“Let’s touch base with the thought leader, and by reaching out, attempt to achieve the big, hairy audacious goal…”
Are your heckles up yet? Author and journalist Steven Poole’s are – and those with a suitably didactic view will share his disdain.
In his insightful and jocular reference book, Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower? Poole dissects the vexing subject of ‘unbearable office jargon’ – from the utterly cringe-worthy (solutioning; boil the ocean; productize) to the down-right absurd (big hairy audacious goal; we’re not here to fuck spiders).
As a language pedant, I was compelled to purchase this book. And in doing so, I felt I’d sought some solace from constantly witnessing the English language being chewed up and spat out. We’re all too often forced to suffer the diction which damages our very souls (I mean, why successfully motivate your staff when you can beat them with a patronising verbal baton?). This glossary serves to highlight the hideous hyperbole which is responsible for sending 21st-century workers home with an occupational twitch.
Poole’s witty, smart style brings about copious laugh-out-loud moments in this A to Z of abhorrent and comedic corporate speak. But, satire aside, Poole is positively erudite in his critiquing; taking the reader on a somewhat etymological journey – sorry, route – examining how these words and phrases have come into modern-day practice. Thereby, in some respects, validating the very language that grates on our frayed nerves (albeit not how they’re applied). Still, despite their rightful claim to a place in the dictionary – however olde-worlde – for many of us, this ghastly lingo triggers the veil of red mist to descend, nonetheless.
Ironically, while most corporate seniors are desperately clinging onto the hope that they appear more intelligent by using this laughable lexicon, it’s more likely to have an opposite, rather more damaging effect. I for one desperately cling onto the hope that the guys at the top stop to listen to the resounding rolling of eyes while they bleat on about their big, hairy audaciousness and low-hanging fruit… Nauseating.
One phrase which struck a particularly disturbing chord for me was ‘open the kimono’. It’s both distasteful and fundamentally bigoted – not to mention pretty out of place within corporate environs (hence it’s position amongst said hit-list of horrors). It’s also a rather telling sign of unnecessary perversity that exists in the workplace. Writer and culture editor, Steve Haruch, whose finger is also on the pulse of prose, wrote a similarly astute piece on the phrase.
And to illustrate both Haruch and Poole’s point further, American business magazine Forbes, delves into its familiar stomping ground of the corporate sphere, and surfaces with a fistful of phrases echoing our woes on this contentious topic.
But, back to the book by Steven Poole: If anything, this repertoire of scathing analyses will make you think before you mention bio-break, going forward… And even more poignant still, it serves as a satisfying two-fingered salute for the workplace warriors. Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower: A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon is a fun, literary companion – full of humour, facts and introspection – and available from all good book stores.