Usage And Abusage – Why Words Are Both The Most Beautiful And The Most Annoying Things In The World

You See. They Can't Even Spell It Right First Time.

You See. They Can’t Even Spell It Right First Time.

Words have a life of their own. They can make the most stunning woman you have ever seen sleep with you or make the biggest, ugliest man you have ever encountered punch you in the face. Sometimes they are sublime and sometimes they are crass. Sometimes they are inspiring and sometimes they are annoying. Except in the field of business, where they are always annoying.

Take the following phrases. “We’re smart-sizing”(You’re sacked), “We’re right-sizing”(You’re sacked), “We’re re-balancing the team”(You’re sacked), “We need fewer people to wear more hats”(You’re sacked) and my personal favourite “We’re eliminating redundancy” (You’re being made redundant. Another way of saying “You’re sacked”).

Not all business speak is a euphemism for getting fired, of course. Though most of it is a prelude to the process of somebody, somewhere losing their job. This apparently has to happen because the only way you can expand is by shrinking. No, I don’t fucking understand it either, but evidently it’s a central principle of sitting in a big, oak-lined boardroom and having hot and cold personal helicopters on tap.

There are many irritating and nonsensical business speak words and all of them are completely without relevance or meaning. Except for one. And everyone in the business has not the slightest idea what it means, despite the fact that it is used incessantly. That word is “Proactive”.

When Stephen R Covey wrote “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” in 1989, he introduced the word “Proactive” into modern parlance. Not that he actually coined the word. It has been around since the 1920’s. He did popularize it though. Much in the same way that Robert Bunsen didn’t actually invent the Bunsen Burner, but made scientists realize it would be a very handy piece of laboratory equipment. Bunsen just wanted something to do the job and it was actually a University technician, Peter Desaga, who designed it for him.

When business idiots use the word “Proactive” they always mean it in the sense that if you are being proactive you are anticipating problems and sorting out their causes before the problems arise. This is a sound principle, don’t get me wrong. But there’s already a perfectly serviceable English word to describe it. Pre-emptive.

The dictionary definition of “Proactive” runs something like this: “creating or controlling a situation, rather than just responding to it”. It’s just a way of saying “calm down, have a think and what actually is it you want to achieve. Just ignore the mayhem and focus on what needs to be done”. It’s a very useful word that can get you out of no end of trouble. This is why inept, overpaid wankers misuse it on such a regular basis.

© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013


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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

5 responses to “Usage And Abusage – Why Words Are Both The Most Beautiful And The Most Annoying Things In The World”

  1. eden baylee says :

    I cannot agree more. I came from the world of finance. There were so many annoying words I could barely sit through meetings without cringing. Most directors/VPs had the same vocabulary, it seemed.

    These were some of the worst offenders:
    ~ low-hanging fruit
    ~ leveraged
    ~ best practices
    ~ win-win

    AND the two I absolutely loathed: “deep dive” or “drill down” — both meaning to get to the core of the problem.

    Every time I heard those terms, I wondered if these guys had ever read a book outside of a business manual.



    • thedailygrime says :

      It’s amazing how stupid and poorly educated many successful business people are. Or if they have had a decent education, how little attention they seem to have paid to it. I cling to the hope that they are being deliberately obtuse so they don’t stand out as some sort of target in that cut throat world.

      I’m currently stuck up the management tree myself. There is a great deal of talk of “Core Values” at the moment. As if we are running some kind of religion rather than just selling people stuff.Very frustrating. The sooner I can make some sort of living out of writing the better


      • eden baylee says :


        You make a good point about a company’s core values. It IS akin to a religion, like the Ten Commandments or some kind of cultish buy-in. Individual thinking isn’t really encouraged, though it might appear that it is.
        Meetings are conducted more like football rallies or childhood birthday parities filled with games to stimulate ideas and drum up enthusiasm.

        What happened to adults talking? Have we become attention-deficit thinkers who cannot hold a conversation without someone dressed in a bunny suit making an idiot of themselves? And if you’re not on board with the ‘rah rah’ sessions, then you’re seen as ambivalent, or worst yet, not a team player (another loathsome business term).

        The more entrenched the employee is in the corporate structure and its beliefs, the harder it is to get out. So many stay years beyond their productivity due date but cannot (or choose not to) leave because their financial benefits are tied to the company —and it’s not just the biweekly pay cheque.


  2. thirdnews says :

    “You’re sacked” is just the end result of the “We’re…” and “We…”; the true meaning of those prolixes? Your ass is replaceable, with more talent, less money.

    • thedailygrime says :

      It’s fortunate for modern business that there are so many graduates around who are willing to go in at ground level and do two people’s jobs for half of just one of those people’s wages. They do this in the hope of getting the big bucks later on. This is a bit like a drug dealer selling dime bags on street corners for less money than flipping burgers in the hope that he will get further up the drug cartel tree and finally be able to afford that drop top Kompressor.

      These fresh, shiny new graduates are what the business world calls “young, dumb and full of cum”. Most of them won’t get the big bucks of course. They will be sacked and replaced by a new- considerably smaller- crop of fresh, shiny graduates. And so on and so on until the company consists of one executive who just turns up and pushes a “Trade” button every morning. Mind you, they say the aim of any civilized society should be 100% unemployment, so maybe it’ll all work out ok in the end.


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