Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
11/25/2013
11:00 AM
Bennett Quillen
Bennett Quillen
Commentary

Stop Butchering The English Language

Solutioning, diarizing, and zerotasking have lurched into the business lexicon -- but must go, says a former CIO. Weigh in with your own linguistic peeves.

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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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11/25/2013 | 11:14:33 AM
"The Ask"
Well-played, sir! But no mention of my new pet peeve, "the ask" -- as in "Here's the ask." Or: "The ask is not that big."

I told someone this weekend that the ask is the new pivot.

In other words, I ask that "the ask" goes away. And let's not prepone that.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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11/25/2013 | 12:41:57 PM
Re: "The Ask"
Most of these words and terms are just lazy bureaucrat-speak, but "prepone" is from another planet. 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
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11/25/2013 | 12:51:04 PM
Re: "The Ask"
I couldn't agree more with these terms, as well as "the ask." And I think we should include "incentivize," especially when it is used as a euphemism for "bribe."

I had a former manager who would frequently tell me to "deprioritize" projects she assigned me but then decided were a dumb idea. I don't have fond memories of her, but I do find deprioritizing comes in handy sometimes :)
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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11/25/2013 | 1:31:02 PM
Re: "The Ask"
We use a lot of these to talk about bad things without being blunt. Add "issues" when we're talking about problems, and "impact" when we mean hurt. ("This could impact results." Geez, I hope so, or else why would we do it!)
bquillen280
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bquillen280,
User Rank: Strategist
11/25/2013 | 1:59:10 PM
Re: "The Ask"
Laurianne,

Thank you  for your response.  My goodness: "The Ask"?  That is a new one and awful! Let's keep up the good fight.

Bennett
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2013 | 2:34:28 PM
Moratorium on "solution" in all forms
"Solutioning" is annoying for sure, but ANY form of the word used to mean "product" makes me nuts. I am sure your highly optimized hardware with whiz-bang software on board is wonderful, and may in fact solve my problem. But please, be clear on what exactly you're selling. If it's code and silicon, say so.
ggiese87101
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ggiese87101,
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11/25/2013 | 3:20:19 PM
creatifying - coming up with new words
I was zerotasking over lunch when I read this, great editorial!  But going forward I'd like to reach out to you on your decisioning.  Now that you've socialized your solutioning (removing bad words and phrases from our vocabulary) with the stakeholders (the readers of InfoWeek) (of which I (a reader) am), your direction of travel should be architecting your benchstrength.  Perhaps offboarding some tired old words will bring about a paradigm shift.  We should diarize our learnings in this magainze about why people are changifying the English language.  If you'd like to talk more, we could take this offline.  ;-)

Circling back to the subject of my post, I'm sometimes stumped when it comes to word selection.  I'd like to think that my English skills are above average, but I've noticed a few things. Sometimes the business and tech worlds needs to make up new words. It's just a fact of life. An example of a legitimate case is one that parallels the Inuit need for describing different types of snow, leading to their creating of a dozen or so words. I would agree that many phrases that people use today don't make any sense, especially if you attempted to write them down in a document.  Social-speak is often different than good writing, and the divergence is increasing. 

Anyway, I like to make fun of it at times, adding -ing, -ify/ifying, -ize/izing, etc. to words and winking or giving a sly smile.  When people hear you overusing those, they realize that it's annoyifying the heck out of them, and they are less likely to creatize new words.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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11/25/2013 | 5:10:13 PM
Re: creatifying - coming up with new words
I applaud the sentiment of this column, though I fear it's a lost cause. Language changes, often in ways we dislike.

I still get annoyed when people use "them" or "they" as a singular non-gendered pronoun, something known as the epicene they. For example, from an AP article: "a law that prohibits commercial use of someone's name or likeness without their consent." Ugh.

Apparently, this has become accepted grammar, as has using "them" and "they" as pronouns for companies (rather than "it").
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
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11/25/2013 | 5:38:49 PM
Re: "The Ask"
This is great. There are so many ridiculous jargon-based words out there that people think they can just spout off some fancy things and people will be amazed. 

Not so much, at least in my estimation. It might may you sound smarter until there is someone in the room who knows you are completely full of it. 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/25/2013 | 6:37:27 PM
Going forward
Great list. For me, "Synergy" is the grandaddy of them all - just two words put together that unfortunately stuck. "Solution" the most overused and annoying. I've "circled back" so many times I'm dizzy. A marketing exec at Microsoft kept using the word "planful" over and over in an interview. I think planful is an actual word, but such an empty one. Why not say "prepared" or "a good planner"? A big part of a journalist's job is wiping out these terms and their ambiguous meanings and replacing them with something human and true. Maybe we can't stop business-speak, but we must work to contain it!

Let's ideate about this initiative going forward.

 

 

 
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