Words Worth Dumping

I’ve never been a fan of business jargon–paradigm shift, take it to another level, gold standard. Almost all business jargon words take a simple word (in the above case: change, improve, and best) and make it more complicated and confusing. The only reason to do that is if the speaker doesn’t really want to be clear.

Business jargon will always be used, and I’ll always be looking for shorter, better words. I’m tired of “wheelhouse,” which means within your area of expertise or interest, as in, “I’m assigning you to the marketing team because the Acme Dynamite account put marketing in your wheelhouse.” Except it doesn’t really distinguish between expertise and interest, and that distance can be pretty hefty.

Instead of “wheelhouse,” let’s get back to what it means, and use either “expertise” or “skill.” Simple and no one thinks you are the ancient mariner or Captain Ahab.

But there are two phrases that have come into casual language–the language we use with our friends. In today’s world, that means at work, too, because our friends are now those we compete with and see every day at work.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 8.48.52 PM“Bitch slap” is an open-handed slap to someone (admittedly, male or female) who is whining. It also means that the person who gets slapped can’t take a “real, manly punch.” The whole thing is abhorrent. Because it also implies that if your woman is a bitch, she needs to be slapped. This happens a lot in movies, and it’s not just recent. It shows that men are always in charge, need to control their women, and if the women steps out of line, well, then, she deserves a little slapping around. It’s not funny, and it teaches a whole boatload of bad ideas.

“Resting Bitch Face” (also called Bitchy Resting Face) is another term that was started to explain the look of aging women–the mouth that isn’t in a perpetual smile, but one with corners that turn down. Everyone who is over 40 knows that sooner or later, gravity wins. If you also have the two lines between your eyebrows, it gets worse. There was even a pretend PSA (Public Service Announcement) that set the phones of plastic surgeons ringing.

The idea is that women always need to look nice, pleasant, smiling, sexy. I don’t know a single person, male or female, who can maintain that. But I’ve not heard of the male equivalent.

This isn’t about political correctness, this is about two terms that de-value women based on the fact that they are women. Our culture runs on language, and when we use language that demeans a segment of our culture, it changes opinions of how those people should be treated. Not every woman is beautiful, and most women who are lucky to live long lives have that life written on their faces. it doesn’t make them bitches. The thing that bothers me the most is that the terms (when I hear them) are most often used by women.

–Quinn McDonald is fierce, but she’s no bitch.

Buzzwords to Bury in 2009

Earlier, I did a list of new words that have gained popularity, if not legitimacy, for this year. Being a big believer in balance, I’d like to retire some words that are tired, overused, have had their meaning mangled and otherwise are just. . . .so over.

1. Get Over, or be over. “Get over it” is an unnatural state. You will not ‘get over’ a divorce, death in the family, awful financial decision or job loss. Instead, they become part of who you are today. The last person to successfully ‘get over’ something was Scarlet O’Hara getting over the Civil War. She looked at her plundered Tara, starvation, ruined marriage, destroyed relationship and said, “Tomorrow is another day.” La-dee-da-dee-da. That last one was Annie Hall. She never got over anything, but in a charming way. Her baggage was really matched luggage and she accumulated coordinating pieces.

2. Whimsical. This word is not only overly mangled, it’s mistakenly used to mean “I like it, but I don’t know why.” Whimsical means lightly fanciful, or, when used to define a person, eccentric or erratic. I don’t know how it came to describe most artwork, paint colors, fashion clothing, earrings, furniture, potted plants, and rugs, but I find it almost a dozen times a day in catalogs, magazines and newspapers. Enough already.

3. Paradigm shift. Damn, I thought this went away in 1996, but it’s back. Much like bell-bottom pants and white belts, it wasn’t that great the first time around. The second time around, shame on you. It’s a business buzz-word and it’s original meaning has been morphed to mean “what we were doing didn’t work, so we are calling change by another words so as not to panic people.”

4. C-level executives. At first I thought this meant George Bush, who is quite proud of his low C-average at Yale, or that Kathy Griffin had finally gotten off her self-appointed D-List. But I was wrong. Consultants use this to describe their aspirations, as in, “The target audience for my Success Workshop is C-level executives.” It sounds filled with self-importance and a distinct lack of interest in the people who actually do the heavy-lifting in a corporation. And I guess it sounds nicer than saying, “I charge a ton of money for my services.”

5. Verbiage. Incidentally, it’s not pronounced ver-bage to rhyme with garbage. But that meaning is closer. Merriam Webster defines it as “a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content.” It now means any copy that needs to be written. If you are going to over-use it, at least over use it with the right meaning.

6. Begging the question. another phrase that people use to mean something it does not. “Begging the question” is not at all the same as “raising the question.” Begging the question is a logic mistake in which the second half of a statement treats the first part as absolutely true, although there is nothing to support the truth of the first part of the statement. An example: “My GPS system doesn’t work because all the streets around here all have numbers.”

7. Epic-. Used as a hyphenated word. Generally followed by “fail” to mean a fall from grace, a pratfall, or plans not working out. But it has also come to mean something that works out to an opposite, as in, “That drama was so epic fail that it was a comedy.”  “Epic-” has replaced “big” or “enormous.” Let’s find something else.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and life coach. She helps people negotiate change in their life. See her work at QuinnCreative.com