Soul-crushing office-speak spreads


Or … just maybe … you start using a word enough … that has meaning for you in one context … starts bleeding over and being used in other contexts.

Nah. It’s a conspiracy by the man.


Methinks the brush is too wide. I find “deliverables” a handy term for the final digital assets I create for clients. That’s just language doin’ it’s regular thing.

Also, gratuitous dis of Richard Dawkins is gratuitous.


I used to mock corp-speak, but I do think there’s some value in encapsulating “high context” ideas in short form. Of course when it’s overused or thrown around blithely it can be detrimental to real conversation or a genuine analysis of strategy (I’m looking at you, “low hanging fruit”), and to an outsider it seems absurd and pointless. But at it’s best, like any “local” language, it’s a way for people in a particular environment to share ideas efficiently in the vernacular of their business. I’m reminded of that Star Trek episode:

Of course, I could have reduced the entire comment above to one word, “Darmok,” and I think most trekkies would have understood my meaning. See, we all have our own “corp-speak”!


Starting with the assumption that office-speak is anti-language immediately makes suspect any conclusions drawn going forward. Office speak is, at worst, a domain-specific language - semantically meaningful and useful because it conveys information. It can certainly be watered down (like any aspects of language) to meaninglessness But that hardly makes it inherently meaningless.

I’m not certain who felt the need to throw in the term “idiot theologian Richard Dawkins,” but it did nothing to enhance the credibility of the article.


Deliverables - Term for commodification of employee/contractor services/products that blurs the source of the commodity.

Upskill - Term to expand or enhance employee/contractor deliverables without corresponding enhancement of compensation. Methodology - Reversal of onus. “We need to upskill you to XX” implies the bar is not reached, not that the bar has been raised.

Learnings - My nepotism caused me to hire as my VP a person with subpar language skills. Now we have an old word with a new meaning.

Drill-down - I played high school football.

Value-add - We will point out an existing feature of a product or service we provide to you. Now we will charge you an additional fee.

Moving forward - No more discussion is allowed, we must move past your legitimate criticisms to avoid living in the past, however many times it repeats itself it just can’t be helped.

Enablers and Barriers. - We will label you as a means of control.

Quick wins - Our short term profit at someone else’s hidden cost. Bonus awarded where someone else is the general public.


I think it’s semi-legitimate. It’s like military slang for concepts that have long-winded analogues in the civilian world, but are encountered with such frequency in the military that they need shortcuts.

Technical debt, scope creep, overarchitecture, composability, futureproofing, single-source-of-truth, and scores of other phrases have special meaning in software development. Some of them, like “scope creep,” which means the tendency for features to be added to a project before you’re through with the original vision (often causing the project to fail) would be useful outside of software development as well.


Didn’t this all start when “Personnel” was changed to “Human Resources”
i.e. “people - cattle”


Doh, pet peeve. Darmok, TNG, 5th season. I hate that episode. English is filled to the brim with metaphors so it bends all credulity that the ship’s translating program is unable to account for metaphorical language. Well, that and they are using words that aren’t metaphors to describe their metaphors, so their language isn’t actually all metaphor. Grrr. Give me The Inner Light any day over Darmok.


Well, “meme” and “memetic” are bullshit all on their own. They’ve been used in so many different ways that if they ever meant anything (which I doubt), they don’t any more.

Sort of like many of the terms discussed …

“Human Resources” is the most telling phrase in office speak. There’s a book by Vernor Vinge where the official title of a mind-enslaving culture’s straw boss is “Director of Human Resources.”


But what of jargon who’s purpose is to obfuscate? I think one could characterize such as “anti-language”, though I’m not sure if that is an especially useful term for it, especially when it is applied rather indiscriminately by the author.


The quoted article is more than bit cynical. Sure, these words can be used in a dysfunctional manner, but so can a whole host of regular everyday words. Many of these words are often used in a completely non-dysfunctional manner by non-dysfunctional office workers with their souls still intact. More importantly, many of these words convey very real ideas and concepts and thus serve as shorthand for much longer-winded explanations.

Methinks the author just needs a blanky and a warm glass of milk.


This is ridiculous.

Office/management-speak is jargon, and serves the same purpose as jargon in any other domain.

On the other hand, the language of academics:
“language vacuum”
“memetic fuel”
“giving that alienation its own language”
“the promotion ecology”

is definitely soul-crushing.


Language that tells management one thing while telling subordinates another is still conveying information.

Old chestnut - Thinking outside the box.

Management - I don’t want to pay creatives.
Subordinate - I don’t want to seem limited.

This doesn’t apply if you are actually asking creatives to think outside of whatever box you provided them. However, if you actually ask your creatives to do that you are wasting your breath and their time, but only they know that.


Oldspeak doubleplusungood!


Actually I stopped reading at the Dawkins reference. You’re right that it doesn’t help the credibility, it’s also a sign of intellectual laziness - throwing around the ad hominems like the kewl kids at Slate do - and just kinda mean. Plus too, he’s wrong.


My take:

This is a top-down distribution of culture where a privileged class (the managers) adopt a set of practices that the lower social ranks adopt to signal to others in their peer group (and ideally their superiors) that they are ready to join that culture.


How widespread is the nouning of “ask”? As in, “what’s their ask?” or “management’s ask to us is…”.

As far as I can tell it means “requirement” or “demand” but it’s dressed up like “request” to try to seem less pushy.

1 Like

Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Newspeak.

(beat me to the ref! :P)