Spare me the jargon please!

One of my friends with donkeys’ years of experience in teaching had taken her grandson for admission to a posh ‘world’ school in Delhi. She asked the young woman in slacks and shirt, who was supervising the proceedings whether she was the teacher. My friend got a long and dirty look down the young woman’s dainty nose, before she replied loftily, ‘I am the facilitator,’ said with particular stress on the word. My friend stood ‘exposed’ for her ignorance! How was she to know that her profession had got a verbal makeover?

So when she came back home, she wanted to make sure that her grandson didn’t reinforce the image of a country bumpkin and strove to teach him the niceties of dealing with his ‘facilitators’. She painstakingly taught him to say, ‘Excuse me ma’am. Can I go to the washroom?’ to prevent him inadvertently asking to go to the toilet – horror of horrors! There was more learning my friend had to do, as after a few days she was yet again stumped by her grandson’s, ‘I want to use the conveniences.’ She was clearly outmaneuvered and outpaced by the army of ‘facilitators!’

What an inconvenient way of asking to go to the loo! Back when we were kids, we used to stick up our little fingers while hopping from foot to foot demanding to simply ‘go’. Our teachers were experienced enough to know when one of us was faking the urgency and when it was genuine and bellowed, ‘Sit down!’ or ‘Go!’ Even during the time of my brats, kids used to ask ‘to be excused’ to make the trip to the loo.

There is jargon and more jargon everywhere, sometimes used to impress and at other times to deceive. Take the following phone conversation for instance:

‘How about having an idea shower with the team to strategize optimum mobilization of surface transport for the congregation of the culinary expedition?’

Father swells with pride at his brilliant daughter’s conversation but her pre-teen brother bursts the bubble: ‘Dad, she is talking about arranging a car to go with her friends to the restaurant.’

Come to think of it, in this age of workshops, seminars, conferences, reports and project reports and reorientation, how can we even think of doing without such gems as core competency, forward planning (can one plan backwards too?), monetisation, quality-driven, strategizing, horizontal and vertical migration, etc. etc??

What is alarming is that jargon has come out of the hallowed precincts of business and management and is spreading its tentacles into every sphere of life. At this rate we might soon only have jargon to contend with. Don’t even get me started on the lingo and acronyms used in chats and text messages!

Even the Church is not above using jargon. Apparently, the Anglican Church in London has substituted the word charity with provide excellence in hospitality! For centuries they did plain old charity till someone gave a complete makeover to the act. Now no one can accuse the Church of not keeping up with the times, can they?

Don’t ever shy away from using as much jargon as you can, never mind if you don’t know what you are talking about! For the more befuddled your words and sentences sound, the more intelligent you will deemed to be. I am sharing some which unfailingly get to me.

Paradigm shift is a term used by everyone and sundry these days. In simple language it means moving from one model to another and is freely used for anything you fancy. It does sounds very grand, doesn’t it?

Proactive is another word that is liberally sprinkled in conversations by everyone from the granny next door to sociologists. You are not proactive in the upbringing of your child; the government is not proactive in dealing with poverty; officials are not proactive in attending to complaints….the list is endless. Why, my maid accused me of not being a proactive employer, only the other day!

Holistic is yet another much maligned word. From being a word denoting an integrated and comprehensive approach to something – mainly used in healthcare – it is used anywhere the speaker (or writer) can insert it. What gets my goat is the way it is often spelled – wholistic – presumably derived from ‘whole’!

Have you ever touched base with someone? Can someone please explain what it means? It is said in the sense that one ‘connects’ with another. (See I am ‘with it!’) But what is touching base? Whenever I hear this term, I imagine myself scrambling to the home base (in baseball) to touch the person who is waiting to ‘touch bases’ with me.

And then have you heard the term ‘keeping one in the loop?’ That is another one that confounds me. While the term simply means ‘being appraised,’ or kept updated, I beg to differ. Blame it on my over-active imagination, but I can see people looking through or scattered over giant loops which are all interconnected. I can also hear them shouting, ‘Yay! I am in the loop!’ or the ones outside screaming, ‘Put me in the loop!’

Gone are the brand ambassadors, who promoted a particular company’s product. By itself a pompous term, don’t you agree that it sounds a darn sight more sensible than brand evangelists? Someone like the poor old me would have thought that the latter had something to do with Christianity!

Even personal relationships are not spared by jargons. Today no one wants to get to know, contact, or make friends with another person. They want to connect, if you please. You don’t have a circle of friends but a ‘network’ or ‘group’. Making friends is as simple as the click of the mouse. Are words becoming empty devoid of any meaning? I would certainly think so.

You don’t thank someone for being a help in times of need. Instead you acknowledge their ‘support’. Of late ‘standing up’ for, or against someone on social media is all the rage.

Designations are becoming fancier and a tad pretentious. Everyone is an executive. There are no more clerks in any organization, except in government departments. So a trainee in a bank is not a trainee but a Junior Customer Relations Executive – even if his or her job entails just handing out pamphlets to the clients walking in through the doors. When you have completed the stipulated training you become a ‘manager.’ This was not so earlier when it took years of experience and passing of exams to attain the grade. Job tittles indeed come cheap today.

Just the other day, I heard a woman telling her friend that her daughter was a front office manager at a polyclinic. It sounded grand and I was impressed as was her friend. When I visited the said clinic a few weeks later I saw the girl – behind the reception desk. The good old receptionist had been upgraded to a ‘front office manager’. Similarly a mechanic or repairman is the back-end manager.

Let me edify you with some choice jargon I collected from the internet:

– down to that level of granularity (details).

 strategic staircase  (a plan for the future).

– high altitude view  (I guess it is self-explanatory, or is it?).

– Wouldn’t want to wrong-side the demographic (Can anyone explain this one, because the meaning was equally confounding to my pea-brain!)

– cascading down new information (sending down a memo).

I think I will stop before I begin pulling out my hair. If there is a more grandiloquent term for such a coarse act, I’m afraid I don’t know it.

In fact, I am hopelessly behind the times and need a crash course in the new lingo. Any facilitators for the job?

A version of this post Dig the Lingo Dudes! was first published on Snow Leopard’s Blog

Images: This page top: Bottom:HarveyLeach

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  1. O that cartoon says it all! “Conveniences” – I laughed out loud at reading that. Imagine a little child saying that! I just can’t. But then it must be true if it is happening at some elite schools.

    From where do you get ideas to write such posts, Zephyr 🙂


    1. It is true, Beloo! The grandmother in question is one of my close friends who is a great teacher of the earlier generation. You should have seen the consternation on her face as she recounted the incident.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting read that was…..:)
    btw, I have an opinion that some people feel that using jargon makes them sound smarter or fit in better at work, perhaps they don’t know that most of the times it goes otherwise……


    1. Good to see you after a long time, Irfan! Oh yes, sometimes all the jargon show the person using in a bad light too – as if they were trying to hide their incompetence 🙂


  3. It is the age where the packaging is more important than the contents.


    1. I would rather say that the advertisement is more important than both the product and its packaging 🙂


  4. OMG! I use so much of this parlance that it doesn’t seem to be jargon at all to me!! I however like use of jargon or the new-age figures of speech though. Using metaphors, figures of speech, slangs, some bombastic words, do add color to our day-today language and of course people are impressed!


    1. Ha ha! It is like using sms lingo for actual speech because we have forgotten the spoken word. Some of the terms used are so unnecessarily pompous, like front office manager, for instance! You have a point about such jargon making for colourful speech – if only the listener and sometimes even the speaker – understood what was being spoken 😀


  5. Hehehe….most of us use almost all of them. Paradigm shift sounds too important to my ears 😀
    Hey, btw, both my kids know the finger language. The other day we were at a store and ammu had to use the bathroom. Instead of saying it in my ear or loud, she just turned to me and showed her finger. No one knows and it was neat. I thought it was smart of the girl to use it at that time 😀
    I use proactive a lot and keep me in the loop depending on the need. These management terms like core competence, strategic planning etc gets on my nerves and makes me feel incompetent. Even while preparing for interviews, S reminds me to use the right terminology. Kisko yaad rehta hai? when we don’t use them daily…sigh! but enjoyed reading your post 🙂


    1. Rajendra Ganatra · · Reply

      Enjoyable and very apt! Pretensions are indeed getting better of straight forwardness. Intelligence is being replaced by artificial intelligence!


      1. It is always a pleasure to have your comment, Rajendra! Liked your description – artificial intelligence – to desribe pretentious speech 🙂


    2. Sorry, I missed replying your comment. When little children act like little children they look cute, don’t they? But you are not in with the times, Latha! It is the day and age when everything is in the face and is considered ‘cool’ just as jargon is considered to be ‘with it’. So maybe saying ‘Mom, I need to pee!’ would be considered the right thing? I really am out of depth with the new lingo and feel like a dinodo (dinosaur+dodo!)


  6. I looked around guiltily when I read ‘Paradigm Shift’ and ‘Proactive’. I’m afraid I use the two terms pretty freely myself.

    But you are right. We’re getting awfully mired in grandiose vocabulary. My first irksome encounter with it came when I was a new enterant in the omputer training field. For the life of me I couldnt make out what a ‘printer interface’ was. Two days later when I found out that it referred to the cable that connects the printer to the cpu, my disgust knew no bounds. Why the hell can’t they call it printer cable? Why call something a port when you can as well call it a socket into which the cable plugs in? The list is endless.

    Facilitator indeed! Bah!


    1. Exactly my view too! Why use complicated words when a simple one will suffice, especially since everyone concerned knows that the usage is just for impressing the other person? Sometimes we end up using a term just because the original word has disappeared from common parlance. I guess proactive is one such word. I must confess that I can never get my tongue around most of them. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I am not working in an environment that needs me to use them.

      And yes, Facilitator indeed!


  7. Front office manager can also be called as Director of first impressions🤣🤣🤣


    1. That is a good one, Anand 😀


  8. He he! Thoroughly enjoyed this post, Zephyr!
    I am too (If I’m using the expression correctly) out of the loop to speak about current jargons, I’m afraid.
    However, I do think that jargon-users push the envelop a bit too much, without taking into account the helicopter view, which they should first consider in order to get their ducks in a row! 😀


    1. Hah! Pushing the envelope pushes me over the ledge every time I hear it and psst…I still don’t know what it means 😀 You seem to know a darn sight more jargon than I do, well done 😀


  9. Its so true and funny..actually somethings changed because now a days people are more bothered by designation..nobody bothers about job:). Earlier in my husbands company they started upgrading the designations, because every wanted to be general there general managers in each department.instead of earlier system where there used to be one general manager all departmental heads were given the tag..and believe me people were happier, though job was same as that of a manager.


    1. There is everything in a title, I guess. I remember the time when my elder brother had opted to be an ‘officer’, by clearing an exam but learnt not much later that it meant longer hours, more responsibilities and blame and less pay than the juniors working under him! Alas, he couldn’t go back to being a stenographer 🙂


  10. upasna1987 · · Reply

    OMG! I used “keep me in the loop” in the few emails. Nice observations Mam. You give special touch to the everyday issues and acts such that it makes them fun reading. I am heading 30 and still find some new vocab words- from my niece and younger cousins. Now, I think my Son would bring the newer ones Home 🙂
    Latest entry- Sissos (sisters)
    Enjoyed reading the post so much.


    1. Sissos! Is it his baby lisp or is that word really used by others too? Well, I think that as long as I understand what the younger generation and the wannabe-young-older generation is saying, I am fine (or should that be, ‘I’m sorted??’).

      Wish you all the best with the kiddo’s generation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. upasna1987 · · Reply

        Its used by all, I have seen on Instagram too. Thanks.


  11. I feel this jargonisation of communication is contagious. We hear/read our friends using it. A few weeks later we decide to touch base to familiarize each other with the goings-on of our life while sipping chai-latte.


    1. I’m afraid I have not felt like using jargon, even if I am most tempted to meet the said friends I have not met for ages, over tea 😀


  12. Don’t you know? Incomprehensibility IS wisdom 🙂


    1. Ha ha! I guess so!


  13. That was hitting the nail on the head! Zephyr , this goes to show you have evolved well with time:)


    1. Oh yes! The use of jargon certainly stamps you with the label of ‘Arrived’ to the current linguistic scene I guess. But I’d rather not have arrived if it meant using such terms as putting someone in the loop and more 😛


  14. Enjoyed this post on the foible of ours to be high- sounding and in using jargons that are thought impressive.
    I wish to relate a hilarious incident when I visited a friend at his home and asked for his son.I was told he had gone to ‘London’ and when I was wondering on the purpose of his visit, he came out of rest room, washroom or convenience as you may call!An euphemism that was high sounding


    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, KP. I remember ‘London’ too, though now I wouldn’t want anyone using it for the said purpose, as my son and his family live there 🙂


  15. Hehe This was really funny and very true. There is a lot of jargon that is used in work life for sure like keep me in the loop, think of it the box, a lot of it reminds me of my MBA days. More of an evolution of language in keeping with the times. Networking takes different dimensions on the times of LinkedIn and social media. Kids and adults use a lot of vocabulary as they see used in their foreign travels or see in movies and serials. That explains restroom, traffic light, boot of the car etc. I am also guilty of using many of those. 😊


    1. Oh I know! Didn’t I say that soon we will only have jargon and sms lingo to contend with? You know I was preparing one of the girls we teach for her scholarship exams in English. While I had to struggle to get grammar and usage into her head, one chapter that dealt with sms lingo was a breeze. She, who didn’t know English -spoken or written – could give the correct answer to every one of them!! And I was struggling to decipher them 🙂 So maybe it is a good way to teach communicating in some form of ‘universal’ language, maybe?


  16. Hi Zephyr

    That was a fun read…..Not once did I lose interest despite the length of the post….I am guilty of using “keep me in the loop” 😀 …. Funny observations there Zephyr….I think the people getting into the corporate world these days think one should use such jargons….You use the same jargon as the boss – You are as good as the boss! h aha


    1. Sometimes I wonder if those who use jargon don’t realise how absurd they sound? Or maybe they would if they listened to themselves some time 😀 I will never be caught dead in a ‘loop’….er….saying ‘put me in the loop.’ It sounds dangerously like put me in the noose 😛

      And Jaishree, er….do I take it that my posts are too long and ummmm…boring 😛


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