Tattered and torn

It’s 2011 and it seems a lot of hackneyed business jargon from the 1990s is still hanging around needlessly. I’m not clever enough to coin any replacements at the moment, but maybe if we clean out the closet we’ll have room for something new.

Like those short overalls from 1999 that were in for a summer and then vanished rapidly for their hideousness, or those jeans that still feel comfortable but are frayed along the bottom, so it goes with jargon.

A recent visit to a marketing firm’s blog got me thinking about this, though the topic has been on my mind for some time. The blogger laid out several business buzz words—some still fairly new—and invited suggested additions. I posted a comment:  “‘paradigm,’ ‘radar screen’ and ‘taking anything to the next level.’”

In the meantime, further exploration of a number of individual and company websites surfaced business lingo that, like those overalls, was cute for a while but is long out of style–and just won’t seem to die.

In previous blog conversations we’ve talked about empty phrases (“I’m just saying” and “it is what it is,” though let’s not re-ignite debate on the latter) and phrases that serve no purpose (“you know what?” and “at the end of the day”).

There are countless more plaguing business language. Surely I am not the only one who cringes to hear intelligent executives still throwing out tired phrases in hopes of sounding professionally hip.

In addition to paradigm, radar screen and taking it to the next level, here are my top nominations for 20th Century words that need to be pulled off the hanger and retired from circulation:

“Space,” when used to describe a market segment, industry sector or area of expertise

“Leverage,” when used as a verb

“Synergy” and any form thereof, such as synergistic

For businesses aiming to stand out as fresh thinkers, I’d further vote for phasing out any business metaphors that ran their course in the last millennium, including “picking low-hanging fruit” and “moving the needle.”

Oh, and “sweet spot.” Any others?


Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Technology and Social Media

7 responses to “Tattered and torn

  1. Janet

    “leaning forward” is overused where I work!

  2. Emily

    ‘Transparency” has become very annoying, as has “aligned.” But you hit the most annoying word for me-when I hear “paradigm” especially when someone is “shifting” it, I want to suggest something else they could shift!

    • I recall sitting through a video on paradigms as part of an executive leadership training. None of us had heard of the concept, it was so new. That was in 1991. Surely we can come up with a better term.

  3. Jo

    Oy. I remember being urged to be a “paradigm pioneer” in the early 90s. Now “leverage” is the most crazy-making. But add “interface” and “optimize” to the list!

  4. Ellen

    My bank is always “reaching out” to me. Maybe I don’t want to be “reached”.
    In the empty phrase category, I’m sick of, “At any rate…” and hate “Anyways…”

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