Words And Phrases That, Um, Suck | February 2006


One of the best things about writing a column for Flamenco (for any publication, I suppose) is that it gives you a forum for venting about the things that really tick you off. You should try it–just contact Mark or David. No need to commit yourself long term, as they’re more than happy to accept and publish one-time articles. Trust me, it’s therapeutic (and Lord knows I need all the therapy I can get).

Now, for those of you pack rats like me (and you know who you are), you may be able to pull out an old issue of Flamenco–May 2004, to be exact–and see where I’ve already talked about using this column to vent my spleen. But this time, I’m venting about something different than what I did back then.

This time, it’s about overused, abused, misused words and phrases. In short, words and phrases that, for lack of a better word, suck.

Those of us who love the English language probably have at least a mental list of words and phrases we completely dislike for one reason or another. My list is so long I couldn’t possibly share the whole thing with you here. So I’m going to pick out a few. If you’re so inclined to send me some of yours, please feel free to contact us (contact info is here). I might use them in a future column.

Or if you prefer, keep them and write a column of your own and send it in to Mark and David. I’m sure they’d appreciate a word (or three) from you.

With all due respect to Mark, whose day job, if I recall correctly, involves working with computers, my first few words are used quite a bit in the computer industry…

IT: Tag, you’re IT? No, this is an obscure abbreviation for what the computer industry refers to itself as, which is my next phrase…

Information Technology: C’mon, give me a break. This is just a fancy schmancy way to talk about computers. It also provides a handy excuse for a computer consultant to charge you an arm and a leg for his or her services.

Tools: Whenever I hear this word, I think of Craftsman, hammers, wrenches and the like. When I hear someone use it in the context of computers or the corporate world, I can’t help but think of that person as, well, a tool.

Enterprise: Now, I know there is a stereotypical association between those who work with (or spend way too much of their free time on) computers and Star Trek. But come on. Why can’t you just say “your organization” or “your company?” Every time I hear this word used in this context, all I can think of is “Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here!”

Some of the words I’ve chosen thus far are not only used in the computer industry, but they’re also used in the corporate world in general. In fact, they remind me of a gag created by a very clever person some years ago.

The gag is called “BS Bingo” (hey, this is still a family publication!). It was purportedly created as a way to stay entertained during long, boring meetings. How it works is that instead of the typical bingo card with the word “Bingo” at the top and squares filled with numbers, you have a card with a grid of squares and each square contains a typical corporate buzz word (such as “solution” or “enterprise”). The middle square is considered “free.”

Each of the “players” in the meeting has a card. As a buzz word is used by whomever is heading the meeting, the players note it on their cards. The first one to complete a row, a column or a diagonal line from one corner to another, yells “BS!” and wins.

For the record, I’ve never been to a meeting myself where someone has stood up and mysteriously yelled “BS!” But I’ve been tempted to do so myself numerous times, although for a different reason. Namely, the content of the meeting.

But I digress. Here now are a few of the words and phrases typically used in BS Bingo.

Solution: This is a “creative” (yeah, right) buzz word used by sales people. It’s a euphemism for whatever schlocky and useless product they’re trying to push on you. When I hear “solution” being (mis)used this way, my brain begins to do a slow burn. Few words raise my ire the way this one does. I wish I could drop people who abuse this word into a vat of highly acidic “solution.”

Think Outside the Box: Next person I hear using this phrase, I will personally fit them into a box. A SMALL one.

Upside: This one is supposed to mean the same thing as “pro” in “pro and con.” But I think anyone using this word should be smacked upside the head.

Seamless: I wish they could make clothing like this. Otherwise, I just wish this word would go away.

Paradigm: Come on, can’t you just say “example” or “model?” I mean, why use a 50-dollar word when a word worth a pair of dimes is good enough?

Content Management: How about simply saying, “keeping track of your computer files?” This phrase does not make me content at all.

Vertical Integration: What? They’re going to start mandatory busing of tall people now?

Traction: John Deere comes to mind when I hear this one. Or driving on an ice-covered word. But business?

Synergy: Gag. Give me a break. This word and its variants (such as “synergistic”) make me want to puke.

Outsource: A fancy way to say Donald Trump’s two most favorite words: “you’re fired.” I hope the Humorless Twit never gets outsourced…