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Voc-Torture Necessitates Voc-Rehab

Have you noticed how many ridiculous words business people invent?

02 October 2007
Have you noticed how many ridiculous words business people invent? After a very busy month in September, I am trying desperately to catch up on reading (and writing), and I’ve been immersed all day today in abominations of language. Here are some words and phrases that I think need to be banished from the business lexicon. I suspect they contribute to strange business ego overinflation and deficiencies in rational processing capabilities.
 
Monetize. In an article today related to eBay paying way too much for Skype two years ago (surprise surprise), the New York Times says of the eBay acquisition “They saw a great asset with tons of users but no clear monetization path.” Translation: Lots of people were using Skype but there was no indication that it would ever make money. Would you invest in that?
Facetime. This just bugs.
 
Descope. Apparently this is what you do when you have gotten carried away, the business equivalent of having eyes bigger than your stomach.
 
Nonexecutive Chairman. In the same eBay article, they said that the current CEO was stepping down to be “nonexecutive chairman and would focus on his entrepreneurial efforts outside the company.” Translation. Niklas Zennstrom no longer works for Skype.
 
Deleveraging. Oh, please. Can’t we just say “selling?”
 
They’re referring to what happened to the stock market in August as “the unwind.” Clearly financial reporters have become bored – or worse yet, they’re taking language cues from stock brokers and hedge fund managers. In English the phrase would be “market adjustment,” and intelligent people all over the world understand that.
 
Unrealized promises. This is how one of the Adobe marketing managers referred to product development efforts at Adobe today. Couldn’t he have said “and we have a lot of other ideas we’d like to work on as well.” ?
 
Definitize. This word has actually entered a number of dictionaries. But I still can’t understand why the word define won’t suffice.
 
Anything that incorporates the title of a book in order to demonstrate that you’ve read it. Examples include “that plan is so blue ocean,” or “in a blue ocean world . . .”
 
Componentize. I can’t even say it, and I wasn’t sure how to spell it. But Microsoft offers a white paper on componentizing (yes, it can be used with all the usual suffixes) applications. And it must be an important word, since it takes about 1,000 other words to describe it.
 
Wet Signature. Eeuuwww. It means a real signature, you know – the kind people do with a pen. Apparently regular old signatures have become rare in these heady days of digital signatures.
 
The clear language award for the week goes to Citi’s CEO Charles Prince, who referred to his firm’s earnings as a “clear disappointment.” Compare that to a quote not long ago which referred to “such preparations as had been made to incentivize consumer behavior admittedly produced somewhat less in terms of performance than had been previously anticipated.”
 
While every profession includes specific terminology, good communication comes down to clear language used with the intention of understanding one another. Why would anyone want to mess with that?
 
(c) 2007, Andrea M. Hill
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