Scott Hardie | July 12, 2005

"Just as the skill and processes are not compartmentalized in the creation process, the evaluation of outcomes will occur against a background of understanding that separation of outcomes into discrete components is subordinate to the evaluation of the total process as a comprehensive outcome."
Newsweek has published an interesting discussion (link) with Don Watson, an Australian author urging society to move away from "weasel words," his term for generic and indescriptive business-speak. What are we saying when we implement qualified resource management strategies? What does it mean to enhance our productivity outcomes with a research-driven outsourcing scenario? You know the words; most of you use the words.

To be clear, Watson doesn't so much seem to think that we should stop talking that way in the office, just in society beyond the office, where such terminology has a deadening effect on expression. I don't know if I agree with his conclusion that it makes us all into consumers, but then, this interview seems barely to scratch the surface of his philosophy. Personally, I'm pleased just to see someone calling bullshit on this trend; let's leave the effective dialogue-enchancement models at the office where they belong.

Amy Austin | July 12, 2005
Hahaha... I had to read that first paragraph 2 or 3 times before I could even move forward to find out what the *hell* you were talking about! ;-DDD I almost didn't want to read on, and when I got to that part of the article, I chuckled and skipped over it.

This is so true and is the primary reason that Dilbert is my most favorite comic strip -- this Watson character sounds like George Carlin trapped in a Dilbert strip! It also recalls to mind every single job evaluation I ever endured (most especially those in the Navy!), where your entire daily life is translated into "weasel words" just to justify your very existence, it seems. Honestly, this is the hardest part for me to think about when I consider my imminent return to the workforce (it's gotta' happen sooner or later...) -- I am terrified of going back to work for yet another Lumbergh in yet another Office Space where I continue to write TPS reports. Just call me Prometheus, please. Or Peter Gibbons.


Mike Eberhart | July 12, 2005
Yeaahh. That'd be Greaat.

Amy Austin | July 13, 2005
Nooooooooooo. I won't work weekends!

Scott Hardie | July 13, 2005
It's very specific language that conveys a very specific meaning in the business world, but it has no place outside of that. Isn't it bad enough that we Americans work such long hours and have so few days off; do we really have to spend our weekends talking to each other like we're still in the office? Anyway, I doubt Watson's movement will succeed. Using "weasel words" gives you an air of professionalism; being the only person in the room not using them makes you feel like you're wearing a t-shirt in a room full of suits. Simple peer pressure will keep weasel words in use for a long time.

Anyway, the quote at the very top sounds more to me like academia-speak than business-speak, which is appropriate since it originated in a school. Kris no doubt must write long term papers full of that language, and some of it naturally follows to TC and FIN, but I think it has little more use in common discourse than the weasel words that Watson so despises.

Amy Austin | July 13, 2005
It's very specific language that conveys a very specific meaning in the business world...
I have to disagree with that. It may be "very specific language", yes, but the meaning is no more specific because of its use, in the business world or otherwise -- just more "high falootin'" (to use another very specific language!) Having an "air of professionalism" is not the same thing as *being* a professional (unfortunately)... in fact, I think it bears more in common with passing gas. But I do concur with your point about suits and peer pressure. Nothing makes any group feel quite as tight-knit and secure in an "in crowd" manner as professional jargon -- and it seems to me that "weasel words" is just the way for people who don't have those specialized professions and fields of training to artificially boost the intelligence, legitimacy, or credibility of what they do for a living (like, for instance, "pushing paper" -- how glum is that without some good "resource input enhancement"???)... but it isn't fooling everybody, like this Watson cat. I am in total agreement with him.

Also, having attended college for no short amount of time, I have written many an academese-laden paper, and I would be lying to say that it was with no small amount of pride or arrogance that these were crafted... especially so, the more profound the subject and the more intense the deadline. But I would dare to say that this (college) is only the breeding and training ground for this type of unnecessary language and that many papers can been written just as effectively without all the "fluff". This isn't to say that I think all the papers I've written are/were "bullshit"... just that the manner in which it is expected that they be delivered is.

I could really keep going on about this, but to do so would be a little self-contradicting, I think, and I don't really have the energy for it right now. Suffice it to say that I try to always speak like I write and write like I speak (minus a few swear words)... much like saying what you mean and meaning what you say, which can sometimes be easier said than done! ;-D

Scott Hardie | July 13, 2005
Well, I'd like to say that I'd be predisposed to agree with you if not for certain experiences that have convinced me of my point that you quoted in italics... But I can't get into them because of a certain rule that everybody knows I have. :-) I guess I'll just have to say that some business jargon is definitely pure marketing-style bullshit, like calling a janitor a "sanitation engineer," but there are instances when it really does allow for precise communication, where the words are so carefully chosen not to con successfully but to convey successfully. (Once again, I possess contrary personal anecdotes that remind me that a general rule is not an absolute rule.)

Amy Austin | July 13, 2005
It's cool, and I think your rule of not discussing work is a good one. I don't mean to say that there aren't specific instances where "enhancement" language isn't truly enhancing (I could bring many personal examples to the discussion as well, including *plenty* of military acronyms that make no sense to anybody but those with the specific knowledge)... but I do mean to say that I believe it to be a *very* distinct minority of the time. (ESPECIALLY with regards to "mission statements" -- God, I hate those. Like nobody knows the reason they work. It's "for money", of course. ;-D)

Want to participate? Please create an account a new account or log in.

Other Discussions Started by Scott Hardie

Assignment: 100 Movie Moments

Create a list of 100 moments you love in movies. If that's too many, scale back your own list. You might draw from your own DVD collection for inspiration (like I did heavily). Go »

My So-Called Life

The release of old television shows on DVD is a wonderful trend, and combined with the convenience of Netflix it's even better. Go »

Cinema Non Grata

Is there any kind of movie (such as a genre) that you refuse to see, no matter how good its reputation is? Go »


I was just thinking about something my fiction workshop discussed earlier this semester: What is taboo any more? Go »

Down and Out in Kenya

In the news: "In Mombasa, Kenya, a woman was using an open-pit latrine when her cell phone slipped out of her pocket and down into the muck. Go »

Larry the Mechanic

Kelly had to go to the ER tonight for an ear infection, so I waited in chairs for about thirty minutes. Go »