There was a time when a truck carrying fruit was called a fruit truck. Now it is highly likely that a truck full of fruit and vegetables will have proudly emblazoned on its side “Herbaceous Plant Logistics”.
In simpler times a truck was a truck. This was a time when there were only a few careers available to you when you left school. If you were in one of the less academic classes of a comprehensive high school then there was a fair chance you’d be driving that fruit truck and if you were good at numbers but couldn’t dance you became an accountant. Simple.
So in these complex times there seems to be a requirement by many for an increased complexity in our language. We seem to crave words that heighten the importance of what we do and use words that make other people think we are important and therefore want us. Therefore every clown in town is either a Director, Executive Officer or Senior something and they are generally involved in something strategic or logistical.
The other day I went past a shop run by another eastern suburbs spiv that proclaimed he was purveyor of fine food. It made me smile. A purveyor – it almost sounded obscene and at the prices it was. I didn’t go inside because I knew I wouldn’t find any Black Cat Chocolate selection or Coon Cheese slices in the Purveyor’s pad.
It was on the same day that the very little man from News, Kimbo Williams used the term “chemical conversation” when Doogie Niven Cameron, trained fitter and machinist, ex-AMW secretary and now member of the Gillard graveyard shift had the temerity to question News about its lack of ethics. The carefully groomed Williams, who is increasingly beginning to look like one of the crew out of Dad’s Army, peered owlishly over his goggles and spat extremely smart words out at Cameron. That evening the bug-eyed MP Rob Oakeshott banged on about agnostic platforms in relation to the new media laws. I began to sweat. The room was swimming, I was bewildered and drowning in a tosh mire and the only way out was to turn everything off and sip from memories cup cheered on by the scarlet brew.
Don Watson’s wonderful site weaselwords is full of people’s attempts to inflate the importance of what they do or sell. Read the prose below from Watson’s site and try to imagine what they are talking about:
“The love for beautiful things, the knowledge of the functional and technical aspects of the product, the belief that domestic life is an individual space to conquer so that freedom of choice can truly nourish, in short, the determination to empower an authentic life style, unconditioned and untainted by consumerism, is the mission and goal.”
I was thinking a sex toy here – perhaps a Steely Dan. But no it’s the product description on the box containing three cheese knives.
Titles across the corporate world preen the egos of suited charlatans and generally have no connection with what they actually do. Why do we need senior strategic toads to orchestrate front-end schemas or deploy innovative content? I’d suggest it is because some of us feel the need to deliver a complex response to an increasingly challenging and complex work environment.
There is an increasing need to obfuscate (see it’s happening to me)? In Nerdland obfusciation or “beclouding” is used to refer to the practice of hiding the intended meaning and often the reason is a need to make code unable to be compromised. But in IT it has a reason to exist. Elsewhere it is simply the chosen language of misleading scoundrels.
Obviously sport is not immune from the habit of gilding the lily. The highly successful rugby league club, Melbourne Storm would have us believe that their Storm Advantage Payment “is not a membership package but a payment plan to make life simple”. Such is their concern for the fiscal prudence of their fans that they want to help them “manage their cash flow”. That appears to be a flow from the fans’ pockets into the fat News coffers particularly if you go for the payment plan for a “Sup-paw-tor” membership for your pet at just $35 a year.
In gaming the Punter’s Pal, little Tommy Waterhouse is trying to recruit a ‘high impact editorial manager’ who will be charged with ‘leveraging’ more media opportunities. In my day a high impact manager was a bloke who belted you for not doing your job.
Cricket Australia loves a good title too and in November 2011 appointed Pat Howard as General Manager, Team Performance. A fabulous yet curious title given that I thought the coach and selectors were responsible for team performance with simple performance criteria such as if you don’t get enough runs or wickets you’re gone. But no, they obviously need a bloke with a special title who owns a string of chemist shops to tell them or a press conference when a bloke is on the nose. It’s really even stranger when you find that Pat the Chemist was the General Manager of the High Performance Unit at the ARU – where his clowning achievement was “recruiting the current Wallabies management”. Now doesn’t that decision smack of high performance?
So where are we now? Well we are in a mess. What most say is not what they do or mean. We need to return to a time of plain English – a time of fruit trucks and bosses. But most of all we need to banish the turd bronzers.