Buzzwords and phrases such as “leveraging” and “thinking outside the box” were not a part of the language with which I grew up. Even in college and graduate school, I never ran across this butchering of the English language until sitting in that corporate meeting room and listening to a vice-president of marketing drone on and on about stuff that meant absolutely nothing to me. Oh it sounded like standard American English, but it wasn’t.
“Team, we’ve got to leverage our assets to benchmark our products. We need to be concerned with branding and creating win-win situations for ourselves and our customer base,” he said.
I got up and walked out.
This is English? This is how people in a business setting talk to each other?
So I got to thinking about those mindless words and phrases. What do these things actually mean to a Texan?
Well, let’s look at some of the more overused words. I shall assume that you understand the corporate business buzzword meaning already. I, however, will provide the definition of what those buzzwords sound like to a Texan.
• Benchmarking: writing one’s name on one’s lawn furniture
• Best of breed: the quality of dogs, horses or cattle
• Beta-testing: my grandmother used to keep a tank full of beta fish in a No. 10 washtub in her backyard under a live oak tree. I assume that beta-testing means pitching something in that tank with the fish to see who lasts longest.
• Bizmeth: something you ought not to be cooking in your basement
• Branding: marking your stock with your ranch’s brand using fire and a really hot branding iron
• Thinking outside the box: contemplating an issue while not in the restroom
• Cloudability: it will rain soon
• Contingency planning: marking all the clean restrooms on your road trip route
• Disconnect: to unplug something
• Elevator pitch: what is likely to happen if you jump up and down in an elevator
• Empowerment: the electric company finally fixed that power outage after the storm
• Exit strategy: finding the fastest way out of a honky-tonk when the cocktail waitress’ boyfriend shows up
• Facetime: what I do every morning in the mirror
• Fuzzy logic: how furry animals think
• Leverage: using a fulcrum and lever to move something, such as poking a fencepost under a cow that’s stuck in the mud to get her out
• Long tail: a really nervous cat in a room full of rocking chairs
• Mashup: what one does with potatoes, particularly at Thanksgiving
• Monetize: painting in the style of a French impressionist painter
• Offshoring: hanging out on a party barge
• Organic growth: something the doc ought to take a look at before it gets much bigger
• Outsourcing: throwing something away
• Paradigm shift: paying back that twenty cents you owe your buddy
• Pork-barrel spending: buying a whole lot of bacon
• Proactive: Nolan Ryan before he retired
• Synergy: getting up the gumption to do something the deacons at your church might frown upon
• Vaporware: anti-gas medication
• Win-win: a champion who stutters
So now y’all know what I was thinking in the seven years I spent in corporate hell. Every time I sat in a meeting with a vice-president or corporate executive-something-or-other, my eyes would glaze over and my brain would tune out at the first crazy combination of nonsensical verbiage. I felt like a Martian listening to Slim Whitman sing “Indian Love Call” for the first time in the movie, “Mars Attacks!” Oh I wanted to throw the “fertilizer flag” on quite a lot of stuff, if I only knew what in the heck they were talking about. But then I realized that the corporate types didn’t know either; they just needed to sound like they did so their coworkers didn’t know that they didn’t know. After all, sounding like a clueless ivory tower specialist beats drooling on yourself in public.