Worst jargon contest: And the winner is . . .

December 18, 2013

“Not in their wheel-house”

Congratulations to Beth Vogel, of Committee of Seventy, a century-old nonprofit who fights to help the city of Philadelphia grow and prosper through better government. As she noted in her submission, “I dislike it because it’s annoying and sounds pretentious.” And as one of our judges noted upon review, “Unless they are on a ship and not driving it at the time, there is no need to utter these words.”

Thanks to all for playing.  Here are the rest of the submissions, with snippets of the color commentary that came with ‘em:

  • My submission is “resiliency.”  The word is so overplayed – especially in the context of climate change – that its meaning is watered down, if not altogether lost.  (Hello “sustainable”.)  While it’s a good word and admirable concept, it’s being thrown up and down and all around so much in environmental parlance that it’s losing meaning.
  • ROBUST — overused, vague, wonky, meaningless, insider speak.  Example: “The campaign to protect ____________ is robust.” Yuck!
  • To “architect a solution” … or any use of the word “architect” as a verb. Architects design things, and so do lots of non-architects, but no one has ever “architected” anything.
  • “Drill down” It has been around for a while but it stops me in my tracks each time I hear it. The tern is so industrial, masculine and pretentious.  Regular folks just say they will be spending more time on an issue or problem, focus a little more. Folks who drill down sound like they have hired a dentist to gain understanding of an issue. They are going to “frack” the answers. Term just doesn’t work for me.
  • “Incentivize”  Call me a curmudgeon, but it’s not in Webster’s Ninth Collegiate. Being an old-school copy editor, it drives me nuts, so I change it whenever I can (except in direct quotes) and say “provides incentive” or write around it. I’m slowly caving on “grow” your business. I know the English language is constantly changing but why must we leave it to New Age economists to be the Rowdy Yates of modern lexicography.
  • I dislike the word “impactful.” This “word” (which is not in any dictionary although web-based word mavens debate whether or not it is a word) is bandied about in D.C., usually with an accompanying intense look intended to give a clue about whether the impact is good or bad. “Impactful” can be used without tipping one’s hand about what kind of impact (good or bad) is being made — this is not helpful in communicating an opinion or praise or condemnation.
  • “Timber harvest” I’d like conservationists to talk about logging and clearcutting.
  • How about this example of jargon: “word-o-phile”! Of course the more precise word was at one time not apparent to me, either: “logophile.”
  • In my world, it’s people who repeatedly use “pedagogy” when they really mean “teaching”
  • “Weather event” instead of storm.
  • Impactful. Learnings. Head room.
  • How about “leverage” (as a verb), “metrics,” “viral,” “stickiness,” or the grandaddy of them all: “content.”
  • Essentialize


John Lamson