Friday, March 19, 2010

Jargon Hunting

Canberra is the national headquarters of stakeholder engagement, thought leadership and the run-on sentence. This city is awash with jargon, wherein words such as actionable, facilitate and silo are ceaselessly smashed into phrases like core competencies, value chain and driving innovation, to make even the most mundane task sound weighty with deliverables.

Unfortunately, this habit of loading sentences with empty emphasis has slopped over into every day conversation and is now the ambient noise of television. Here are six of the worst.


Unless you fight, fuck or breastfeed someone it isn't a passion. It could be an enthusiasm, it might even be a career or the sort of hobby that gets you a spot on Collectors but rarely does it require the dreaded 'P' word.


Is worth approximately 20 cents and if you really need to shift one I will happily put it in my pocket.

At the end of the day

It gets dark and I can go home without listening to any more of this bullshit.


It's not a journey unless you change your mailing address. Try using process, experience or, in the case of reality television contestants, 'transitory moment of lessened obscurity'.


If you use this word it's a fair bet you haven't.

May I just say

Absolutely not. Just because you're in front of a camera, flanked by a journalist and sitting under television lights in no way indicates an interest in your opinion.


cristy said...

The jargon is painful, but it is the acronyms that kill me. My partner speaks Acronym and I rarely have the faintest clue as to what he is referring to.

I have given up asking too. Generally this is in my best interest.

our man in Canberra said...

Good point - the acronym is almost a Canberra artform and deserves further examination/ranting. And let's not mention the tortured language displayed in APS selection criteria. I'm still trying to work out what 'communicates with influence' means.

Also agree it's probably wise not to request decoding (I've noticed even the friendliest acroynm users tend to get a little eye rolly if you ask them about a term more than once).

cristy said...

So true. Like when my partner was complaining about having to finish off a minsub a while back.

"A what?" I asked.

"Ministerial submission, of course," was the reply.

Well, why would I trouble myself with decoding that? I write my fud (PhD) every day. And have no bloody ministers to submit it to...

As for the selection criteria. OMG. I hate that stuff and am so glad that someone else remains baffled as to the meaning of "communicated with influence." I have considered suggesting that my capacity to convince my daughter to eat & bath should be 'evidence' enough to cover that one.

Jude said...

Don Watson would be proud of you.

our man in Canberra said...

Cristy, would enjoy seeing how the APS hive mind copes with some coalface examples of 'core competencies'.

Jude, kind words - Watto brings a certain heft to the debate (whereas my contribution veers towards swearing and pissweak jokes).

Sandra said...

Ooooh how I hate "delivery". Almost as I much as I hate "strategy" (almost always used to describe what are actually activities) and "methodology" (frequently misappropriated by the majority of speakers when they usually mean "method"). But I digress.

Services are not "delivered" they are provided. Infrastructure is not "delivered" , it is built just like it was, oooooooooh, just 20 years ago until some nameless and shameless consultant somewhere decided that "delivery" has more cache.

Nope. Until some pimply yoof appears at my door and, upon knocking, he presents me with a square slab of steaming bitumen covered in mushrooms and anchovies and the FREE garlic bread, roads are built. BUILT! Ya hear that fellow public servants? They are built.

*pant, pant, pant*

PS. And on the subject of big infrastructure projects, do not even get me started on "announceables"!

our man in Canberra said...

I hear you Sandra. The idea of Pizza Rut or Abomino's delivering a hot tar pizza is a strangely appealing image (tho' spotting the difference between it and the oily carapace of a processed meatasorus could be a big ask).

As for "announceables", to my ears at least, there's a certain biblical feel to it - the Dep Sec in papier-mâché wings, whispering the good news; the minister, radiant in blue, thoughtfully nodding, and rosy-cheeked media advisors fluttering around cherub-like. Admittedly, a different sort of delivery and, as we both know (this being Canberra), if the news isn't very good indeed, someone will be screwed.

Sandra said...

Alas and alack OMIC, (oooh! a bonafide acronym rather than an intialism!) I am not an APS officer but a mere state guvvy slave. I mean that sincerely and in the nicest possible way. After serving a short purgatory in the APS, I have discovered that there is indeed a warp in the space-time continuum, having been transported back some 20 years to the quaint non-charm of a state government department. Sadly, we are not using the same terminology of public servants who have boldly gone before us, but the culture of rank-associated privilege and appointments based on nepotism/seniority rather than merit remains.

The "communicates with influence" criterion has me bemused. Is there intentional irony behind a statement so grammatically cringe-inducing? To my mind it invokes the image of a Mafia Don's idea of coy euphemism for his favourite stand-over man. As in,"So doz guys dun wanna pay up, eh? We'll send em a little visit from Donee (Tony) he's our 'communicates with influence' guy."