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 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