Tag Archives: radar screen

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?

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Slippery salmonella

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, sometimes referred to as the “food police,” is the advocacy group we love to hate. In reality, they do mountains of good in heightening public awareness about healthy eating—by telling us the ugly truth about our favorite indulgences, from buttered popcorn to Mexican food.

Yesterday, the group released a study on food safety, showing how well each of our 50 states detects, investigates and combats food-borne illness. I am proud to say that my state was one of only seven to receive an “A.”

That’s neither here nor there.

Call it the curse of the word nymph, but what made me take notice was not the data but the delivery. A word nymph can detect a mixed metaphor faster than a wood nymph can spot a bull thistle.

In announcing the study, CSPI safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal said, “If a consumer calls and says they have a food-borne illness but there’s no one there to investigate the cause, then outbreaks are just slipping under the radar screen.”

Did she mean “slipping under the radar?” Or did she mean “slipping off the radar screen?”

I’d say, technically, the answer could be both, but not in the same sentence.

What’s the difference? The first originates from “flying below the radar,” which is to go undetected or unnoticed. To be on someone’s radar screen is to receive his or her attention. To be off a person’s radar screen means the person is unaware.

The difference in meaning is extremely subtle, so perhaps I niggle. And yet, hearing the mixed metaphor on the news last night left me with a messy mental image. When Ms. Smith DeWaal said that outbreaks are “slipping under the radar screen,” I immediately wanted to swab the radar screen, and the control panel below it, with an antibacterial wipe.

Did anyone else have the same gut reaction?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Food, Health, Marketing/Advertising/PR, News