Buzzwords have won me over.
I did some research and I found that not only are there times when they’re useful, but not embracing them actually makes me an enemy of the progression of language.
Sound extreme? It won’t once you know what I know.
1. HR buzzwords have an actual business use
Picture that horrible moment when you, a die-hard buzzword hater, must describe something and the only way is to use a buzzword.
Why the buzzword?
Because there’s no other way to explain the concept. Nothing else is as clean and concise.
Buzzwords aren’t just generated by a machine crafted to irritate people. They come into use because they refer to something specific, something that needs a quick explanation. You can be irritated by their misuse, that’s still fair, but can you tell me a better, faster, clearer way to say corporate culture, core competency, or onboarding?
2. They describe something new
The business world is moving so quickly that it’s impossible not to have new technologies, methods, and jobs develop before we have proper names for them. Ten years ago, had anyone ever heard of a human’s bandwidth? Did anyone but a few select and extremely techie people refer to themselves as a Dev?
Think of computer and tech terms alone. Ping, agile, optimized, machine learning, data mining— all these terms that could not exist without advanced technology, but are now used to in many different kinds of businesses.
Words are all too frequently labelled “buzzwords” simply because they describe something new.
3. They’re evocative
As a writer, I feel obligated to include this point: a lot of buzzwords are actually extremely clever, evocative uses of language.
Drinking from the firehose. You got a strong mental picture right there, didn’t you? Cube farm is another wildly vivid picture, even if it’s probably a beige sort of image in your head. Peel the onion was one I came across in researching this that I hadn’t heard before, but I didn’t have to ask what it means because the implication was immediately clear (going through a problem one layer at a time).
You can argue with me on this one if you want. After all, taste is subjective, even for language usage. But I’d like to mention that I have my friends Will and Mark backing me here. Writers coin terms all the time, words that are snappy but essentially useless until applied to something in a new and inventive manner.
Do you think Elizabethan English people scoffed at champion and submerge for being too buzzword-y? I bet they did, and look at us now.
4. They help you bond
Admit it: when you hear a buzzword and understand it, you feel like an insider. There’s a scientific reason for that, and anthropologically speaking, there’s something very interesting going on when buzzwords are used.
Buzzwords are a form of jargon, language that is specific to a group and refers to terms within a certain industry. Buzzwords can be shared between industries, but tend to be common in the business world. When a person uses jargon, it marks them as a member of a group. It proves to other people in that group that they know what they’re talking about. It also excludes people who aren’t in the group, because they don’t know these words, so they feel like an outsider. And people really, really love being in groups.
Still don’t believe me?
Still got a beef with HR buzzwords? Tell me about it in the comments below. Maybe I’ll start hating them again!
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