Today’s business world is teeming with convoluted and confusing language. The world of government is even worse, suffering from a terminal case of this vocabularic obfuscation. Eh? This flood of bureaucratic “bafflegab” must be confusing even to the civil servants who specialize in creating it.
One of the causes of this perplexing language is the corporate or government desire to make a simple thought or concept sound more important than it actually is. For example, if you wanted to remember the date of an upcoming meeting, you could say, “I’ll write down the date of that meeting on the calendar.” But, it's more impressive sounding if you say, “I’ll calendarize that.”
By the way, that word “calendarize” brings us to the infamous “ize” syndrome. This suffix is amazingly versatile in the wonderful world of bafflegab. The bureaucracy has discovered that almost any concept can be “-ized” to maximum impact, confusion and pomposity. Thus, we can functionalize, diarize, prioritize, activize, co-ordinize, dollarize and expedize. And, not to forget the ever popular downsize.
In addition, a vast array of important sounding, but almost meaningless words has been created to enable government and business to say nothing while sounding like they’re saying everything. One of the important keys to this confusing concept is the constant use of vague words, such as facilitate, mission-statement, mobility, empowerment, benchmarking, bottom-line, visioneering, estimable, back-burner, time-phase, logistical, integrated, flexibility and contingency.
These are multi-purpose words that can be plugged in anywhere to create maximum bewilderment. No one will ever know what you’re thinking, but it will sound great. So, for example, if they corner you and demand to know why sales are down this month, you simply say: “Well, with regard to that issue — as we prioritize the management team’s mobility, as outlined in our mission statement, we’ll see a renewal of decreased profit potential integrated over the short term, but undoubtedly the estimable output and profits contingent on time-phase improvement and consumer confidence can be expected to reflect a bottom line upgrade in expedizing profitability over the long term.”
They’ll walk away thinking you’re really on top of things. You’ll get requests from management to write their year-end reports. In fact, with that kind of puzzling, elliptical logic, you’ll have the potential to make a fine politician.
A glossary is needed
It seems to me that what we need today is a specialized dictionary devoted exclusively to deciphering exactly what people in business and government are trying to say — or hide.
So with this premise in mind, here are a few suggested entries for The Business and Government Bafflegab Dictionary:
• Back-burner — To move a problem to a lower priority on the agenda in hopes that it will go away and/or be solved by someone else. Example: “Let’s back-burner this item."
• Concur — To agree.
• De-concur — After you concur on a project, but later realize the folly of doing so, you cleverly withdraw your support by “de-concurring.” Most effectively used without warning and when the project is less than two weeks from completion/failure.
• Input — To contribute information, such as: “Think about this project and give us the benefit of your input at the next meeting.”
• Dialogue — To talk to someone, such as: “Why don’t you two dialogue on this project and give us more input at the next meeting.”
• Interface — More sophisticated, and confusing, dialogue. For example: “Why don’t you two interface on this project and then we can dialogue and get your input at the next meeting.”
• Level-set — To get everyone on the same level of knowledge about a project or concept, such as: “Before you start, let’s level-set everyone.”
• Consultant — Any business person who is more than 80 kilometres from home. A consultant is a person who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is and then walks away with the watch.
• Read and Initial — To make copies, add more names to the memo and thus spread responsibility. Also known as “covering your behind.”
• Under consideration — Never heard of it.
• Under active consideration — We’re looking in the files for it.
• Clarify — Fill in background information to such a confusing extent that the original details become unintelligible.
• To develop ownership — This means: “We’ve got to find some turkey who will assume responsibility for this dumb project.”
• Will advise — If we figure it out, we’ll let you know.
• Studies have indicated — This means that Time magazine did an article on it about a year ago.
• Top priority — This means that it’s a ridiculous idea, but the boss wants it.