Submitted by Brus  •  October 27, 2013

“feedback” and “check in”

I came upon this on their website: “The Senior Management Team at Fettes College have day to day responsibilities for the running of The College. They meet regularly throughout the year and feedback to staff and Governors as appropriate.”

Leaving aside the rather Germanic employment of capital letters on some, but strangely then not all, of the nouns in this statement, and the wholly gratuitous ‘as appropriate’ tacked on to fill up some space, I find most irksome the use here of ‘feedback’ as a verb. I would use two words: ‘feed back’ (a compound verb), or I would insert a verb and say ‘provide feedback’ (noun + verb). In fact I would much prefer to avoid this ugly expression altogether and use a term such as ‘report back to’ or ‘report to’. Am I alone in finding this whole thing rather disappointing for a major British school?

It’s like the sign at Gatwick airport which directs passengers to do something along the lines of ‘check-in here’ where what is meant is ‘check in here’ because ‘check in’, being what you do, is a compound verb, and ‘check-in’, being the name of the place where you do it, is a noun. 

It is very elementary grammar, as taught to me at about the age of eight, noun! verb! and I find it almost incredible that a renowned Scottish public school can be so sloppy, and that a major airport in England, an English-speaking country, does not proof-read what is to be painted in huge letters on its walls. 

On the other hand, one’s reaction to seeing in Phnom Penh, in Cambodia, the “PRINCESSS HOTEL” in huge pink neon lights ranged in a column above the door, has to be mirth, and wondering what the extra S cost the management. It is not as though they could not afford an apostrophe, as in the foyer are life-size photographs of a number of these estimable ladies, so the ‘princesss’ are plural. So it was an ‘e’ which proved beyond budget, then, or a proof-reader. But that of course is forgivable, as it is not in an anglophone country.

Comments Sort by:   Oldest first  •  Latest first  •  Rating

1. Capitals - I think this is OK as the whole page takes its title from and is about a named unit - the Senior Management Team - at a named institution - Fettes College. These and only these nouns are capitalised.

2. 'feedback' - I agree with you here, but prefer your second solution - 'provide feedback', as the phrasal verb 'feed back' is usually used transitively about something specific - 'the results will be fed back to the committee'. Although 'report back to' would be a suitable replacement to 'provide feedback', 'report to' has a slightly different meaning - it just means who you are responsible to - 'I report directly to the sales director'. Whatever we may think about it, 'feedback' is here to stay, and is often a more efficient way of describing things than any alternative - 'the feedback from the survey has been overwhelmingly positive'.

Fettes, however, is not alone among British educational establishments to use 'feedback' as a verb:

'This is part of a larger culture change which will take time, but part of that change is adapting the ways in which we feedback to students' - The Higher Education Academy, an independent advisory institution

'As shown in Figure 1, we feedback to significant regions' - abstract from an academic paper at the University of Surrey.

'As teachers we feedback to students all the time in a range of different ways.' teaching blog at Teesside University

'There are a number of channels which you can use to feedback to the University and your College' - University of Arts, London

It also seems quite popular at NHS and local government sites. It is possible we have a verb in the making here. (But I don't suppose that'll make you think any more highly of it).

3. 'as appropriate' - As this page is describing the functions of the Senior Management Team, I don't really find this superfluous as it presumably means something like: 'if and when necessary and who to' (they provide feedback to two groups - the staff and the governors - some things will only need to be reported to one group, some things to others) - in fact they manage to say quite a lot in those two words.

4. 'Check-in here' - Broadly agree with you here, but it could conceivably be read as an ellipsis of 'The check-in is here'. At a Google images search, most of the hyphenated examples are for an American ' location-based social networking website for mobile devices' (Wikipedia) called Foursquare, and here they could possibly be using it as a noun, but they also have almost identical signs with two separate words.

I'll have to take your word for it concerning Gatwick, and it's true that the Thistle Hotel at Heathrow encourages customers to 'Check-in online'. But Gatwick also have hyphenless 'Check in' signs and you'll be glad to hear that the flag carrier, British Airways, says 'Hello, please check in here'.

But hyphens are tricky things, and usage changes over time. Did you really mean to write 'proof-read'? Although it's possible to find a handful of examples at Google Books, all the dictionaries I've checked have it as one unhyphenated word. Granted, one or two allow it as an alternative spelling to proofread, but that rather begs the question (in the non-purist sense): if you can hyphenate 'proofread', why not 'check in'?

http://www.holidayextras.co.uk/airport-hotels/g...
http://www.britishairways.com/travel/sscidemo1/...

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

It may be here to stay, but 'feedback' still induces slight nausea. It suggests the causes of borborygmus, the way 'human resources' suggests something from the movie 'Cocoon'. 'The feedback from the survey has been overwhelmingly positive' is much less horribly rendered by 'the response from the survey has been overwhelmingly positive'.
Proof read as two words? No, because read is the verb and proof is the object noun, as what it is you read, so 'read proof' is where you feel we would be going; proofread isn't right either, proof-read a pleasing compromise. That's why I put it. Also spellcheck gave it a no-no with a wiggly red line and for once I went along with it.

Not going to Gatwick in the near future, but I shall check the signs at Heathrow and Bangkok in the next few weeks, for check in and checkin and check-in when I'm checking in. If the flight is delayed horribly I could deliver a paper to fellow passengers on the use of hyphens, to pass the time, but they wouldn't like it. Oh no.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus

1) horrible is totally subjective, and has nothing to do with whether something is correct or not. I hear 'feedback' nearly every day in business contexts and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. I would also argue that there is a subtle difference between response and feedback. Feedback is more general than response. Perhaps I gave a bad example. In these examples from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary I think it would be more difficult to substitute feedback with response:

I'd appreciate some feedback on my work.
The teacher will give you feedback on the test.
We need both positive and negative feedback from our customers.

2) I never said anything about proofread being two words; I simply said that the standard dictionary spelling is proofread - one word without a hyphen, while you chose to hyphenate it. You say 'proofread isn't right either'. OK, that's your opinion, but it puts you out of kilter with virtually every dictionary.

OneLook, which looks up words in over two dozen dictionaries, finds only three which list "proof-read": Wiktionary, which refers to it as an alternative spelling of 'proofread', and The Free Dictionary and Wikipedia, both of which redirect to the hyphenless 'proofreading'.

Conversely, OneLook finds 23 dictionary entries for 'proofread', including in Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Collins, Macmillan and Cambridge.

http://www.onelook.com/?w=proof-read

I will agree with you on one thing though: while some compound verbs, like baby-sit and second-guess are hyphenated, this doesn't usually apply to phrasal verbs, where a particle (preposition or adverb) is involved, such as 'check in', 'lay off' or 'go ahead', all of which can be turned into hyphenated nouns.

This might also interest you:

http://www.proofreadnow.com/blog/bid/29485/Gram...

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Of course it is subjective, and I have no problem with that fact at all. In fact I like subjectivity. I explained why. Your point, that fearsome words like this are heard all the time in business contexts, explains why too. Management-speak (hyphenated) is horrible, too. Heard in a business context it must be borne, I suppose, by those who must put up with it. I don't. The noted journalist David Dimbleby, a scion of that noble broadcasting family, normally commissioned to do the commentary on televised state occasions, in today's Telegraph says "the language of management-speak has seeped into key bits of the BBC where it shouldn't exist" and writes of 'commissioning processes' and "people getting promoted for speaking the language of outreach" and generally makes it clear that he doesn't like it either. So I am in good company.
You are right about the capital letters: “Senior Management Team The College Governors" are the words which are capitalised and which in my view do not deserve capitals, as they are not names or titles. And 'The' is not a noun. “day responsibilities year feedback staff" are not capitalised, but I did not say that all the nouns were, indeed I mentioned the 'rather Germanic employment of capital letters on some, but strangely ... not all, of the nouns.
When we write of stuff about the royal family (not capitalised) in Britain (capitalised because name of country) we talk of the Queen (title) and the Duke of Edinburgh (title) but of princes and princesses and dukes and duchesses if they are not named, so not capitalised, gathering at the palace or the castle, or if named, Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, capitalised because named. Like Fettes College. Past prime ministers don't get capitals in general, but a particular named one does. In today's paper I see mention of "the former bishop of Rochester" (named) but also the Justice Secretary (named). So I argue that The College and Governors should not be capitalised, as it is too crawly, whereas Senior Management Team, also horribly crawly, I'll let you off with, because, as you say, they are a named unit. I would hate to be one of a named unit, wouldn't you?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

If you can hyphenate 'proofread', why not 'check in'? you ask. I say you can read the proof of something, but you do not in your check, rather you check yourself (and your bags, if any,) in. Quite different. Read is the verb bit of proofread, or proof-read, and check is the verb part of check in. Check-in is a noun, I say, and proofread or proof-read is a verb, A noun, and then a verb, both similarly hyphenated, but for different reasons. I agree, proofread as a single word looks fine.

You, WW, go rushing to dictionaries and external 'authorities' to back your arguments. I don't, really, I just make them up as I go along, using my powers of reasoning and my observation of evidence, so that I can still look eventually at a dictionary and consider its suggestions in a critical rather than just accepting way. It's the way I was brought up, you know.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus - I concede your first point - actually I had already conceded it at the end of my last post; I accept that it was a bad comparison to make between a compound verb and a phrasal verb. All I was trying to say was that it was ironic that you had used a hyphen where most people wouldn't, in a comment criticising the use of hyphens.

As to your second, unfortunately language doesn't always follow logic - why baby-sit but whitewash? When it comes to compound verbs, and even more so, compound nouns, which can be two words - 'fire alarm', hyphenated - 'fire-eater' or one word - 'fireguard', it is impossible to work our which it should be from logic, as there are no rules, only usage. The only way is to check a dictionary. After all, that's what they're there for.

The only measure linguists recognise is usage, which is why I look stuff up, not only in dictionaries but in corpora, published works etc. I studied history, and historians look for evidence, primary and secondary - that was how I was brought up.

Of course, we can all simply give our opinions, but without evidence, that's all they are: opinions. I prefer to work with something a little more solid. As for looking at dictionaries in a critical way rather than an accepting way, I'm afraid I take it for granted that professional lexicographers working in a team, who not only have considerable professional training and experience, but who also have access to a vast corpus of real examples of language use, are likely to have a rather better idea of how words are formed and spelt than me trying to work it out by logic. I also check quite a few dictionaries at one time, so I can see that there is a consensus.

Anyway, the simple fact is I like researching things an looking them up; it's fun. I spend a lot of time on linguistics blogs, and working any other way would simply be regarded as assertionism.

Just to finish on a note of agreement. I agree with you about the capitals; I hadn't noticed The College and Governors.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Warsaw Will, I totally agree with you. I must look up assertionism in the dictionary to see if it is there. Now, 'professional', ' team', 'professional' again and 'training', all terms you bandy, alert me to the danger of kowtowing to authority, and my upbringing as a lawyer taught me to question and test all that sort of thing. Question assertions, and dig deeper. Laws are rules, and we look for ways around these rules, dig into the rules, and above all argue with those who make and interpret them. Finally we might agree with them, and pretend we did so all along. Meanwhile if you practise the law on a professional level you do all that and charge a fat fee too. There is an interesting debate going on in England just now about teachers and the need for teachers to have 'training' - many argue that it is important that teachers do not have any such thing, for what they need to be good teachers cannot be taught, and that which they would be taught in the course of such 'training' does not make for good teachers. The government includes a party whose leader attended Westminster School, one of the best in the land, where none of the teachers had been subjected to 'training', yet he is the one who argues that the new 'free' schools' teachers should have this training. The debate rages and it is all quite a laugh. It is suggested that the pro-training lobbyists want rules, and structures to obtain in these establishments and their motive is to win control, and power. I have seen it in action: 'managers' who spend their time drawing up diagrams which show who rules over whom, and salary structures, and who is in charge of what, and they are excited by the idea of overseeing the 'career development' of others. All to do with having and wielding control and power. For me, I have just always thought they are daft, and dull, and pedestrian, and have no place in the world of education.
Now, experience. That is the one we must respect. English? Literature, that is where we must look. Do terms like 'feedback' and 'human resources', other than in connection with organ donation, feature in any form of literature you know? Does Jeeves feedback to Wooster, or indeed give him feedback? That is the place to look for the evidence, Warsaw Will, not in the dictionaries. The dictionaries are no two alike, after all, and the people who put them together are human just like the rest of us.
The things you say about hyphens are very interesting. I used to point out to my pupils the thing about how 'omnibus' became 'bus and finally bus, according to the times in which they were mentioned in the literature. No doubt hyphens and their usage operate the same way. My ravings about check in and check-in are inspired by their being examples of sheer carelessness and lack of proofreading, which is endemic these days. A fellow wrote a letter to the Telegraph the other day moaning that he was "in hoc" to the government to the sum of so much, or some such thing, and the proof-reader didn't bother to put in the customary (sic). So it is splendid that you are so fussed about proofreading and proof-reading and while both these pass muster with my computer's spellcheck (so does 'spellcheck') 'proofreader' doesn't and 'proof reader' does and so does 'proof-reader'. The message is: don't trust the authorities! They are probably lefties and want to control you, because they like power! Work things out for yourself!
Did you see the splendid episode of the comedy 'Frasier' where he instructs his son, who is in the final of a spelling bee, popular in the USA, to "get out there and spell his ass off", with reference to the opponent.
Hey! I wrote all that without looking up anything! Does that make me an assertionist? (Computer spellcheck does not allow this word. I'll look in a dictionary later.)

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus - The BBC commissions programmes from independent producers. It presumably has processes for doing this. What on earth is wrong with calling them commissioning processes?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Warsaw Will,
not a lot, really, I suppose. It sounds very inelegant, and reeks of management speak.
'Assertionism' isn't in my dictionary, by the way, I am afraid; despite all the professionalism and training undertaken by its team of lexicological trained compilers they didn't let it in, and I laud them for their omission.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

What on earth is wrong with calling them commissioning processes? you ask, and I said just now that it reeks of management-speak. This is because, I have worked out, it lacks the word which says what the commissioning is of: programmes. It needs to be 'programme-commissioning processes' ( 'processes' means, I must suppose, procedures. So many malapropisms to decipher with these days!). The hyphen links the participle 'commissioning' with its object: 'programme'. Now the burble-speak is rendered instantly intelligible. And elegant, I judge. I am sure Mr Dimbleby would be proud of me; perhaps even more so of "procedures for commissioning programmes". So that is what on earth was wrong with calling them commissioning processes, I suppose.
I was horrified to hear that a new horror manifested itself today in the House of Commons, the lower house of our British parliament, by no less august a person than the Home Secretary, Theresa May. There is a procedure for letting out, under surveillance of some kind, bad people who were formerly incarcerated, and it is known by some initials which I did not grasp, but she turned them into a made up word which sounded like 'tinkety-tonkies' or something like that. Acronyms make a word, this was not a word so it isn't an acronym. Anyway, she informed the house, a fellow who was under a tinkety-tonky order went into one end of a place and did a runner out of the other end attired in a burka and has disappeared. Vanished into the ether. Gone. Tinkety-tonky didn't help, then. All that is at it may be, but the real worry is, why did she speak to us in code, talking of tinkety-tonkies?
I'll tell you why: it is because management-speak loves acronyms and talking in initials. I don't know why, and I wonder if they do. I endured someone for a bit who at what seemed endless meetings would prate sometimes of something called 'enkities'. This was like tinkety-tonkies: you wondered idly what it might mean, but knew it didn't really matter in the great scheme of things so let it pass. It turned out in the end it meant NQTs but I never could remember what the hell that stood for. It just sounded awfully managerial, so pleasing to those who bandied the term, and those who endured it ignored it, happy in the knowledge that it didn't matter much. "Enkities, you say, boss, jolly good, splendid, carry on!" if allowed to speak, and bothered to do so.
But abbreviations and acronyms to be used in the House of Commons? I have not heard this before in that place, and hope not to again. But I shall tune in as always, alert to the possibility.

(I understand that in the military they communicate in these terms all the time: roads are called *MSRs, for example, and there is a vocabulary list at the beginning of "Bravo Two Zero" about the first Gulf war explaining all these bizarre terms which aid communication.
*Main supply route. Saves time: four letters where 'roads' needs five, you see.)

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I must say that I agree with Brus on the "feedback", "check in", and management speak issues.
There are a few other examples that fall under the same umbrella:-
"We'll 'update' you regularly."
"meet with"
"visit with"
"speak with"

Those in the "with group" are almost certainly Americanisms that management types in other English speaking lands have adopted just to annoy their beleaguered colleagues. :-))

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Good to hear from you on this, fellow Scotsman. The four linguistic horrors you introduce are - well, you've put your finger on it: designed to irritate.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Re common usage as a criterion:
in teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) common usage is rightly the main criterion: one wishes to teach "normal" English. To some extent this means one is teaching cliches, and set word-strings, and marks "global warming" as "right" and "worldwide warming" as wrong, simply on the basis of common usage, assuming that the student is unaware of the norm.
Teachng English to native speakers may be different, almost the opposite. One might assume that they already know the norm, and be looking for more creative use of language; so "worldwide warming" might indeed gain extra marks in the right context.
Part of producing creative writing is (in my opinion) coming up with a freshness of collocation, breaking the norm for impact, and to make it memorable.
The other weakness of making common usage our sole benchmark is that it would go against both the creation of new words/meanings/phrases and the use of lesser-known or dialect or dated words, and against the freedom to simply say what we wish in our own way. Of course there are limits, or one would not be understood, or the reader/listener finds it all too overburdening. There is a time and place for creative writing (and a time and place for "creative" accounting too). "Just google it!" is a good example. Just when did this become "common usage" ? In 2002 I would have marked this as "wrong"; just as today I would mark "Just firefox it!" as wrong.
But really why not? I never use Google itself.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

The other thing I am not sure about in speaking of common usage is this: looking at, say, Tolkien and his works which of course inhold many archaic words and usages) - the question is how do they affect 'common usage' - is it based on counting each book as one text or do we multiply up by the number of copies in circulation? Just how do these statistics work?
It would seem unfair to lend equal weight to a widely-read work and some book that just ran to 500 copies all unsold.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Re common usage: this applies in particular to the google ngram viewer: just where does the bible fit in? Does it count just once? Does the KJV count at all? Yet surely one of the most widely read and influential set of words and collocations in the English-speaking world.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus - re: assertionism - sorry, that's a neologism, possibly coined by the blogger Eugene Volokh, and 'bandied about' somewhat on linquistics forums. I'd forgotten it wasn't common currency.

State of play on your original point:

1) Having reread the text I agree with you Fettes' use of about capitals.

2) I agree that the use of feedback as a verb is strange, although not apparently unheard of in (British) academic circles. However I have no problems with feedback as a noun. It gets a two star frequency rating at Macmillan, so its use is quite common and the meaning is likely to be known to most people. The sort of management-speak I have a problem with is that which leaves employees (or customers) bamboozled.

3) Check-in - largely agree with you, but as I said before, it seems to me that the main signs at Gatwick, and British Airways don't hyphenate, and I wouldn't regard it as a very serious problem.

I have some minor disagreements with you about business English, however. But as I'm having serious computer problems at the moment, I'll get this off, and get back to you about that and David Dimbleby's comments later.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I do not live in England but it is a no-brainier that teachers need training just as much as bricklayers, heating engineers, joiners and doctors. An untrained teacher is like an untrained gynaecologist. Such a one might know a @&£! when he sees one but that is not enough to practise.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Hey, Niall, what about all those teachers at the best schools in England, by which I mean the ones who prove it by getting their pupils into the best universities in the land as a sample of the quality of their teaching. There is no dispute about it in England. Private schools and free schools are staffed by teachers who are free, and their results prove that it works very well indeed.
Not all students wish to pursue such a path, understandably, and not all are indeed suited to it, but when year after year the best exam results are scored by a succession of young people who have been taught by people who have the freedom to teach as suits them, it is a no-brainer to me what to make of that. How do they do it? They know their subject, that is important, they communicate with their students in ways which no one can teach - you have it or you don't - they are the best and need no 'training'? Their minds are free to soar.
They used to say that those who do do, those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach teach the teachers, and they had a point, really.
Obviously the teacher knows his subject, but that is not included in the 'training'. Training does nothing for a teacher, and all the really good teachers I have known agree, including the few who were subjected to 'training', which they endured but tried to be unaffected by it. Not one of the teachers at my old school had done any. I am sure it is quite different if you are teaching toddlers, or indeed people who are younger than about 9, I grant you, where methods to impart what is required may indeed need to be taught to the teachers.
I think your analogy with the gynaecologist would be apt if he were to be taught how to talk to the patients, how to treat the nurses, and how to cope with the bureaucracy in his hospital. Or if he foregoes such training he might be sharp enough to work out all that on the hoof, really, once he has studied his medicine.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@jayles - in terms of common usage, linguists would normally base it on corpora, where books would only appear once. There are certainly a few books in the British National Corpus, but I think they only make up a relatively small part. You have a point with Google Books and the Bible, but I think you have to be very careful with Google Books and even more Google Search results in any case, which bear no relationship to the actual number of entries listed. And I imagine this goes for other search engines as well.

Is the King James Bible in Ngram? - Change the start year to 1600 and enter "In the beginning God created" (it has a maximum of five words). There's a huge spike around 1611, the KJV's publication date, so I think we can assume, not only that it is in Ngram, but that more than one copy is being counted. But I imagine that it is an exception. Good point!

In answer to when 'just Google it' became popular, just Ngram it. Well maybe not. According to Ngram, 'Google i' seems to have really started to take off around 1997. But Etymology Online lists as being first used as a verb in 2000. The verb Google was added to the OED in 2006. Sorry, In just can't resist 'rushing off' to my sources. As a non-Google user, you may be interested to know that (today) Google accounts for 94.9% of visitors to my blog who come via a search engine, and I don't think it's ever less than about 93%.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@jayles - a few typos in the last paragraph:
'Google it'
But Etymology Online lists it as being ...
I just can't resist ...

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@WW re Ngram: I agree KJV is there, so are 'arvo', 'whilom', 'highte' spkiking before 1600 so i guess Chaucer and Shakespeare are in there too. Ngram will not go back before 1500. Looking at "thole" vs "tolerate", it may be data before 1600 is limited; there just weren't many books.
Oddly "drone + strike" would peaks around 1600.
To be clear, I don't use google directly - i go thru startpage.com ; no mobile phone, so no drone-strike either!

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus - The problem with commissioning purposes - ‘it lacks the word which says what the commissioning is of’ - I think that what is being commissioned is pretty obvious to anyone who has followed developments in the British broadcasting world since the start of Channel Four and the opening up of BBC and ITV to independent producers. And the one-word expression ‘commissioning’ is standard in the industry: The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky all have web pages entitled ‘Commissioning’. In fact, the BBC even refer to theirs as being a separate website.

The publishing industry has had commissioning editors for decades, but I don’t remember any great clamour that these should be called ‘book-commissioning editors’.

And then there’s the plural ‘processes’. On the front page of its website entitled Commissioning, the BBC doesn’t in fact talk about ‘processes’, but rather ‘Everything you need to know about commissioning and the delivery process.’ Although I don’t suppose you’ll like the ‘delivery’ bit, they talk about process in the singular, in other words a set of procedures. They do indeed occasionally use the expression ‘commissioning processes’, but a quick glance suggests that they only do this when they’re referring to several different channels or radio stations, or across the whole of the BBC, where there will no doubt be several or even many different sets of procedures.

But I think we’re missing the point here. I don’t think Dimbleby was criticising the expression ‘commissioning processes’ at all.

He starts off by saying that he has a lot of time for the new director general of the BBC and thinks he ‘will untangle’ some of the things that had happened at the BBC - he then says, and I think we need the whole quote here:

‘The language of management speak has seeped into key bits of the BBC where it shouldn’t exist. And the whole language that John Birt introduced of commissioning processes and dividing up things that had been united took hold, and what got lost was some of the direct responsibility for things, which is why we had this catastrophe last year and earlier this year where the habit of leading had given way to constant buck-passing.’

Dimbleby is not, I think, commenting on the expression ‘commissioning processes’ but on ‘the language of commissioning processes’. After all he’s presumably not criticising the phrase ‘dividing things up that had been united’. It perhaps helps to know a little about John Birt here. First of all he was himself famous for using management-speak, so famous it was known as Birtspeak. Secondly, he completely reorganised the management at the BBC. Now I don’t know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, but it was certainly very controversial and unpopular with a lot of the old guard. Part of that reorganisation was the introduction in 1993 of so-called ‘Producer Choice’, which gave producers ‘the power to buy services from outside the BBC’. (Wikipedia). In other words, instead of being done in-house, certain activities were ‘commissioned’ out. And no doubt the jargon used for this process included a lot of Birtisms, which is what I think Dimbleby’s remarks really refer to.

But I think his real beef is with the reorganisation itself, and what he sees as a loss of people taking direct responsibility for things. I also think that Birt introduced professional managers into jobs that would have previously been done by professional broadcasters, and it was the language used by these people that Dimbleby didn't like - perhaps expressions like 'cost centres' and 'deliverables' etc. I think this is what he means when he says 'The language of management speak has seeped into key bits of the BBC where it shouldn’t exist', in other words where there should be professional broadcasters rather than professional ,managers.

Dimbleby then goes on to say ‘People get promoted for speaking the language of outreach. Nobody seems to be able to do anything to turn people back into human beings who can talk directly to each other. They are compelled by organisational structures.’

‘Outreach’ at the BBC is connected with corporate social responsibility, so there’s probably some scope for meaningless management-speak there.

So, in my opinion, Dimbleby wasn’t talking so much about specific expressions on aesthetic grounds, but the sort of corporate gobbledygook which he sees as avoiding responsibility. To me it is the 'organisational structures' he is really criticising, especially where they are comprised of professional managers, and the language that goes with them.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Thanks for all that, Warsaw Will. Jargon, jargon, all jargon to me. The telling part is that your sharp insight in deciphering all the gobbledegook still has you hesitating to declare that it makes sense even to you: your piece is full of reservations: 'I think', 'probably' and 'in my opinion' and clearly you have taken far more trouble to make sense of it than I did. No apologies from me. I really don't know what Dimbleby was on about, in that case, but I know this much: he didn't like it, whatever it was!
Meanings of words like 'commissioning' being 'pretty obvious' to the cognoscenti despite an object to follow, all very well for the said cognoscenti but a mystery to those of us in the wide world. I must be one of the few people in the land who do not work for the BBC then, and mighty glad about it I am, despite the massive salaries and redundancies they pay, if this is how they speak. Hats off to you for digging into their verbal swill in this manner and suggesting what it might all mean; for me, I really wouldn't bother. Speak the language of outreach? Nah, but I'll have another beer.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Sky news reports today: " the GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite will break apart and much of it will burn-up in the atmosphere, scientists say. ". Then it says "Most of this burns up when it re-enters in the atmosphere due to aerothermal heating " quoting Professor Heiner Klinkrad from the ESA. No hyphen this time. "Re-enters in the atmosphere?" Oh dear, on so many levels. And due to?? My old English teacher taught us to use due to (for money) and "owing to" for causal effect. 'There is £20 due to me when you get round to paying me' and (here) 'burns up ... owing to aerothermal heating'. The fact that my spellcheck doesn't like aerothermal can pass for now. Astonishingly, it is happy with aero-thermal.
Sky news tends to be riddled with poorly written pieces not subjected to proof-reading. Is proof-reading supposed to be with a hyphen? OMG, as they say these days.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

A few (rather long) thoughts about business jargon, business buzzwords and management speak. All areas of life employ jargon to a certain extent: we might talk of *posting* comments to this *forum*, for example, but a pedant might insist that nothing is being put in a post box, so how can we be posting. But of course words change or take on new meanings.

I think we can divide the sort of business words and expressions that annoy (some) people into two categories: those that people find ‘ugly’ or think are being misused, and those that cause confusion, or are used to obfuscate. In the first category I’d put verbing or verbification - two words you might not find in a dictionary, but commonly used to describe the process of turning verbs into nouns - just Google them. These are pretty subjective - I’m not particularly keen on the -is(z)e ones, like prioritise and incentivise, but am not really bothered by verbs like action and access. But I draw the line at nouns that have come from verbs being turned back into verbs again - ‘We’ll decision this tomorrow’ is a step too far, even for me.

Part of the problem here, I think, is the shock of the new. People have been turning nouns into verbs for centuries now - ‘The goods are being shipped tomorrow’, ‘She’s decided to divorce him’, ‘Brazil is hosting the next World Cup’ - but new ones tend to be a bit disconcerting. I can’t really see a logical reason, however, why if you can motivate (motive + ate) staff, you can’t also incentivise (incentive + is(z)e) them. And the meaning is pretty clear.

Much more problematic, I think, are those expressions that are not understood by people not in the know (or as we might say in management-speak - not in the loop). A quick look at four different pages from the web on management-speak, from The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Plain English Campaign and BBC Weekender, shows that ‘blue-sky thinking’ and ‘drill down’ appear in three of them, while ‘low-hanging fruit‘ and ‘push the envelope’ (I can never remember the difference between ‘pushing the envelope’ and ‘thinking outside the box’!) These are typical of the sort of expression I mean. Two years ago I wrote a post about these on my blog, ‘Loop back to me and we’ll touch base about it offline’, in which I said:

‘for many native-speakers, this sort of language can be incomprehensible, sound pretentious or just sound plain ugly. In the UK many employees say they feel cut off from management, as they haven’t a clue what management are talking about.’ - these have also led to the invention of the game Buzzword Bingo.

When teaching, I don’t tend to comment on words like prioritise, as they are pretty well ubiquitous, but when course books include expressions like ‘keep me in the loop’, I give them the same warning I gave in my blog.

I also said, however, that ‘like any other jargon, business-specific jargon can of course be very useful, can even lead to more precision, that otherwise would involve long explanations.’

I’m thinking here about what I would call shorthand words. At The Guardian, Stephen Poole criticises the word stakeholder, which he defines as ‘People in the company who are affected by a certain project; also, sometimes, business partners and customers.’. This is not exactly the way I see it used (and being taught), which is much better reflected by the definition at Investopedia - ‘A party that has an interest in an enterprise or project. The primary stakeholders in a typical corporation are its investors, employees, customers and suppliers. However, modern theory goes beyond this conventional notion to embrace additional stakeholders such as the community, government and trade associations.’ - in other words, in a road building project, the stakeholders include central and local government, who are financing the project, the construction companies and their subcontractors who are building it, the future users of the road, and the people who live in the area affected by the road. That’s OK if you’re going to use it only once, but is a hell of a mouthful if you need to repeat it. Poole then gives two rather extreme examples of it being used in a silly way, ‘Manage our stakeholders’ and ‘Update our stakeholder matrix’, but this is not how I see it being used in the real world.

There is also the concept of ‘stakeholder capitalism’ (as opposed to ‘shareholder capitalism’) which is rather easier to say than ‘All those that have an interest capitalism’.

Another on his list is ‘deliver’, although I can’t see that he really puts forward a reason why (apart from the fact that he doesn’t like it). I know that a lot of people think that this should be reserved for physical delivery, but I don’t really see why. In banking in particular, they see the various services they sell as products and commonly talk of retail banking, and how to deliver the product to the customer (through branches, the internet, via mobile phone etc). This seems to me a simple extension of the original meaning of the word, and pretty harmless.

It does seem to me that very often people don’t really know how the words they criticise are really being used ‘in the wild’. For example, some people think that in its modern use ‘issues’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘problems’. But if you tell me somebody has got issues, it tells me rather more, in my opinion, than simply saying they have problems.

It’s not really so surprising that in the business world so much new language is being coined. To use a (management-speak?) cliché, the only constant in business these days is change. This is exemplified by concepts like Six Sigma and lean production. In knowledge-based industries especially, and in a world where people expect to change jobs avery five years or so, firms have realised that their staff are their greatest asset, so people lower down the line are given much more responsibility than before. This also leads to a new vocabulary to do with reward, challenge and motivation, etc. If we get words like ‘empowerment’ as a result, this is probably a small price to pay.

On more than one occasion, Brus has blamed the use of this sort of language on ‘middle-management’, which stereotyping I find rather distasteful. I teach quite a few students who would qualify as middle-management, and most of them are absolutely charming, and here in Poland, at least, highly educated and intelligent people (many young Polish professionals spend two out of four weekends putting themselves through Master’s degrees).

In fact, reading Lucy Kellaway at the FT, and the example of John Birt at the BBC, would suggest this is more likely to come from certain senior managers. Kellaway has also shown how often the problem is not so much the words that are used, as the way they’re used and the context they’re used in - I remember her taking one CEO to task for writing something like ‘we are passionate about fulfilling our customer’s needs’. No you’re not, she said, you’re passionate about your wife, you’re possibly passionate about your hobby, but no way you’re passionate about your customer needs (or something like that).

Finally it should be remembered that it’s probably not the managers themselves who come up with these words, but more likely management gurus and academics at business schools. Not for nothing is one of the main websites listing these words and expressions called MBA Watch!

http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.th...

http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.te...

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus - I agree with you about the hyphenated phrasal verbs, but I would certainly hyphenate 're-enter' due to (!!!) the double 'e', as indeed does my dictionary.

aerothermal - interestingly, OneLook doesn't find either version in any dictionaries, but at Google Books the unhyphenated version vastly predominates, which is hardly surprising - aerodynamic, aerobatic, aeronautical etc.

Your teacher's take on 'due to' is a new one on me (or, on further investigation, turns out to be a very old one). Since the beginning of the twentieth century (and especially as put forward by Fowler), the usual argument has been that 'due to' should clearly modify a specific noun or pronoun or follow a linking verb (e.g. be) - 'the failure to nail currant jelly to a wall is not due to the nail' (Teddy Roosevelt 1915), but not begin a sentence in reference to the whole sentence' - 'Due to the bad weather the match was cancelled', in which case 'owing to' is used. (Technically, 'due to' was seen as an adjective, while 'owing to' is a preposition).

I think (yes, I think; I don't assert - especially as I don't fully understand the intricacies of these people's objections) that these traditionalists probably would prefer something like 'The fact that most of this burns up when it re-enters the atmosphere is due to (attributable to) aerothermal heating'.

But this differentiation is usually considered pretty old hat nowadays. In Practical English Usage, Michael Swan writes ' "Due to"and "owing to" both mean "because of." ... Some people believe it is incorrect to use "due to" at the beginning of a clause in this way, but the structure is common in educated usage'.

Or as Maeve Maddox writes at 'Daily Writing Tips' - 'For most English speakers due to and owing to have become interchangeable. Trying to preserve a distinction between them is pointless.'

At Oxford Dictionaries Online, they go into a bit more detail:

'The use of due to as a prepositional phrase meaning ‘because of,’ as in he had to retire due to an injury first appeared in print in 1897, and traditional grammarians have opposed this prepositional usage for more than a century on the grounds that it is a misuse of the adjectival phrase due to in the sense of ‘attributable to, likely or expected to’ (the train is due to arrive at 11:15), or ‘payable or owed to’ (render unto Caesar what is due to Caesar). Nevertheless, this prepositional usage is now widespread and common in all types of literature and must be regarded as standard English.'

There's no reference about 'due to' only referring to money owed in Fowlers (1st and 3rd editions). But The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage does suggest that in the first edition of his dictionary, Johnson, used 'due to', to refer only to debt. He later changed his mind, however, and said of 'due to' to mean cause - 'proper, but not usual'. But MWDEU does go on to say - 'Somehow Johnson's comments ... were transmitted to American handbooks of the second half of the 19th Century ... . The gist of their argument is objection to the use of "due" where there is no notion of debt'. This idea didn't seem to be carried over much into the 20th century, however, nor does it seem to have taken hold in Britain.

But as they say at MWDEU - 'Concern over the propriety of "due to" is one of those long-lived controversies in which the grounds for objection have entirely changed over time'.

More about 'due to' here: http://caxton1485.wordpress.com/tag/owing-to/

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

What is wrong with new words, new expressions? What is wrong with lifting a phrase from one arena and applying it to another? Are we so fumble-witted that we cannot take in new coinage - fumble-fingered under the high ball? Or are we so chained and bound by common usage, word-books, and by whatever out-dated ideas we were taught at skool?

I own up to being lorded-over by the spell-checker, just putting in hyphens to stop it red-lining, so what?

NB "influence" is widely-used as a verb despite its noun-ending; should we then use 'sway' instead?

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

re: feedback as a noun. I've just noted that Michael Quinion, respected etymologist and contributor to the OED, and author of the excellent website World Wide Words, is quite happy to head the first section of his newsletter 'Feedback, notes and comments'.

The truth is that for many of us 'feedback' is a perfectly normal word (though not when used as a verb, I admit), whose use (attested to from 1955) is not restricted to business and whose meaning can't simply be reduced to 'response'; although 'reaction' is probably closer to the mark. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines it as:

'advice, criticism or information about how good or useful something or somebody's work is'

@jayles - you're quite right about 'influence' being an early example of a noun (14c.) being turned into a verb (about 1650). No doubt there were a few 'grumpy old men' who complained at the time, but we've had a few hundred years to get used to it.

And if we didn't coin new words and extend existing words' uses, English would be a pretty static language indeed, instead of the wondrous dynamic thing it is. Not all will be to everyone's liking, but with time, no doubt, the chaff will fall to the wayside. Try an Ngram (British books) for that commonr British business cliché of the 80s 'by and large': extend the date to 2008 and you'll see its use has dropped off by about a quarter in the last twenty years or so.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@WW ... babysit is one word: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/en... ...

Feedback as a noun goes way back to the 1800s. As verb, I'v found it at least back to 1959 (feedbacked ... which hurts my ears). As a verb, until somewhat lately, it was mostly in the technical fields. It seems to hav broken out.

From 1959: ... the appropriate judgement based on the criteria of the users on the characteristics of the supplied emulsion should be *feedbacked* to the emulsion makers ...

However, I think feedback as a one-word verb runs against the grain of most of the *back words. Buyback is one word noun but a two-word verb: "I bought back the the book."

For me, the verb should be "feed back". Thus I would write: ... the supplied emulsion should be *fed back* to the emulsion makers ...

While I hav to acknowledge that feedback as a verb stands, it doesn't mean that I'll be noting it.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

AnWulf - I grant you that most British dictionaries list it as babysit, but Collins lists it as baby-sit, and American Heritage, Random House and Etymology Online list it with both spellings. I admittedly took it from proofread.com without checking.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Another that hurts my ears is "showcase" when used as a verb.
According to OED it first appeared in that form in 1945.
1945 H. L. Mencken Amer. Lang. Suppl. I. v. 387 A few of its [sc. Variety's] characteristic inventions will suffice: to ash-can, to angel, to showcase [etc.].

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Oh please! Must we check what others think before committing ourselves? If we fancy that we are at the cutting edge the idea, surely, is to jump in and suggest what we think is sound. Whatever prompts us to debate what the 'authorities' cite as the dernier cri, when their work does ours for us?

Now, it seems to me that the reason for check in as a verb, necessarily two words definitely with no hyphen is that otherwise you cannot have it in other tenses, most obviously the perfect tense: I check-inned is all to hell, while checked in will brook no hyphens, therefore present tense check in must be separate words.

I babysat because I was asked to babysit is fine.

If the verb component comes after, one word will do if that is what is popular, because -sit -sat raises no problems. Verb first, we need two words: I feedback, I fedback - ugh! I fed back, therefore I feed back - it still to me suggests the causes of borborigmus, and it is a term I abhor, probably for psychological reasons, but I can just about thole it if it two words, to use a Scots term.

Hairy Scot: I showed case?? Now, I cannae thole that! I am not fussed about the OED and H L Mencken Amer - life is too short to consult authorities and yet still to contribute to this argument.

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus. Aye, mon. Dinnae fash yersel aboot OED an' Websters. There's nae need to dree one's weird here. Ye fought for Wallace, will ye nae fight for freedom now?

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Edit: "Ye focht fae Wallace, will ye nae fecht fae freedom?"

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

At the cutting edge of spelling - that's a new one on me. Before Johnson, everybody did as Brus suggests, and we had spelling chaos. Dictionaries are surely there to be used. I've better things to do with my time than work these things out 'by logic'.

@Brus - each of us is interested in English for different reasons, and like to go about things in our own individual ways. Some of us like to do a bit of research; what's wrong with that? Surely there is room in PITE for several different approaches.

@HS - would you object to 'case' (noun 14th century) being used as a verb ("enclose in a case," 1570s)? If we can make a compound noun, why not a compound verb? The only difference I can see is that 'showcase' as a verb is relatively new. In this context its use as a noun isn't much older (1937).

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

So now we don't have spelling chaos?

Who will make the dictionaries, if no one is to be at the cutting edge? Are they to be descriptive (Webster's) or prescriptive? Who will prescribe if no one is to use logic?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus I thought in this case your logic was very logical.
The first hurdle in teaching English (to non-English-speakers) is to decide what is English - usually American or British, but in fact the devil is in the detail. Even if we go for "standard" English, this is not the end of the story.
In real life people need to be able to understand a variety of spoken English and dialects in order to do business, or attend university, or work on a global help desk, or work in a factory in Glasgow, or sell water management systems to the Pakistani Government or whatever. (And as obiter dictum, I might add that for some reason Welsh accents aren't in the textbooks, but Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and German accents are).
But when it comes to spelling (which in English is little guide to pronunciation) some standardization does help communication, and with spell-checkers is now very easy.
When I started teaching I thought I knew English and what was right and wrong. Well I did. But it was my English, from my miieu, from my part of the English-speaking world. I now know better. Even the following, which sounds "wrong" to me, is apparently okay in Quebec:
"If I would win the lottery, I would buy a Mercedes".
This means one has to be quite catholic in one's approach, and sometimes check dictionaries to find out about how English is used outside one's own experience. There is also the issue of change over one's lifetime - particularly true when it comes to opening and closing business letters and emails, where what is commonplace now would have been out of place forty years ago. Again, it is a question of de facto usage rather than one's own ideas.

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

An interesting site:- http://atrixnet.com/bs-generator.html

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@WW
"@HS - would you object to 'case' (noun 14th century) being used as a verb ("enclose in a case," 1570s)? If we can make a compound noun, why not a compound verb? The only difference I can see is that 'showcase' as a verb is relatively new. In this context its use as a noun isn't much older (1937)."
I think I'd prefer "encase" to "case".
In fact modern usage of case does have criminal undertones.
(But given their roots I assume both words would be rejected by our Anglish friends.)

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Brus - we may have a somewhat arbitrary spelling system, but at least we largely agree how to spell each individual word. That wasn't the case in the past.

Virtually all dictionaries are descriptive nowadays (the OED always was) and are corpora based. Even the American Heritage Dictionary, set up as an antidote to Webster's 3rd International, is pretty well descriptive these days, although helped by 'panels of experts'. A dictionary can give us advice, but its basic job is to tell us the meanings and speaking of words we are likely to hear or see around us. Incidentally, you often find the best usage advice in learners' dictionaries.

@HS - You're quite right of course; that's more or less all it's used for nowadays. I was trying to find as similar a case of a noun being turned into a verb as possible. But there are lots of others, like ship, divorce etc. My point is that people have been turning nouns into verbs for centuries, and it's really only the newer ones that tend to annoy people.

Re: the atrixnet site - interesting list that shows the useful side and the dangerous side of business language. Yes, there are a some bullshit expressions there, like impactful and productize (although even that has some logic - how are we going to convert our idea into a product?), and some I don't particularly like, such as 'incentivize' the ubiquitous (especially on the web) 'monetize'.

But many of these expressions, such as 'B2B' and 'clicks and bricks' are everyday currency in business language (they get used in the Economist and the FT for example). Used individually, they are useful shorthand for anyone in business, and work like any other specialist jargon (in fact quite a few of them, like plug-and-play, are tech jargon, rather than business jargon).

Some of them, such as 'just-in-time' (associated with Toyota) and cross-functional refer to business philosophies and processes, which are always described using these terms (I teach in banks where the role of cross-functional teams play an important role - you could of course, call them multi-disciplinary, but is that really any better?).

Leverage and leverage are interesting, as they have at least three meanings:

The old noun, leverage, which has been used for ages to mean something like advantage - 'Our ability to buy large quantities should give us some leverage when it comes to discussing discounts.'

A specialist meaning in finance - using credit: so we have the technical term 'leveraged buyout' and Obama talking about the American economy at the time of the crisis as being over-leveraged.

But it has also taken on a business bullshit meaning of 'generally improve' - 'I need to see how I can best leverage my career' - and this is the one that has come in for most stick.

I found this out the hard way, arguing with a banker, who knew only the second meaning, at a time when I only knew about the first and third.

But of course some people will string them together into meaningless sentences that are meant to bamboozle. And it it is always this second practice that the critics of business language latch on to. But we could make up just as meaningless rubbish with normal words, of which this site lists quite a few, for example: ethical, global, efficient.

Incidentally, the now defunct Bear Sterns had a hedge fund called the Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Enhanced Leveraged Fund, a name made much fun of by the Long Johns in their classic 2007 sketch on the sub-prime crisis - http://youtu.be/z-oIMJMGd1Q

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

"leverage" is AmE term for BrE "gearing", although I've not heard the latter in a long time now in this sense. in, say, renting out property, the higher the mortgage, the higher the gearing or leverage; and the higher the risk if it all turns to custard. However property is usually a safe bet so high leveraging is acceptable to the lender; the same would not be true of an untried start-up. In accounting and finance AmE terminology has taken over, under the sway of the IASB (International Accounting Standards Board).

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@WW
wrt leverage; I think its use as a verb has, like a lot of "business speak", come from AmE as does the mispronunciation that normally accompanies it.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@jayles and HS - the noun in its figurative sense goes back to 1858 (Online Etymology), and is not, as far as I know an Americanism. As a verb, I repeat, it has two meanings, both of which I agree have come from America.

Although I don't particularly like the all-purpose 'improving' meaning, I have no objection to the financial sense, which is really more to do with terminology than jargon, and I'm sure jayles is right about 'gearing' being the older British equivalent. As for 'mispronunciation', I think that's just HS being provocative. You say tomatoes, I say tomatoes etc.

I repeat, every walk of life has its own jargon - linguists have NPs, bound morphemes etc, on your computer you rip and burn, download and undo, even Brus talks of the Second Declension (or Conjugation), whatever that might be. Why should business be any different?

I do think it's worth separating out the technological jargon from meaningless or baffling business buzzwords. It's quite possible for CEOs to make waffling 'business-speak' statements without using any of the words that appear in these lists at all. Objections to that sort of business speak I can understand, but including any new words just because they are used in corporate business or come from America, I don't. I sometimes wonder if there isn't the tiniest bit of intellectual snobbery at play here.

I teach in large and small corporations, and the way I hear most of these words used is in specific technical senses; not in a meaningless business-speak way at all. I wonder how many of those criticising business language here have much experience of working in modern corporations, and of how this language is actually used inside companies, rather then in newspaper reports.

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@WW "I teach in large and small corporations" - in my day that meant waiting in the snow for the tram at 0630, first class in-company at 0730, another tram.. and so on till mid-evening. I wish we'd had "Email English" (Macmillan) then but it was all too new. Whenever I duck into a coffee shop nowadays, it all comes back. Is this you too?

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@jayles -Yup. First class this morning was 7.00, so the alarm went at 5.30 (other days are all 7.30 starts). The snow hasn't arrived yet, but it can't be long now. Amongst other places, I teach in one of the largest international legal firms, a famous Silicon Valley tech firm and an international project management firm, as well as one of Poland's biggest banks, a science centre and a Quango. So I come across a fair amount of business language in a fair variety of contexts. Quite a lot of jargon is used, but I rarely hear the horror stuff that people complain about in the press.

@HS - even 'leveraged' has its uses: it's a hell of a lot easier to say 'leveraged buy-out' then 'a buy-out using a significant amount of borrowed money (bonds or loans) to meet the cost of acquisition.' (Investopedia) - even if we stop at 'borrowed money'. This expression is commonly used in both the Economist and the FT, which generally avoid management speak, and I would argue that it's more of a technical term than a piece of management jargon.

When you get up to 100 emails a day (as one or two of my students do), brevity has its advantages.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

WW: I do think it's worth separating out the technological jargon from meaningless or baffling business buzzwords.

Spot on. Jargon is very useful in many spheres, as a time-saver and to avoid ambiguity. Think of sailing (which is full of jargon) - time is of the essence there. There's no reason why business should be any different.
However when someone asks me "Did you touch base with x in regards to y?" this adds nothing (and when I hear something like this, the use of language completely overshadows the content, to the point where I don't take in who and what x and y are).
A lot of this unnecessary BS tends to be used by management types, perhaps to make their jobs (and themselves) sound more important than they are.
And sometimes the buzzwords actively subtract value (they make things opaque, often deliberately) as you mentioned above.

The biggest surprise for me, since I entered the business world, has been how much spoken BS I come across on a daily basis, as well as written.

1 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@HS ... ok, I'll bite. The threshold for Latinates ... for most Anglishers ... is when the Normans took over. Latinates in OE are given a by as they are thought of as mostly from the natural growth of the tung. After the Takeover, they're taken "case by case". And this isn't the same for all Anglishers.

Indeed, believ it or not, I'm one of the looser ones. If I find the root in OE or a Teutonish tung, then it is good to go for me even if it has gain'd other meanings over time.

Case, meaning a box, is found in OE as 'cæpse' from Latin 'capsa' ... the root for case and for capsule. For me, this is good enuff for both. Encase is nothing more than 'in' + 'case'. 'In' (en) is found both in Romanish (Latin) and the Teutonish tungs.

As it so happens, 'case', meaning a grammatical case, is also found in OE. So both meanings of 'case' are found in OE. From this 'case' also comes the meaning 'case' is in a 'legal case'.

While we can put the spelling changes off on French, that is a small thing given that even many Anglo words hav undergone a great deal of spelling changes over time and not all (but sum) owing to the French spelling.

Showcase is a Anglo-Latin blend with the root of the Latinate half found in OE.

There, feel better now about it? LOL

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Chris B - Quite agree with you about touch base etc, in fact I did a post on my blog warning learners about these expressions a couple of years ago - the title being "Loop back to me and we'll touch base about this offline.".

I did this because it is very difficult for learners to tell the difference between business jargon, like "leveraged buyout" and business bullshit, like leveraging your career.

We had the expression 'can't see the wood for the trees' the other day, which after I had explained what a wood was in BrE, they worked out meant not being able to see the bigger picture, at which one of the students said "like the helicopter view", which surprised me somewhat. So I duly warned her that for many people this fell into the category of business bullshit. The one that gets me is the now ubiquitous 'going forward'.

Incidentally there are some humorous ones I've come across that I do rather like, for example smirting, al desco, deja-moo, multislacking and deceptionist, (all red-lined) but I've never heard them 'in the wild'.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Anwulf "The threshold for Latinates ... for most Anglishers ... is when the Normans took over." That pretty much limits Anglish to folk who are very knowledgeable about word-roots then. Some less esoteric approach might be more widely able to be taken onboard.
Having said that I do find myself writing on the whiteboard things like:
insomnia = sleeplessness
progress = going forward
rapid = quick, fast
and then I thnk of you, and how right the underlying mindset would be.
Even: cor-RECT = right !

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Jayles ... good words for progress (the noun) are headway and strides; wakefulness also works for insomnia or saying, "I was restless."

I don't think that not knowing which latinates were in OE forholds folks. Everyone has to find out how deep they can go or want to go. However, can often work about the ones that were in OE as well. "Sake" in OE and ME had the meaning of "cause, case (legal)" so a hardcore Anglisher could swap in "sake" for "case" (in the legal witt) but now we're treading on unknown land for those who, sadly, lack a knowledge of older words or older meanings seldom noted.

Sadly also, the OED is often wrong in their etyms but then, out of the blue, matches up one that I wouldn't think it would hav otherwise. Anyway, I hav made a list of OE latinates and posted it. Truthfully, two lists. One list was too long for blogspot to take so I had to break it into two. The list grows a bit almost every week as I find more words or more info on the words that I hav.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I found a copy of "The Stories of English" by David Crystal in the library, and there is a wealth of info about OE therein

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

@Anwulf re "progress" : yes you are right. However for my goals (ESOL), I need to teach the meaning of "pro" and "gress" as building blocks toward con-gress, ag-gress-ive, grade, a-gree, pro-pose, pro-fess, pro-ceed and so on. Basically teaching Latin I guess. A bit like us learning: выбор сбор

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

I feel your pain ... your akes ... your wrack (wrack in OE also meant pain ... pain was also pine [from Latin] ... same word, pain is a doublet that came thru French). I hav a lot of Hispanic frends that I help and I to speed them along, I giv them all the latinates that match up with the Spanish words.

But for my Asian frends, I think the latinates befuddles them sometimes if they haven't alreddy learnd a Romance tung.

0 vote Vote!  •  URL to this comment  •  Report Abuse

Your Comment