Carnival of Nonsense

The other day, I was on a conference call hosted by a youngish women who spoke mostly in riddles. She actually said, “intrinsically customize distinctive relationships” in a non-ironic way. She may have said other nonsense like this, but my eyes had glazed over and I was working on a revenge fantasy, not paying attention. That goofy phrase woke me from my daydream and that’s why it stuck in my head. I spent the rest of the call trying to unriddle what that could possibly mean and why anyone would say it.

Anyone familiar with life in large organizations is familiar with this sort of gibberish that seems to have started about two decades ago. My first recollection of creeping neologisms is in the 90’s when everyone and everything had to have the word “synergy” attached to it in some way. I can still recall a particularly good looking power-skirt enthusiastically telling a group of us that “synergy” was our key to success. I was sure then and I am sure now that she had no idea what it meant.

Echolalic babbling has become so common now that we tend not to notice it. This article on block chain technology I ran across the other day is a good example. I have an interest in the topic so I read these things when I find them, but “read” is not really what I do. Instead, I scan them looking for word combinations that are in a real language conveying actual information. I naturally filter out nonsense like “the diversity of such vertically connected organizations” because it is meaningless pap that just fills space.

The excessive use of jargon is not new. Pointless fields of study like the soft sciences are packed to the gills with jargon. Read a psychology paper and you have to keep stopping to think about the meaning of some word or phrase that more often than not has no real meaning, outside the narrow specialty within the field of psychology. The word is a signal that lets the reader know if they belong. For those who don’t belong, they are intended to scare you off so you don’t look too closely and discover the study is mostly nonsense.

That’s what happens in the corporate world where there are layers and layers of “managers” that only exists because the state has created the need. Companies fear being sued or being whacked around by the state, so they have elaborate processes to comply with the law. The army of do-nothings in the bureaucracy are there to make sure no steps are skipped. They just clog up the works, by forming committees and process management teams that try hard to keep the remaining productive workers from getting their work done.

There’s a chicken and egg issue here. Is this the result of women now dominating the workplace or did this evolve so that women could dominate the work place. Much of the jargon and gibberish we see is attached to elaborate processes, which naturally appeal to women. Males are results oriented while women are process oriented. Get a gander at how federal grants are doled out in the cognitive sciences and you see an elaborate process staffed almost exclusively by women. Perhaps the Muslims are not wrong about everything.

That aside, no one wants to believe their work is meaningless so it is natural to try and make what you do seem important to yourself and others. Larding up these busy work jobs with mountains of nonsensical jargon makes the people doing these jobs feel important. Mastering the corporate pseudo-language allows them to feel like experts and insiders, much in the same way academic jargon works. So, armies of middle managers go from meeting to meeting speaking in tongues to one another, proud that their calendars are full of meetings.

Theodore Dalrymple thinks there is something sinister to this descent into echolalic babbling, but I’m not sure. Orwell’s Newspeak was a part of an overall program of the state to oppress the masses. The proliferation of jargon we are seeing does not strike me as such. Instead, it is closer to what you see with small children on a playground. They have a limited vocabulary and lots of free time so they make up silly words and word games that sound pleasing, but mean nothing.

That’s what the boys and girls in the managerial state are doing when they cook up neologisms. It’s nursery rhymes for adults, who live and work in what often resemble daycare centers for adults. Instead of wrestling with the Legos to build a house, they spend their days wrestling with Excel to make a cool looking pivot table. Instead of memorizing rhymes, they invent bizarre word combinations like “monotonectally transform multimedia based channels” and put them into PowerPoint presentations.

It is another example, I think, of how Huxley got it right and Orwell got it wrong. The authoritarian model imagined in 1984 could never last because it had to rely on force and the math always works against such a system. The violence required to hold it together eventually exceeds the systems capacity for violence. The Huxley model of a world populated by infantilized adults, cheerfully engaged in busy work requires much less coercion from the state and it has a higher carrying capacity.

It turns out that the future is not “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The future is a conference call on which a cheery 30-something says things like “progressively coordinate functional strategic theme areas” – forever.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Ganderson
Guest
Ganderson

Damn, Z, now I have to find out what block chain is. And I fancy myself a smart guy!

Member

If you really were a smart guy, you’d know that if you have to find out, you really don’t need to find out because you’d know already. 😉

ganderson
Guest
ganderson

Strong words, coming from a Ted.:) Of course I AM a Cretin!

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

It’s pretty simple. Instead of using an intermediary to keep track of, say a financial transaction, and paying vig for the privilege, you and the counter party deal and clear with each other.

JDN
Guest
JDN

Oh so go direct. Wait that’s too direct!

Drake
Guest
Drake

I manage projects for a fairly large company. We are pretty good about not using those kinds of nonsense phrases unless somebody invites HR or Marketing to a meeting – particularly females of those species. Our senior managers are still mostly cranky old white guys with low tolerance for that kind of BS.

I once saw our COO slap down that kind of talk with questions about price elasticity. All the finance / business managers had evil grins while the marketing folks looked panicked.

Member
James LePore

The Cult’s goal is to create Huxley’s Brave New World. Think about it: 1. population control, 2. test tube babies, 3. parents unnecessary, 4. start indoctrination at birth, 5. dissent and critical thinking ridiculed, 6. the mocking of religion, 6. sex as recreation, 7. everyone stoned.

I look forward to meeting Z and all of his commenters in Iceland in a few years.

ganderson
Guest
ganderson

Gold at midnight?

ganderson
Guest
ganderson

Golf, damnit!

Member
James LePore

I’m in.

BillH
Guest
BillH

You had me until you changed it to golf.

Member

The elves will steal the balls.

ganderson
Guest
ganderson

or caddy

DiogenesLamp
Guest
DiogenesLamp

Malthus. Liberals are Malthusian at heart.

Nori
Guest
Nori

James Comey says he’ll bring Ice Weasels!

A.T. Tapman (Merica)
Member
A.T. Tapman (Merica)

I was, at one time, a member of an organization made up of professional civil engineers. The group I usually gravitated to at our annual convention was quite lively, for PE’s. Within our group we held a competition to see who could devise the most ridiculous word bundle that could be passed-off as genuine to the main body of convention goers. We started this practice in the late 80’s and continued at least through 2012, which was the last year I attended. We were always amazed at how excepting our fellow engineers were of these nonsense phrases.

King George III
Guest
King George III

The bloatification of big corporations, including the government, is the only thing that so far has prevented mass unemployment the likes of which unseen in the history of civilization. The garden of Eden produced by technology very much seems to be sending us back to a pre-civilization material and social order. Automation is real. In addition, the Internet has vastly reduced the cost of communication, even to the point of rendering most of the meatspace educational system and even much of the physical corporate conglomerations of people and capital, obsolete. Within two or three decades even the manufacturing will be… Read more »

Dan Kurt
Member

re: “self landing rockets.” KG3 Talk about pie in the sky. Only an idiot would reuse a rocket engine. One is lucky to get a good burn on the first try. The interior ablates even though it is being cooled by fluid circulating through its walls. The turbo pumps are running full out and stressing bearings unlike any other situation–this is not a jet engine designed for restarts and long life as it is designed for performance alone and low weight secondarily. To design a rocket engine for restarts, reuse, and long life would vastly degrade performance. Dan Kurt p.s.… Read more »

NunyaBusiness
Guest
NunyaBusiness

Yeah! Everyone knows that nothing can fly faster than the speed of sound! It’s madness to even try!

Oh, wait . . .

SgtBob
Guest

Garden of Eden or Tower of Babel?

King George III
Guest
King George III

The Garden of Eden and specifically the ejection from paradise has metaphorical parallels to the exit of humans from Africa. Themes such as knowledge, intelligence, morality, work, agriculture, patriarchy, and resource scarcity all make an appearance.

One way in which we are returning to the indolent African hunter-gatherer lifestyle is that nobody farms anymore; rather, food just magically shows up on grocery store shelves. Another is sexual behavior, which is no longer tempered by civilized norms.

Those are pretty big indicators, though there are others.

DiogenesLamp
Guest
DiogenesLamp

You speak to a lot of points of which I have been thinking for the last several years.

What will we do with unnecessary people?

I think mankind is his own predator.

NunyaBusiness
Guest
NunyaBusiness

Manufacturing is something I have actual expertise in, so I can’t just let this over-generalization slide. “Automation” is this magical word to people who don’t know anything about it, but contrary to popular belief, you cannot simply “automate” everything and dispense with the need for humans. Anything that is repetitive and simple can be automated, but since that’s been done as a matter of rote for something like 30 years now, there is not a lot more margin to be gained there, and the expense to gain that last little bit is exponential. It’s still cheaper to have a quasi-skilled… Read more »

King George III
Guest
King George III

Sure, there will be specialty manufacturing. Maybe it will even survive the onslaught of 3D printing. On the other hand, maybe it won’t. They’re 3D printing rocket engine parts now, you know. If they can 3D print million-dollar rocket engine parts at the grand quantity of 1, they can 3D print whatever it is that you make. It’s a matter of time. I happen to think that two to three decades will mark the point that the transition gets well under way, but maybe your little niche will hold out for longer. Pretty soon one designer and one engineer will… Read more »

Clayton Bigsby
Guest
Clayton Bigsby

Well, it just goes to show that things are more like they are now, than they have ever been before.

Lulu
Guest
Lulu

It seemed to have started in the 1970s when everyone seemed to be into “self-realization” and all that blather. The era when we were treated to executive seminars at expensive resorts with a psychologist (big fee) who spent hours on this kind of pretzel-talk. That was the era when the business of letting go and falling and you were supposed to have no fear that one of your colleagues would catch you. I’m amazed that some fools are still into this stuff.

Companies still failed – including the one that sent me on these loopy seminars.

Ivar
Guest
Ivar

One example of metrobabble that irritates me is the use of the word “signage” instead of “signs.” People want to sound ‘important’ or worse, ‘professional.’ As Huey Long said, “a title for every pissant and a tiny hill to piss from.” God, I want to see it all burn.

Tho.
Guest
Tho.

The one that bugs me is “factiod.” A completely useless and unnecessary word; “fact” already handles the job perfectly well, and without the user sounding like some kind of bubble-gum popping teenybopper.

UKer
Guest
UKer

Agree, Tho. But… I like to think I use ‘factoid’ as an ironical statement, as if I am saying ‘see, I know this is a ridiculous word.’

But here’s the big but: when do I stop being ironic and start using it because everyone understands it? Or, more worryingly, that I am just saying it for the sake of making noise?

Salt Lick
Guest
Salt Lick

Everybody has heard of Parkinson’s first law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” At the time it was proposed (the late ’50s, I believe), it referred largely to the managerial elite who spent an inordinate amount of time in pointless meetings debating trivia. Today the law has become democratized. No longer is it only bigfoot managers who play. Now the legions of affirmative action hires — who often occupy HR and other paper churning positions — get their innings as well. Having next to no important work to do or actual authority in the organization, they… Read more »

Chiron
Guest
Chiron

Huxley got much more right that Orwell, if you read Brave New World between the lines you see that Huxley knew who are the (((ruling elite))), something Orwell never really got.

Member

This is the soft despotism Tocqueville talked about. Read Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift by Paul Rahe. Another thing that I think may be in play here is the use of languages distinct from the vulgar or vernacular as a means of making the scribe and ruling class distinct and superior to the masses. This has been done from time immemorial. We simply don’t recognize it as such because our society has for a couple hundred years been more egalitarian than has been the norm in the great scheme of things. In this sense it is an atavism, sociologically speaking. I… Read more »

james wilson
Guest
james wilson

Huxley began his book exactly one hundred years after Tocqueville undertook “Democracy”. “The more social conditions become equal and the less power individuals possess, the more easily men drift with the crowd and find it difficult to stand alone in an opinion abandoned by the rest. However the powers of a democratic society are organized and weighted, it will always be very difficult for a man to believe what the mass of people reject, or to profess what they condemn.” “Philosophic systems that destroy human individuality will have secret attractions for men who live in a democracy. What concerns me… Read more »

Member

The countervailing theme in Tocqueville’s later works is that of levelling of the mass of the people concomitant with centralization of power.”…a taste for jobs and a life at the public expense is not, with us, confined to any single party, but is the great and permanent weakness of the nation itself; it is the combined effect of the democratic constitution of our civic society and the excessive centralization of our government. This is the hidden illness that has gnawed away every ancient authority, and will do the same to all others in the future.” From his memoirs of the… Read more »

Member

A closely related phenomenon is the romance of acronyms. Sounds professional, quick, and obscure. It identifies the user as a member of the inner elite. I suspect that in many instances the clever acronym is invented first, and only afterward an actual meaning. In one government job I appointed myself to the CRAP – Coordinator of Regional Acronymic Programs. The Defense Department is particularly fond of this sort of foolishness, so long as the acronyms sound particularly butch.

Member

I loathe acronyms. They keep everyone in a meeting sitting around worried about looking like an idiot if they ask what SIRFs are. Nobody is listening to what you are saying after the first obscure acronym. They are sitting there the entire time trying to find some random words to match to a string of initials.

Member

I work for the State of SC. I’ve never worked for gov’t in my *mumble* years of employment, until now. I constantly remind the boss that in training people, the use of acronyms brings all learning to a halt.

Anon
Guest
Anon

This.
“That’s what the boys and girls in the managerial state are doing when they cook up neologisms. It’s nursery rhymes for adults, who live and work in what often resemble daycare centers for adults”

Operative: Boys and Girls.

thor47
Guest
thor47

I’ve never made it up to any kind of corporate level where people speak in these kind of tongues. I don’t know any process-oriented women. All the women I know believe getting things done is the goal. God, or the universe, has been good to me. My wife once was the custodian at our church. One Saturday, three of the men came up to deal with a small plumbing problem. They discussed it for 45 minutes, then went home. The wife heard some of the conversation. When she finished cleaning, she looked at the plumbing 5 minutes, went and got… Read more »

Adama
Guest
Adama

Z, my cognitive therapy specialist says that you’re simply failing to successfully value distinctly integrated conceptual consolidations of language intended to capitalize on holistically derived language platforms that utilize dynamically precise representations within a highly specialized matrix of meaning. Meanwhile, my junior assistant senior VP of marketing says that in order to move the needle on this, you are going to have to leverage opportunities to stay in your lane while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of your core competency, There are lots of moving parts to this, and Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you should, at the end… Read more »

R Daneel
Guest
R Daneel

You forgot to say “Bingo!”

BillH
Guest
BillH

You need to get that cog replaced, or just get a whole new gear.

BillH
Guest
BillH

Darn. Meant that for Adama.

Member

When I saw the word “monotonectally”, I thought that had to be made up, so I googled it plus “transform”.

First result I looked at turned out to be from Nigeria. Hilarious, but who the hell knows if it’s legit.

But the next thing turned out to be from Cornell. Seems legit. God help us all if it is…

Drake
Guest
Drake

It’s an adverb for “monotone”, correct?

I’m not sure why that would be desirable in nonsense business-speak other than being a big word most people won’t understand.

Member

The adverb for monotone should be monotonically – referring to trending up or down. I’ve actually used it a time or two. I can’t for the life of me figure out what makes something “monotonectic” even after a lunch time spent Googling. Only one “tonectic”?

Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)

Did someone say “Teutonic”? Can I get an Order to go? 🙂

Chiron
Guest
Chiron

You should read this ZMan: http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2016/06/24/ethicist-jason-brennan-brexit-democracy-and-epistocracy/

The ruling elite wants to abolish democracy!

james wilson
Guest
james wilson

If they want to abolish democracy, don’t interrupt them.

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

Actually the “Doctor” analogy he uses is fundamentally flawed. He assume the info distribution is effectively one sided. I find most people who have (or had) jobs, send kids to school, are engaged in the community have a pretty acute sense of what his going on around them. And what works or does not. A more apt description of the expert bureaucrat might be the Dr. that gets a patient rapidly losing blood and proceeds to order a CBC and then launches into a long review of all the chemistries with the notation that blood pressure a little low. Versus… Read more »

Member

He seems to be unfamiliar with the phrase “literacy test,” the fact that it has been removed from the Newspeak Dictionary, and that he is guilty of a thoughtcrime. I suspect that the Thought Police will arrive at his office soon and will invite him to Miniluv just as soon as the offending post is placed in the memory hole. Brave New World is a low productivity world compared to ours. The World State still needs plenty of gammas and espsilons to run. Perhaps I am alarmist, but in the long run, I fear what the Alphas will do to… Read more »

Samuel Adams
Guest
Samuel Adams

Boy, hit that one on the head. First meeting out of gate was with some very bright, but very young consultants to review conclusions of a diligence review. Seven pages into the deck of dense spreadsheet snaps, scope descriptions, and process charts, finally ask them. “I thought we decided we don’t want to do business with these people?” “Yes”. “Then say so on the first page, then we list the reasons in plain English. Put the rest in an appendix.” Basically, they can’t understand that once something is no longer “option A” it is time to move on and put… Read more »

R Daneel
Guest
R Daneel

We had a Software Hardness Integration Team

JDN
Guest
JDN

I used to throw zingers in when I frankly wanted out of a meeting. I’d throw around that we need a ‘vortal’ and sit back and watch people try to discuss this… there is an actual bullsh*t generator online that spews this stuff out. It creates make work, sales prevention, business uber process units that gum up pretty well anything and everything. Oh and this guy is kinda sexist. The worst offender I ever worked with for process nonsense was a guy, and he took an offensive amount of pride in his almost idiot savant ability to process-esque things as… Read more »

SgtBob
Guest

With women dominating the workplace, I now know why baseball bosses banned collisions at home plate and taking out a second baseman or shortstop — Girls are not strong enough to handle takeouts. And, they are coming to a ball park near you.

DiogenesLamp
Guest
DiogenesLamp

I detest Jargon, especially that which is made up just for the purpose of making the jargon emitter appear smart.

As for Women in positions of influence? This guy explains the phenomena pretty well.

https://youtu.be/UxpVwBzFAkw

Member

You can blame the rise and expansion of management consulting for much of this. It’s not all based in gender role confusion. When much of the adult population has the reading and linguistic skills of the average B-student in a suburban middle school…or worse. All you really have to do in order to make lots and lots of money is sound smart. Snake oil salesmen have been doing it for millennia. Some of it also flows from the bureaucratization of our society. Bureaucrats speak to each other in this manner (and the disease has spread into the bureaucratic sclerosis of… Read more »

Al from da Nort
Guest
Al from da Nort

Re Six Sigma: You are exactly right about the costs of incremental quality gains being a power function, if not exponential. Another interesting learning from my years being tormented by these charts is that customers won’t PAY for six sigma quality. We started losing market share at about 4 1/2. Corporate finally put six-sigma down the memory hole and went on to something else with the same idea but another name. Figured it was time to leave.

UKer
Guest
UKer

Ah yes, words without meaning. The curse of the 21st century. In the UK former prime minister (let me repeat that delightful word, ‘former’) David Cameron once came up with a really half-baked idea ( self-contained phrase), namely “The Big Society” Thing was, no one understood it then and despite dozens of civil servants being despatched all over the nation to give enthusiastic talks explaining the concept, no one understood it afterwards. The attendees/listeners may have said they did, but (a) nothing happened after the phrase was ‘adopted’ and (b) it was quietly forgotten and buried. I am sure Mr… Read more »

A_Hitchiker
Guest
A_Hitchiker

CHAIRMAN: Listen! I would like to call to order the five-hundred-and-seventy-third meeting of the colonization committee of the planet of Fintlewoodlewix. And furthermore – FORD: Oh this is futile! Five-hundred-and-seventy-three committee meetings and you haven’t even discovered fire yet! MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: If you would care to look at the agenda sheet – GUY: Agenda rock, yes… FORD: Oh, go on back home or something will ya? MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: …you will see that we are about to have a report from the hairdressers fire development subcommittee today. HAIRDRESSER: That’s me. FORD: Yeah well you know what they’ve done don’t you? You… Read more »

Member

I saw something from one of the Rockefeller’s about 20 or 30 years ago where he acknowledged that the purpose of the mass entry of women into the workforce was to both lower wages and weaken the family.

michael x.
Guest

Re: Huxley vs Orwell Examples of the vision of both authors abound today. We read in the last few days about a baby born from three parents and another story a woman passing herself off as a man (and accepted that way by the Navy) who gives birth aboard a ship and headlines shouting about the first man to give birth to a baby. These two examples reflect the pseudo-scientific utopian thinking in Huxley’s Brave New World. Then we have Hillary with her basket of irredeemable deplorables and her list of the progressive’s Five Deadly Sins: Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Xenophobia,… Read more »

walt reed
Guest
walt reed

Years ago Megan Kelly (I know, I know) interviewed Randy Weingarten. Ms. Weingartens replies, to specific questions, were filled with these types of constructed, verbose, meaningless phrases. Ms. Kelley had the same follow up question to each of Ms. Weingartens answers “what does that mean.” I came to two conclusions: Ms. Weingarten is remarkably stupid and public secondary education is dead, in this country.

Restoring Britatin
Guest

This took me back a few years to a time when I worked for a company who had a client just like this. I once attended a meeting with my account director. Seriously, I came out of this meeting wondering if I’d had a stroke because I utterly failed to understand anything said. I have just looked up this individual who now has his own company.A quick tour of the website reveals nothing has changed.

ChuckieCheeez
Guest
ChuckieCheeez

In order to make it in management simply use the buzzword BS generator http://www.atrixnet.com/bs-generator.html

Steve
Guest
Steve

Block Chain is applying the same concepts behind bitcoin to other business problems. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain_(database)

Linda Fox
Member

My own profession – teaching (although, to excuse myself, I teach chemistry and physics), is loaded with such babble-phrases. We’re currently developing SLO plans (Student Learning Objectives, not a commentary on the intellect of our students or our staff). LOTS of babble questions, to which we reply in similarly obtuse babble, followed up by “analysis” babble – all of that to justify that we have been doing our job of teaching students.

Linda Fox
Member

As I was mulling this over, I realized that this is a uniquely Female strategy (not just real women, but those who are kinda-sorta women, as well). Men gain power by being good at what they do, by objective standards. Women gain power by creating alliances and using emotional/relational in-groups. The easiest way to identify as part of the in-group is with language (something that women are, generally, quite adept at using). Don’t understand or use the “special” language? You’re excluded. And made to feel stupid for not understanding it. In Leftist Politics, the phrase “cultural hegemony” is often used… Read more »

Member

Everyone has a “progressively coordinate functional strategic theme “…
…until they get punched in the face.

ColoComment
Guest
ColoComment

Nonsensical jargon. I am surprised that no one has referenced the “Turbo Encabulator” yet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac7G7xOG2Ag

Member

Just in case you haven’t already read this

http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit/

Member

Remember, you’re never too old to pass out bingo cards for Buzzword Bull$#!^ Bingo to as many people as you can. When someone at the conference yells “Bingo!” mid-presentation, the speaker almost always assumes it is someone agreeing with their polysyllabic pablum.