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Netflix's bad results made worse by use of jargon

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
Reed Hastings
Stephane De Sakutin | AFP | Getty Images

Netflix  just served up a linguistic doozy for the annals of corporate obfuscation. In reporting its second-quarter results on Monday, the $42 billion digital-streaming service threw around the mortifying "un-grandfather" to mean raising prices on longtime customers. It's the sort of hilarious term a television watcher would expect to hear on "Silicon Valley," the hit HBO sitcom that slyly skewers startup culture. It's an embarrassing case of life imitating art.

Investors have become all too accustomed, and maybe immune, to creative entrepreneurial phraseology. Words like "pivot" and "acqui-hire" have become just as big a part of the vernacular as explanations of profit that depart from accounting conventions. Such rhetoric is bad enough when it emanates from youthful firms trying to justify their existence. When it comes from a nearly two-decade-old enterprise like Netflix, it's more worrisome.