TAKING THE STING OUT OF BUZZWORDS

By: Charles Bowen

BuzzWhack Translates the Gobbledygook


To get started, visit the site at http://www.buzzwhack.com

I can’t remember for certain, but I think there was a time when
the buzzword ‘buzzword’ had a positive connotation. I seem to
recall being seriously pleased with myself the first time I
dropped that term into the conversation at a story-planning
session or an editorial-board meeting. Buzzzzzz-word. It sounded
so trendy and with-it, calling up images of terribly suave
savants whispering fascinating tidbits into one another’s ears,
while piano keys and crystal glasses tinkled in the background.

But now the buzz is definitely off the word. It has become just
another way of saying, “jargon.” A “buzzword” now merely
represents more of the junk verbiage that litters our public
streams of conversation. Pity the poor business writers. They’re
wearing hip boots these days, wading through all the “scalable e-
businesses” and their “turnkey application infrastructures” with
“Internet backbones” and “Web-centric value-added services.” The
fault, as usual, lies in us. Something in our psyche says that if
a little word is good, a big word is better – and if the big
word isn’t big enough, let’s create a monster word.

Well, watch out, buzzmeisters. John Walston, the self-appointed
BuzzWhacker in chief, is on your trail. His site, BuzzWhack,
attacks corporate and government gobbledygook head-on – with
everything from definitions to caustic comments, starting with
his definition of “buzzword” itself as an “important-sounding
word or phrase used primarily to impress laypersons.”

The frequently updated introductory page, reached at http://www.buzzwhack.com,
spotlights his latest especially buzzy finds. (One example:
“Vectus CRM software harnesses relevant data and knowledge about
a customer to drive tailored interactions. Its open, flexible
architecture combined with easy-to-use business rules engine
allows implementations to achieve real business benefits quickly
… “)

But it would be too easy for Walston to merely ridicule. He also
translates, and his research in this area could be quite useful
to harried journalists. Scroll the introductory page to the
“De-Buzzed” section on the left column, then click a portion of
the hyperlinked alphabet to reach the site’s dictionary. Then
scroll the resulting page to examine the alphabetized list of
words.

Of course, the definitions themselves sometimes have something of
an Ambrose Bierce quality about them. A few of my favorites are:

BAU: Even old standbys can become acronyms. This one is the
much-bandied-about corporate term for “business as usual.”
Competitive salary: In employment ad speak, it means the
company has no intention of paying you any more than any other
company, and probably even less.
Napsterized: Best we can tell, you’ve been Napsterized when the
courts say you can’t give away another person’s products for
free.
Silicon Alley: An unoriginal attempt by New Yorkers to convince
the world they are geeks, too.
TMI: If you’re a baby boomer, it means Three Mile Island. If
you’re a child of the digital age, it means too much input or too
much information.
Visioning: One buzzword to replace another buzzword: Instead of
“brainstorming,” it’s now “visioning.”

Other considerations in using BuzzWhack for your writing and
editing:

Site manager Walston has been a consultant specializing in
Internet publishing since 1995. Before that, he was an assistant
managing editor at USA Today and executive editor of
The News Journal in Wilmington, Del.
You can stay up on the latest buzz about buzzwords with
Walston’s regular e-mail newsletter. Click the “E-mail
Newsletter” link at the top of any BuzzWhack screen and fill in
the resulting on-screen form.
The site also provides links to archives of its previously
published commentary on the language.



Bowen writes columns, articles and books from West Virginia, and is host of the daily Internet News syndicated radio show (http://www.netnewstoday.com).
charlesbowen@compuserve.com


Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher

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