THE BUZZWORD BIZ

It might have been buzzwords that Shakespeare was referring to when he had Macbeth complain in anger: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Buzzword lingo rarely signifies anything completely factual. It’s frequently used in outbursts of bravado or to camouflage unpleasant details with catch phrases and gobbledygook.

“Ballpark estimate” is among the most harmful. It often precedes a wildly overoptimistic guess of what a project will cost consumers or taxpayers. We’re meant to believe it’s a reasonably close approximation, “somewhere in the ballpark”.

But think about it. The average major league ballpark covers about 195,000 square feet and can fit as many as 55,000 fans. They might as well present a “somewhere in the Grand Canyon” estimate. Like those stretch-waist trousers you can buy from Haband, ballpark estimates leave a lot of room for future fat.

When your company starts talking about an “exit strategy”, ask questions like, “Who’s going to be exiting?” Now that the board of directors’ latest “win-win” project has turned out to be “lose-lose”, what are they doing about it? No one is going to be fired, they’ll say, but there might be considerable “streamlining” and “downsizing”. I’ve been downsized three times. Believe me, it’s not a Weight Watchers program. It’s unemployment.

A corporation I once worked for was planning a “forward-looking” merger, a “brilliant symbiotic union of industry leaders” as described by the vice president at a meeting of underlings, called to assure us our jobs were secure. A year later another meeting had a similar optimistic theme, but alas, only half the original staff had survived. We were told to “multi-task” during the “temporary downturn”. It wasn’t temporary. To coin a new buzzword, the company soon went “kamikaze”.

Politicians are fluent in the language of buzz. When one senator speaks about his “esteemed colleague’s” proposed bill, it soon becomes obvious he’s denouncing it item by item and he implies his “esteemed colleague” is “not playing with a full deck.”

Other pols, mistakenly assuming their finagling was “under the radar”, will admit to only “errors of judgment” and “unfortunate mistakes”. A judge will insist on a plain talk guilty plea and sentence them to “real time” in a “gated community”.

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