Lex and I launched Lexicide 11 years ago to grouse about corporate buzzwords — particularly those that changed the meaning of existing words and thus killed the original word (hence our coinage “lexicide”).
Alas, corporate-speak is still with us. And this excellent Atlantic article lays out the reason why. Using words wrongly is a shibboleth, a sort of pidgin that lets everyone in the office know you’re one of them. It’s all for show, of course, as this paragraph makes clear:
The fact that buzzwords are a joke even to many of the people who rely on them suggests that work, and its language, is a kind of pretense. And speaking the language of work reminds people that they’re pretending. Graeber remembers the first time he and all his high-school friends shook hands, as kind of a gag. It became a recurring joke, as in “Oh, this is what adults do.” “I think people in these offices are permanently caught at that moment,” he says. We’re forever “closing the loop” on things because of a vague notion that this is what adults do.
Or as the anthropologist David Graeber says elsewhere in the article, “[A]ll-purpose business language is the language you use when you aren’t really doing anything.”
Which circles back to Lex’s and my original pain point. Corporate writers and speakers really are pretending. They pretend they are experts in a subject, they pretend they care, and they certainly pretend they know what certain words mean. Whether from insecurity or con-artistry, it’s clear most of us in the business world are frauds, and corporate language is our sleight of hand.
Which is likely why no one cares they are misusing words. If it’s all a game of make-believe, then it doesn’t matter.
— Otto E. Mezzo