Buzzwords quickly turn into drones, and phrases that once sounded cool become distinctly ungroovy. Accountemps, a temporary staffing company based in California, recently revealed today’s most overused office buzzwords and Metro sat down with a linguist to find out how language love turns to language loathing.
The survey showed “it is what it is” and “at the end of the day” to be two of the worst offenders.
“When business or industry terms become overused, people stop paying attention to them,” explained Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps. “The best communicators use clear and straightforward language that directly illustrates their points.”
The out-of-favour phrases included game changer, as in “Transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company,” value-add, as in “We have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we spend more on it,” and leverage, as in “We intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits.”
Other offenders were synergy, customer-centric and think outside the box. Bosses were also sick of hearing about the recession, depression, down sizing and doing more with less.
Sally Rice, professor of linguistics at the University of Alberta, said buzzwords are like fashion trends in clothes. Some, like “cool,” stick around to become stylish, while others, like “groovy,” become unfashionable.
“They foster group identity. That’s what slang is all about,” Rice explained. “It’s language fashion. When it gets overdone, people start to react (against it).”
Early buzzwords for the Internet were “information superhighway” and the “surfing” metaphor.
The information superhighway is fast going the way of bell bottoms while surfing the web seems to have the holding power of blue jeans.
“Some words get into the mainstream and go ‘viral,’ to use an example,” Rice said. “Vlog” and “Blog” were born as buzzwords around the same time. While vlog, a video log, is failing, blog is quickly losing its origins as a “web log” and becoming a regular word.
Rice said it’s unpredictable which buzzwords will cross over to general use and which will wind up on most-hated surveys.