Trendy Buzzwords, Euphemisms, Cliches
(March 25, 2015; edited April 12, 2019)
Having learned English before many of today's users and abusers of the language were born, there are certain words and expressions used today that I swear I will make every effort never to use. None of these expressions are required; their meanings are fully and effectively expressible using more traditional words and expressons.
Modest Directory of Buzzwords and Buzzphrases to Avoid
This list will surely grow. A fertile ground for mining these is NPR, with its bubble-headed presenters presenting us with new examples almost daily.
AI; artificial intelligence
This buzzword is winning out over actual AI in the race for visibility. Although artificial intelligence or what is characterized as being artificial intelligence (usually augmented intelligence or just good algorithms) is arguably being used, the use of this term as a trendy techie buzzword ecclipses the actualy use and stage of development of AI in the real world. It appears that almost everything can be done by AI, which is touted as a being that is capable of doing things like developing new drugs, hiring people, and just about anything else that it can purportedly do better than humans, and all without expensive intervention by humans.
One day, I joked that the sleazy bars in Japan offerring baser pleasures to their male clientele would probably start employing at least the term artificial intelligence. I checked, and indeed they are already trying to cash in on this pretty-much-meaningless expression. I don't know the details of how they apply artificial intelligence to the sophisticated task of encouraging ejaculation, but they're in there fighting for a bit of the AI pie.
This is not a written cliche, but rather a gesture cliche, specifically, two fingers of each hand raised in the air (palms facing forward), and curled downward as the speaker voices a word that is intended to have quotation marks around it. One wonders what a transcriber should do upon encountering this in the "speech" of a speaker. I was surprised to see Colin Powell use this when speaking at the UN one day and wonder what the interpreters did with it. Perhaps they were not even looking.
at the end of the day
What ever happened to expressions such as ultimately and in total? They are alive and well, and fully understood, I can report. It is somewhat distressing to hear otherwise intelligent non-native users of English using this expression. They have been duped just as have many native speakers of English. Someone should clue them in.
(be | was | is) there for
Touchy-feely expression that could be supplanted by other, less gooey, expressions. The subject that is being there is usually a person. The other day, however, I heard a prominent politician worrying about whether some entitlement programs would be there for his children in the future.
Trendy and highly used by bunny-huggers, this term requires some care. If there were advocates of biodiversity around 65 million years ago, they would have lobbied against the extinction of the dinosaurs that enabled our distant ancestors to descend from the trees to ultimately rule the world, including other animals.
I have no objection to this term as a buzzword, but the recent trend of using it as the sole demographic term to classify someone is disturbing. At a Trump rally, a BBC cameraman was attacked by a Trump supporter. The BBC report on this incident said a blogger came to the reporter's aid. Why? Was the fact that the person was a blogger the most important characteristic with which to classify the person. The same can be said for the term vlogger when it is used outside of the context of a person posting videos.
check it out
Perhaps this sounded fresh and flavorful when it first became popular. It has been stale for quite some time.
That this term is so very subjective makes it rather dodgy. To some people closure is finding a new lover (or partner) after losing an old one; to others, it your old one's brakes failing on a steep hill. To some relatives of a murder victim, closure could be forgiveness; to others , it could be the knowledge that the murderer will be hung or has been stabbed to death by members of his own gang. Different closures for different people.
This word simply signals that the speaker or writer is advocating is a member of or advocating for whatever class of persons they are calling a community. Too wam and fuzzy for me. I am a translator, but please don't accuse me of being part of the "translator community."
Business jargon that has gained popularity recently. What is wrong with a word that expresses directly what you are delivering? Seldom must we force the use of a generic term for the things that you deliver to your customers. Why products and services do not deserve more specificity escapes me. Another reason for annoyance with this term is that it is an adjective being used as a noun. Thus, I come down heavilly on this term as being a disposable.
Strictly speaking, not a cliche, this term seems to have a certain agenda, but what that might be escapes this reader, who is more accustomed to businesses bragging about the equal opportunity they provide to potential employees. Perhaps the importance of the aspect of equality has diminished. And now corporations boast of diversity not only among their employees, but also among their vendors. Incidently, this is perhaps a rare case in which newspeak replaces n words with an expression with fewer words.
This term, quite a bit older than others in this list, seems to have come from the 1960s, when some people were touting "power to the people." The term also smacks of the attitude that people need to be given power by someone else, as if they are not capable of siezing it themselves. This can be argued to be an attempt to replace the process of natural selection by the process of artificial selection.
This is very often a completely surperlfluous word that can be deleted without changing the meaning of a sentence. How are shopping experience, dining experience, and boating experience different from shopping, dining, and boating?
When I clicked on a link in gmail to find out why I was getting ads that strongly implied that the very text of my emails was being read by Google and it equally evil advertisers, I was greeted with the following.
With personalized ads, we can improve your ad experience by showing you ads related to websites you visit, recent searches and clicks, or information from your Gmail inbox.
Ad experience? It is obvious that this assumes I either want or have resigned myself to an "ad experience," but they could not be more incorrect. No punishment is too cruel for such arrogance. But I digress.
Then, the other day, after signing up for a Bible database on my iPhone, I received an e-mail saying:
We want your experience with YouVersion to be great.
These examples skirt the borders of nonsense. At least the perpetrators of the last example didn't wish me a great sacred experience, and I hope my giving them a throw-away Bible-related alias e-mail address does not result in my receiving lots of holyspam. If that happens, they should be banished to the Land of Nod. Anyway, the use of a unique alias address will make such sacred mischief identifiable.
This is absolutely meaningless when combined with a future tense verb constuction. Going forward we will invest more in bat nipple soup marketing would work as well without the "going forward." The phrase going forward, we will gets more than 5 million hits on Google.
Surely everyone reading this page knows the meaning of this term. It is what we used to call personnel. Why we needed to replace one word with two escapes me, but it seems like human resources will never go away.
Calling someone an influencer is essentially announcing that they have not much substance and also hints strongly that the people who are influenced by them lack substance and originality. I'm not influenced.
If everyone understands that this is just an alternative—and arguably less problematical sounding—word for problem, does this term serve its intended purpose of making problems less problematical? I am happy to report that the word problem is still widely used and understood. I have have absolutely no issues with that. It is a bit troubling that the word has taken hold to the extent that it appears that almost nobody thinks of calling a problem a problem.
on the ground
As opposed to in the air or underground? Presumably this term is used to lend an aire of reality or credibility to a situation or report of a situtation. But how different is "the situation on the ground in Afganistan" from "the situation in Afganistan?" The answer: three words.
(1) In the business environment, this touch-feely word seeks to position vendors and clients part of one big happy family, all on an equal footing. This takes business buzzwords to a new level of silliness. (2) The term is also used as a cute way of indicating (or bragging) to people around you that a relationship--heterosexual or homosexual--is more than friendship. In this sense, it is a code word for someone with whom you have a sexual relationship. Until at least the 1960s, this term would have been misunderstood by many. Today, it saves people from having to say directly that they are having sex with someone, while clearly telling a listener precisely that.
people/persons of color
Users of this phrase perhaps don't want to say non-whites, but that is precisely what they mean. In that sense, it is similar to the codeword diverse, which means fewer white men. And such people should understand that not all people of color should be painted with the same color, and I am not referring only to the color of their skin, but to cultural, education, and other differences.
This one is precious. It was perhaps started to refer to spending enjoyable time with a child or a partner, the intended result being a maintenance or improvement of a relationship. But it is overused by people wanting to boast about their spending quality time.
This morning, before writing this, I spent some quality time all by myself, in the smallest room in my condo. And I can assure you that the result of the quality time was awesome, although I didn't actually check it out when I finished. Please stop using the abomination quality time.
reach out to
When I hear this term, I cannot but imagine someone in quicksand with a frantic hand being extended above the mire. If that it what is meant, there are other terms that could be used just as (and probably more) effectively. But many times this term means nothing more than contacting or making contact with someone. In either usage, it has a bit too much touchy-feely lubrication for this writer.
Just what is renewable? It is often used in cases in which other buzzwordmeisters would use sustainable. Solar power is not renewable; it just lasts so long that the human species will long be extinct before it gets turned off.
Probably an attempt to avoid purportedly sexist language such as waitress and waiter. It focuses on what the person does. But when a waiter or waitress comes to your table, you will in most cases be able to detect the gender of your "server."
so [sentence-initial so]
You can listen to numerous interviews on places like NPR in which almost half of the questions and half of the responses start with "so..." When did this start? When will it stop? It couldn't be too soon for me.
Social appears to be prefixed to just about everything these days. It's apparently an aim to be trendy. Knock it off! It is meaningless.
This term once had a certain aura. You were not just providing products and services; you were providing solutions; perhaps things the customer could not achieve by just selecting a product from your catalog. Alas, most people have come to realize that you are still providing products and services. Some websites offering products and solutions in ostensibly separate sections clearly demonstrate the problem with this term. Clicking on the Products tab takes you to the products page; clicking on the Solution tab takes you to another product page. This type of nonsense results from the fear of being the only player in the market offering mere products, while others offer solutions (in addition, of course, to mere products).
Everyone seems to feel the need to be sustainable, pursue sustainable activities, and be assured of sustainability. I am always puzzled at the term "sustainable growth." It is highly weird, because it is never clear whether the writer or speaker is referring to growth that is sustainable (an obviously impossible dream) or merely growth that is powered by sustainable energy or materials (trendier, but equally silly). Sustainability seems to be applicable to every and all things and activities. Surely there are people somewhere lobbying for sustainable nose-picking.
A perfectly good word, but extremely overused and should be granted an early retirement.
take it (or whatever) to a new (or the next) level
New-age business buzzwordery at its worst. Other expressions will suffice, and will not make you sound like a stock broker churning and yearning for potential clients to over-extend themselves in the market. What ever happened to shorter and no-less meaningful verbs such as improve and enhance? A search of the Internet turns up 474,000 hits on pages that have the phrase "take your trading to a new level." Enough said. Pass the puke bucket.
[having] that said
I have no great argument against the use of this commonly heard expression. That said, I distinctly do not recall it being used when I acquired English as my native language many years ago. It is a relatively new locution, probably cropping up in popular discourse about forty years ago. The problem (not issue, mind you) I have with this is that it is almost always just a replacement for "However, ..." and is at least one word longer. I suppose people paid by the word would favor it over the more-economical however
think outside the box
A useful and novel metaphor many years ago when it came into use. It has lost its shine.
Weird Al Nails It
Weird Al Yankovic mercilessly nails the obsession with buzzwords in the business world. Writers of business texts should listen to this once each year.