an interview with Mattie Havner, “who oversees more than a dozen stores.”

So do we really need to carry 12 tackle boxes? … [We’re] really looking at clarity of offering.”

Clarity of offering. What does that mean, exactly?

Hearing this nonsensical, euphemistic phrase made me think of the bizarre biz-speak that has weaseled its way into our language.

I routinely hear people exhorting each other to “service the customer.” While it’s true that “service” does have one more syllable than “serve,” that doesn’t necessarily make it a better word choice (especially when you consider that “service” is a euphemism all its own).

I also often hear people refer to their product as the “best of breed.” Doesn’t that imply that the product is, by definition, a dog? And why is a “linkage” so much better than a “link”?

Then there’s “add value,” “best practices,” “buy-in,” “circle back,” “close the loop,” “download,” “empower,” “granular,” “low-hanging fruit,” “one-off,” “roll-out,” and “value-added.” Have you ever noticed how smug people look as they bandy about these terms? It’s almost as if they feel a part of some exclusive, secret club.

But by far my least favorite of all the biz-speak terms is “drink the kool-aid.” It’s equivalent to “toe the company line.” But for me, all it brings to mind is Jim Jones’ tragic mass-murder in Guyana.

Let’s hear it for speaking in plain English and saying exactly what we mean. Want more “clarity of choice”? Try having fewer options instead.

One comment

  1. Awesome post!! I just started my job with my second Fortune 500 company, and one of the major adjustments is to learn their specific biz-speak and plethora of acronyms. I feel fake when using these, and thus avoid doing so. I also avoid using insensitive phrases such as “no skin off my back” and “rule of thumb”…

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