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STORM: Fighting words: Some phrases ought to be banned

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

I make my living with the language, but there are times when particular words or phrases make me want to shred my dictionary.

Last week, for example, someone sent me an email that used the word “synergize.” This isn’t a new word —  after some research I discovered it was made popular in 2006 in the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” But new or old, the word makes me wince every time I hear it. It seems utter pretentious to say, “Let’s synergize our forces” when you could simply say, “Let’s work together on this.”

The trouble with jargon — and that’s what we’re talking about here — is that it often sounds as though you’re trying to impress somebody when you’re not quite sure what you’re talking about. Most of the really intelligent people I know can explain a concept quickly and clearly. They don’t need to use trendy words as a crutch.

Have you ever had a boss or coworker tell you to drill down? Unless you work in a dentist’s office, it’s much more effective to request that someone do more research.  

If you’re too busy to help someone, just say so. If you announce that you don’t have the bandwidth, people may assume you’re a computer and stop inviting you to office parties. There’s a reason that Apple sits alone on your desktop every night.

Other teach-inspired phrases aren’t much better. Taking a project offline? Why not just say, “We’re delaying that idea,” or “Other projects take priority.” 

One of the worst new phrases I’ve heard is “cascading relevant information.”  What does that even mean? Just say you’re talking things over with your colleagues. That way, the people you’re speaking with won’t spend the rest of the day visualizing a woman in a tub groaning, “Cascade, take me away!”

Brainstorming isn’t a particularly exciting word, but compared with the newer phrase “idea shower” it seems a lot less creepy. 

Onboarding sounds as though you’re headed out to the ocean to catch a few waves. What’s wrong with orientating or familiarizing? 

“At the end of the day” ought to be chopped out of every sentence that doesn’t end with “I went to bed.”

There is one too many words in the phrase “price point.” Just give me the price, do you get my point?

Shortened words like “totes” and “adorabs” make the user sound like a lazy 7 year old. Use your grown-up words, please.

“On fleek” apparently means anything that is on-point, perfectly executed, or looking good. Instead, it sounds like a recreational drug. “He got arrested. He was on fleek.”

I understand the concept of “ghosting,” but why not just say “ignoring?” There’s no supernatural element to being rejected.

I don’t need a “guesstimate.” Make a guess or give me an estimate. Better yet, do some checking and give me the actual information I requested.  

And finally: “This.” Try harder. “I completely agree,” “Excellent point,” or even “Well said” are more elegant ways to indicate that you appreciate what someone else has stated.

Let’s synergize our efforts to drop the jargon and keep out dictionaries unshredded. 

Contact Janet Storm at jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.

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