Full of Sound and Fury – Signifying Nothing?

That famous Shakespearian phrase represents what many feel that buzzwords, corporate jargon, business lexicon have become.  Social media and the Internet are chock-full of hateful comments about these words and phrases.  Exhibit A, enjoy this amusing rant on “going forward.”  There are even tools out there that can help us identify this heresy and combat it.


http://unsuck-it.com is a tool to unsuck your business language

However, I feel a need to agitate on this topic.  I get that buzzwords irk people and are fodder for business articles lambasting them (Google “buzzwords” and waste some time).  I also admit that there are a few on the list that make me cringe.  However,  truthfully, I  don’t think that’s how I thought until I read some of these articles suggesting I should react that way.

I find this analogous to my subtle, initial queasiness when I consider of wearing white socks with dark pants or wearing any color of socks with sandals.  I feel this way because I was told once that these are fashion mistakes, not because of a violation of a personal preference or transgression against an ingrained human instinct.

Are not buzzwords like this?  Someone does not like them and tells others (and so on, and so on) until something is rendered unpopular; even though they still might be valid and serve a valuable purpose.  Some of these phrases are the linguistic version of the band Nickleback (a highly successful band that no one admits to liking due to a groundswell of negative commentary).  Why should I care if I am wearing socks, no matter their color, as long as they are functionally keeping my feet warm, comfortable, and blister-free?

Nickleback: the record-breaking record selling band that everyone hates.

Nickleback: the record-breaking record selling band that everyone hates.

Win-win,” for example can communicate a thought in two words that might have taken a paragraph or more in conventional language. And, it’s more visual and playful, much like many of the other dreaded words on this list. If people don’t understand some of these phrases, then like idioms or inside jokes, communication is shackled. However, if communication is not impaired by using buzzwords, than their use (or lack of use) might be more a matter of style. I mean, who is getting hurt here? How many lives are being lost by “low hanging fruit”?

That said, I strive to creatively diversify the words I use and try to avoid clichés and buzzwords as a mental challenge. Also, I want people to pay attention to what I say, and not be distracted with words or phrases they are irritated by. Since I am a terrible public speller and love to make up my own words when I speak extemporaneously, I figure it’s the least I can do for people unlucky enough to be in my vocal proximity.

First World Problems First World Problems are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries.

First World Problems First World Problems are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries.

However, I feel constrained when I think that a buzz word or cliché is the right word for the situation.  Therefore, I am trying to be less concerned about the sigma against them. I’ve got better things to worry about than these first world problems.  And, when I hear others use them, I will endeavour to be less linguistically snobbish and not distract myself with style over substance.

I wonder what is behind the this anti-buzz word movement.  Perhaps, when someone raises the flag on a particular buzz word, I ought to pull out the 5 Whys, a root cause analysis tool to unearth the real reason for their anguish.  Or, maybe these words and phrases are good to bring in a team charter conversation.  If they are as big a deal as the pundits say they are then groups should agree to “86 them.”  If not , then I guess these are not “hills to die on” and more of a tongue-in-cheek revolt.  (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

I compel you to  challenge your thinking  around critically lambasted words and phrases.  You may decide to be like me and … buzz on!

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2 Responses to Full of Sound and Fury – Signifying Nothing?

  1. Ian says:

    Well thought out article, Greg – reminds me of the old saying, “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” It isn’t the words themselves, it is the way they’re used. There’s nothing wrong with Nickleback’s music, either – its quite catchy – but the band’s image has been tarnished by a perception that they’re only in it for the money and fame and don’t care who they trample on to get there. Are they really so different than other aspiring rock stars, or is it just really poor management of their public image?

  2. gsjonuk says:

    Thanks for your comment Ian. I don’t know the dynamics behind the anti-nickleback movement, I really don’t have time to care; however this is the first time I have heard something more concrete than “Every song sounds the same.” The song, “I really hate her, I’ll think of a reason later,” just popped in my head. Sometimes, it becomes cool to hate something, even without good reason. When I was in grade 6, we had to listen to Queen in the closet because it suddenly became taboo.

    No matter the reason, my respect for nickleback grew tremendously when they started to make fun of themselves and embrace the negative sentiment rising against them:

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