Funny Business with Jane Wells

Let's 'Right Size' Corporate-Speak

I've hit a nerve. I've found a cause all of us can rally 'round. It is this: in corporate America, it's time that we say what we mean.

Meaning what we say is a story for another day.

I've received so many responses to my blog about the lack of plain-speaking in business meetings that I'm posting a follow up.

Here are some of your pet peeves.

Matt B. writes: "I heard the term 'On-Boarding' in a meeting yesterday in reference to a company's procedures for hiring new employees."

Eric V. heard these phrases yesterday in a consultant presentation:

"Low hanging touch points"

"Focus on extending business value"

"Business case captures integrated bottom-line"--("I am not sure what this means.")

From Robert C.:

"We're going to stand the system up"

"Getting the low hanging fruit first"

"Peel back the onion"

"Take the haircut"


"It's like dressing jello"

Eddy C. detests "repurposed" and this one: "'Push-back'...where you have just given a blatantly moronic sales presentation and anyone still awake with half a brain sez 'no way Jose'...and then you say, 'I think I'm feeling a little push-back here'."

Here are some of Douglas H.'s faves:

"Dawn of Convergence"

"di minimis risk"

"Work the problem and get consensus among the business partners"

From CC: "Open the kimono"

Two readers, Scott Q., and Niall M., pointed me to the "Web Economy BS Generator", which allows you to randomly puts together nouns, verbs and adjectives to create phrases like: "innovate frictionless deliverables".

Guy B. says his firm as a position called a "Creatologist". As if that's not confusing enough, there's more:


"It is what it is"

"Driving efficiencies"--("I drive an Audi, but apparently everyone at my firm drives an Efficiency-I secretly hope the Efficiency is made by Toyota.")

"Core competencies"

"A 360 look"

"Did you dialogue with them?" ("No, I talked to him...")


Jerry A.: "If people would say 'standard' and 'arrogance', I wouldn't have to look up 'paradigm' and 'hubris' in my Funk and Wagnalls."

Jeff J. refers to all of this is "Manglish", as in mangled English: "At a past job, one consultant kept switching 'externality' and 'externiality' back and forth. I didn't know 'externiality' existed, let alone what he meant...People get paid to make up new words and phrases? Where can I start? Sign me up!"

Bryan B. and his colleagues got so fed up with "incenvitize" that they created a dictionary of awful made up phrases and words. Entries include:

"Eyeballable - Produce something in a state that everyone can quickly look at and understand its meaning."

"Inoculate the base - Cure for customer base with regard to rare virus called 'churn'."

"Drinking the Kool-Aid - Becoming immersed in the company culture (vague, and questionable reference to the whole Jim Jones debacle)."

"Pass the red face test - omissions or ridiculous assumptions that could prove potentially embarrassing."

From Robert M.: "How many times have I heard 'interoperable', 'going forward', 'roundtable discussion', 'scrumming', 'off into the weeds', and so forth? In one meeting, many years ago, I actually asked the person conducting the meeting, 'I'm sorry, but could you be a little more vague?'"

Tomas B. wrote to tell me about a book written by former Deloitte consultants called "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighters Guide".The authors have even come up with a software programto spotlight jargon in your own writing.

Bob C.

hates the use of the word "space": My favorite: "'Biotech Space' or 'Semi-conductor Space...What happened to Biotech or Semi-conductor Industry?"

Jerry G. says a separate blog should be written about government double-speak. His biggest gripe is over "shovel ready" projects: "I keep wondering what is being shoveled?"

Finally, Wayne W. says he successfully used this web siteto confuse superiors with impressive-sounding nonsense. Type in one word and, voila! You get a whole paragraph.

I tried it by putting in the phrase, "You're fired." Here's just a sampling of what that was "translated" into: "To approach true user-friendliness, a constant flow of effective communication adds overriding performance constraints to possible bidirectional logical relationship approaches. Without going into the technical details, any associated supporting element is further compounded when taking into account the overall negative profitability. In this regard, a large proportion of interface coordination communication presents extremely interesting challenges to the sophisticated hardware. In theory, initiation of critical subsystem development necessitates that urgent consideration be applied to the anticipated fourth-generation equipment."