Tag Archives: English

Corporate Jargon and the Mob

5 Aug


To make my daily bread I work as a B2B copywriter, which means that almost every time I open up LinkedIn or read an industry publication, I’m flooded with the fluffed-up eflum that is corporate jargon–the peculiar and stilted form of English spoken by so many hard working yet utterly clueless suit-and-tie types.

In the gray, lumpy mush that is corporatese ‘use’ becomes ‘leverage.’ ‘Backtrack’ becomes ‘pivot.’ More than two people working together somehow transforms into ‘synergy.’ Having an idea here or there is ‘innovation.’

“We leveraged our synergy in order to pivot our acquisition strategy to better promote innovation.”

You don’t hear plumbers or playwrights speak like this. No, this is the sort of language you internalize when you’ve read enough professional advice books to fill the syllabus of a thousand MBA courses, but have never heard of Melville or Mencken. This is the sort of speech you adopt when you need to mystify the mundane and aggrandize the mediocre–rather than, say, instruct someone in toilet-repair using plain terms.

But this clunky, murky language isn’t limited to only the legal business world. For instance:

“So, what do you do?”
“I’m in goon-marketing.”
“What’s that?”
“I threaten people with physical violence, vandalism or blackmail into buying my products.”
“Oh. Ah. I see. Um…so what, what do you sell?”
“Justin Beiber vinyls. $40 a pop. Good price. Fell off the back of a truck–if ya know what I mean. You want some? Sure you do.”

“Cash or card?”

Luckily, corporations can’t coerce you into buying their products under threat of violence. Or can they?

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