Garbage Language Why do corporations speak the way they do?


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Via:  larry-hampton  •  4 months ago  •  14 comments

Garbage Language Why do corporations speak the way they do?
The hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

I worked at various start-ups for eight years beginning in 2010, when I was in my early 20s. Then I quit and went freelance for a while. A year later, I returned to office life, this time at a different start-up. During my gap year, I had missed and yearned for a bunch of things, like health care and free knockoff Post-its and luxurious people-watching opportunities. (In 2016, I saw a co-worker pour herself a bowl of cornflakes, add milk, and microwave it for 90 seconds. I’ll think about this until the day I die.) One thing I did not miss about office life was the language. The language warped and mutated at a dizzying rate, so it was no surprise that a new term of art had emerged during the year I spent between jobs. The term was parallel path, and I first heard it in this sentence: “We’re waiting on specs for the San Francisco installation. Can you parallel-path two versions?”

Translated, this means: “We’re waiting on specs for the San Francisco installation. Can you make two versions?” In other words, to “parallel-path” is to do two things at once. That’s all. I thought there was something gorgeously and inadvertently candid about the phrase’s assumption that a person would ever not be doing more than one thing at a time in an office — its denial that the whole point of having an office job is to multitask ineffectively instead of single-tasking effectively. Why invent a term for what people were already forced to do? It was, in its fakery and puffery and lack of a reason to exist, the perfect corporate neologism.

The expected response to the above question would be something like “Great, I’ll go ahead and parallel-path that and route it back to you.” An equally acceptable response would be “Yes” or a simple nod. But the point of these phrases is to fill space. No matter where I’ve worked, it has always been obvious that if everyone agreed to use language in the way that it is normally used, which is to communicate, the workday would be two hours shorter.


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Larry Hampton
1  seeder  Larry Hampton    4 months ago

I like Anna Wiener’s term for this kind of talk: garbage language. It’s more descriptive than corporatespeak or buzzwords or jargon. Corporatespeak is dated; buzzword is autological, since it is arguably an example of what it describes; and jargon conflates stupid usages with specialist languages that are actually purposeful, like those of law or science or medicine. Wiener’s garbage language works because garbage is what we produce mindlessly in the course of our days and because it smells horrible and looks ugly and we don’t think about it except when we’re saying that it’s bad, as I am right now.

But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.

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2      4 months ago

There is definitely a lot of garbage language in corporations. Like when they say they are looking for "diversity", it really just means anything except a straight, white male.

lady in black
2.1  lady in black  replied to  @2    4 months ago

How can one be afraid of the term diversity.....what, the world and corps should only be run by white straight males....not anymore, keep up with the times or get left behind.

Nothing wrong with a corp run by someone other than a white straight male.

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2.1.1    replied to  lady in black @2.1    4 months ago

I never said their was. When these companies say they are looking for diversity it usually means they are willing to pass up a more qualified white male to higher a less qualified black woman. I guess I'm the old fashioned type who thinks the best person should get the job. I never said I was against diversity but what they are practicing is legal reverse discrimination.

lady in black
2.1.2  lady in black  replied to  @2.1.1    4 months ago

No they are not, and how do you know that the woman is less don't unless you know these people personally

2.1.3  Tessylo  replied to  @2.1.1    4 months ago

Your misogyny and bigotry are showing.  

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2.1.4    replied to  lady in black @2.1.2    4 months ago

Well I have personal experience I can draw from. A black female intern with no experience was gift wrapped a job in a department she has absolutely no experience being in. All of the employees of that department agreed she has no business having the job. She performed poorly within half a year she left to work somewhere else as she wasn't able to keep up with the workload. This is a highly progressive company and they just really wanted to be able to say they had a black female in their PLC Controls department. Before you go saying I'm racist I actually provided the most help to her than anybody and I'm in the IT department so it wasn't even my job. Hiring off of diversity standards is highly racist in my opinion and should not be done. If you happen to have a diverse staff based on their skills, good for you. Give yourself a pat on the back. But it should not be hiring practice to just give them a shot because you think they deserve it. It affects the other people in the departments who have to work with that person as well

2.1.5  TᵢG  replied to  @2.1.4    4 months ago
Before you go saying I'm racist

(see @2.1.3)

2.1.6  Tessylo  replied to  @2.1.4    4 months ago

That's what it's all about, YOUR (ALLEGED) PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.  jrSmiley_78_smiley_image.gif

2.1.7  Drakkonis  replied to  @2.1.4    4 months ago

I more or less agree with you. If I owned a company I'd want to hire the best I could get. And I wouldn't feel very good about being the most qualified for a particular position but being turned down for the sake of diversity.  But, that said, I don't think it's always about being diverse. I think some hire the less qualified minority person or female with the honest intention of simply giving that person a chance that might be hard for them to find, not because it makes them appear diverse. 

I do think that hiring simply to appear to be diverse isn't a very good practice and, in my opinion, not very honest. I think I would be upset somewhat if I were hired simply because of my sex and color and not because the company thought I was of actual working value to the company. 

2.1.8  Freefaller  replied to  Drakkonis @2.1.7    4 months ago

All good points and I agree.  However there is one point I think is being ignored here and that is the possible PR value of corporations being or at least appearing to be diverse.  Good PR can positively affect a corporations bottom line whereas bad PR can negatively affect it.  As we all know the major reason corporations exist is to make profits.

2.1.9  Drakkonis  replied to  Freefaller @2.1.8    4 months ago
Good PR can positively affect a corporations bottom line whereas bad PR can negatively affect it.  As we all know the major reason corporations exist is to make profits.

True enough, yet I cannot agree with the practice. I don't know if there is such a thing as social capitalism but if there isn't, there should be. That is, profit, while necessary, should not be the sole concern. Betterment of society should be a factor as well.

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2.1.10    replied to  Drakkonis @2.1.7    4 months ago

I'm all about equality. My only siblings are sisters. I want them to have every opportunity to excel that I have. based on their merit...….

Trout Giggles
3  Trout Giggles    4 months ago

One of the things I will miss the most about the Air Force was the concise, precise language (and acronyms). Get it said then get it done. Airmen pride themselves on being able to give a presentation in 4-7 minutes. If it takes you longer than that you need more OJT.

p.s. Our Catholic chaplain's homilies were always under 10 minutes.


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