Especially as shorthand for keen concepts well-understood.
But the more Machiavellian among us sometimes enshrine it as a code for entry into a priesthood of the knowledgeable.
And so we have the conundrum – one man’s obfuscation is another man’s sharply drawn argument, both using “jargon.”
Who with compassion would strip a man of his outlet for facile expression, the utility of shorthand “jargon,” simply because there exist unscrupulous cads who abuse the privilege of a profession’s lexicon?
Business Jargon Struggles for Hearts and Minds?
The struggle is for clear and original expression against the encroachment of weasel-words. The struggle is for meaningful distinctions between useful locutions and the vulgarity of “jargon.”
So it’s a struggle, yes, but it’s also an internal struggle.
I’m torn, because it is my bane to be charged with teaching the lexicon, the “jargon” to vulnerable young minds. Minds to which business jargon sounds fresh and innovative, when it’s actually already stale and reified.
It’s an axiom that once something makes it into a textbook, it likely is already outdated.
If it’s wielded not to obfuscate.
If it’s wielded not to mind-taser the listener into a kind of numb dumbness.
In fact, a deep vein of rich discussion lurks beneath the glib façade of most of our jargon.
And thus business jargon presents us with a dilemma – if it were not useful, it would not exist. And anything that is useful can be misused.
It should come with a warning label.
A Business Jargon Warning Label?
I provide such a warning label. But only half-heartedly.
Half-heartedly, because it is my first obligation to ensure that my charges remember the “jargon” that I serve up to them. They must imbibe deeply and, at some point during a seemingly interminable semester, they must regurgitate the jargon.
They must drink deeply from the cup of “competitive advantage.”
They must feast heartily at the table of “core competency” and ladle large portions of “market failure” and “pioneering costs” along with a light sprinkling of what some might consider the oxymoronic garnish of “business ethics.”
More insidious than the standard business jargon is the phalanx of “new” program buzzwords that march our way in endless columns, recycling ideas of old . . . and then recycling them yet again.
For those of us who bathe regularly in the sea of “competitive advantage” and “market saturation” and “pioneering costs” and “core competencies,” we cannot exercise the luxury of contempt.
Instead, we must labor as any wordsmith must labor. We must not ban the hammer because some use it to bash their thumb instead of the nail.
Just as any writer seeks and secures precision in language, the business writer must labor likewise. Constant vigilance is our only guarantor against the debasing of the language.
This is true in business and in academia as it is true in the high-minded world of the literati.
High-minded? It might be also useful to exercise constant vigilance that high-mindedness does not become high-handedness.
Humility and the hunger for clarity.
Uncommon qualities in the business and academic worlds? Perhaps, but surely they should be considered corollary to the jargon that seems pervasive and inescapable and that nettles us so naughtily.
But enough! Cast all of this aside and consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting for a jargon-free entre into the high priesthood of the finest business presenters in the corporate world!