What’s Wrong with Buzz Words?

bumble-bee-55264_960_720You hear buzz words all the time. On the television news, in church services, in business meetings. They are the current jargon used by newscasters and politicians, public speakers and people who want to appear trendy. Or should I say on trend?

Unoriginal or Relevant?

There’s a place for buzz words. They show that you have your ear to the current culture. But they also reveal a lack of imagination. You can swap any buzz-word speaker with another. Where’s the individual voice and personality?

My husband’s office played Buzz Word Bingo, marking off each word or phrase when uttered in a team meeting. Whoever got the first straight line of words would stand, in the middle of the meeting, and yell, “Bingo!” They would’ve loved the following paragraph I wrote for fun:

Going forward, be empowered to break through the clutter and bring more robust words to the table! You can be proactive and raise the bar for original language. Step up to the plate and streamline the process. Whether it’s in your wheelhouse or not, you can still push the envelope and think outside the box.

Writers who use buzz words are lazy.

Heed what my man William Zinsser wrote back in 1986 in his classic On Writing Well:

”Beware of all the slippery new fad words: paradigm and parameter, prioritize and potentialize. They are all weeds that will smother what you write. Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.”

Maybe I’m thinking about buzz words today because spring is blooming everywhere, causing the buzzing bees to stir up the pollen which makes my head buzz. Whatever the reason, these tired words are permanent residents of my veritable zoo of pet peeves.

Some nouns masquerade as verbs.

We have issues with verbs in popular culture. Some may call it a verbage problem. Have you ever wondered what’s with the ending “age”? We used to say signs; now it’s signage.

Task – Why would you want to use this as a verb? Who can pronounce it anyway? Besides, no one tasks me, or has tasked me, with anything. They can ask me to do something and I can decide whether I’ll agree.

Reference – This is a dictionary or encyclopedia. I refer to things I found in a reference.

Engage – Only use this if you’re asking me to marry you. Since I’m already married, give it up.

Impact –  Only a noun until recently. Impactful–now that’s just crazy talk.

Grow – Things grow without trying. We do not grow a business. We help the business grow.

“Can we reach out?”

Joan Rivers’ famous line, “Can we talk?” is passé. It’s just not cool to talk anymore.

You can dialogue, communicate, exchange, interact, connect, or touch base. But not with me. Don’t reach out to me unless you’re throwing me a life preserver. And interface? Please! I only do this with my husband.

There’s more. So much more.

I unpack my suitcase, but nothing else.

Revisit means I’m stopping by your house for an encore, not that I’m evaluating something again.

Leverage involves a fulcrum and alignment is what the mechanic does to my car’s tires.

24/7:  Do people exist who defy the need for sleep and work every hour of every day of every week? I don’t think so, but if they do, I hope I never meet them.

I only say win win when I stutter or refer to (not reference) someone from Vietnam named Nguyen Nguyen.

And then there’s then-boss and then-husband. What! What’s wrong with saying former boss or husband at the time?

Unimaginative writers tell the reader something is heart-stoppingly scary or gut-wrenchingly moving. Better to describe it in a way that makes my gut wrench than to dictate how I’m supposed to respond.

I am head-congestedly whiny now, so I will stop. My allergy meds are reaching out to me.


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