One of the great things about language is that it’s always changing – reflecting changes in society, technology and attitudes, among other things. So, it was interesting that The Times has reported that the latest edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary has revealed this year’s additions to the lexicon.
New words that are now officially part of the English language include ‘sexting’ (sending sexually explicit photographs by mobile phone), ‘jeggings’ (a cross between leggings and jeans), ‘retweet’ (to forward a message on Twitter), and ‘mankini’ (a man’s bikini such as that worn by Sacha Baron Cohen in the film ‘Borat’).
At the other end of the spectrum are the words that are not just ‘well worn’ but ‘over-worn’ to the point of being clichés whose meaning – as anything other than a ‘noise’ used to fill a gap in a monologue – has long since departed. These words are (even) more ‘manky’ than ‘mankini’.
In this category are the ‘top ten most common business jargon phrases’ – revealed recently by the BBC. They are: thinking outside the box; touch base; going forward; blue sky thinking; downsizing; ducks in a row; thought shower; 360º thinking; park that idea, and direction of travel.
No one who wants to be taken seriously in a business context – especially a would-be leader – should be using these phrases. At best, they obscure rather than illuminate meaning. At worst, they are downright misleading and unhelpful.
After all, ‘thinking outside the box’ implies that you need to have a ‘box’ in the first place in order for you to think outside it. So you are immediately limiting the possibilities that you’re supposed to be embracing. ‘Touching base’ could easily be referring to something more relevant to ‘sexting’ – and, come to think of it, a thought shower doesn’t sound too wholesome (although, admittedly, its predecessor – brainstorm – isn’t all that ‘politically correct’ either). And, if you are given to 360º thinking, doesn’t this mean that you’re completely indecisive – since you appear to consider every possible option and, presumably confused, you end up where you started.
At present, the world of business is a tough place in which to be successful. There’s no need to make it any tougher by handicapping yourself and confusing your colleagues by using nonsensical words for impractical concepts. In other words – for those who haven’t really understood this article – going forward, can we park that idea?