The Buzz on Buzz Words

There’s alot written about collaboration and innovation today.   More buzz than anything else.   It’s actually kind of funny to read how companies will not survive if they don’t innovate in the future and collaboration is the key to innovation.   Okay, I do not think there are any new revelations here and if I’m a CEO of a company, you’re probably telling me something I aleady know.

But I often wonder how this buzz starts and spreads like a virus.    Perhaps it’s when someone writes a book about how the flat world is at a tipping point.     I mean if I hear one more person talk about tipping points, I might have to drink myself into oblivion until I reach my tipping point.    Maybe it’s the management consultants who need to dream up new ways of making businesses think they need their services.   Better yet, it starts in universities where MBA students pick up these buzz words from professors who invent them as if they discovered a vaccine for polio.   And the MBA students feel the need to use these buzz words to sound intelligent….resulting in MBA-speak or MBA-ese.     Now I have my MBA and it’s a great experience and I was lucky that my program discriminated against anyone who spoke MBA-ese.

Anyway, I figured I’d look up “buzzword” and here is the definition.   A buzzword (also known as a fashion word or vogue word) is a vague idiom, or a neologism, that is commonly used in managerial, technical, administrative, and sometimes political environments.

Wow!   “a vague idiom” or “neologism”.   I didn’t think you could define buzzword with other buzzwords!   Would it not be easier to simply say “buzzword” = B.S.    Wikipedia even compiles a list of popular buzz words and links to a bunch of websites that attempt to compile them all.    One of my all time favorites is “grab low hanging fruit”.   And “peel back the onion”.   Win-win, core competency, paradigms, value added, bandwidth, critical path, take that offline, and my favorite of them all “grab the bull by the horns!”   I also love “resource action” which means you’re fired, layed off, terminated, thanks for playing and game over!      Ah…and let’s not forget there is “synergies” – a phrase which has to be said with both hands and fingers together.  I also had one manager who always talked about how he’d “circle-back”.   With all the circling back he was doing, it was pretty obvious that nothing and no one was moving forward.

And for the longest time I thought off-shoring and outsourcing were the same until someone explained it to me.  Thank goodness I now know the difference because I recently spoke with the store I ordered furniture from … and they told me that our furniture was outsourced to a manufacturer in China who in turn off-shored it to Vietnam and that’s why it is taking over 5 months to be delivered.

So what does this all have to with collaboration technology?   There must be a point to all this…. maybe it’s that collaborative technology connects people and in some strange way actually enables all this off-shoring and out-sourcing to occur much easier.   Well, sure, in some way it does.   But I think the bigger point here is that before you go and create a wiki for your project or company and start defining all the company acronyms or decide to promulgate your esoteric cogitations — goto wikipedia first and look up the definition of  buzzwords to remind yourself that the intended use of this technology is to provide clarity and visibility and actually reduce complexities…..




2 Responses to “The Buzz on Buzz Words”

  1. Dear Rich

    I wondered if you might like a link to both my Foreign word site and my English word website or press release details of my ensuing book with Penguin Press on amusing and interesting English vocabulary?

    with best wishes

    Adam Jacot de Boinod

    (author of The Meaning of Tingo)


    or wish to include:

    When photographers attempt to bring out our smiling faces by asking us
    to “Say Cheese”, many countries appear to follow suit with English
    equivalents. In Spanish however they say patata (potato), in Argentinian Spanish whisky, in French steak frites, in Serbia ptica (bird) and in
    Danish appelsin (orange). Do you know of any other varieties from around the world’s languages? See more on


    The Wonder of Whiffling is a tour of English around the globe (with fine
    coinages from our English-speaking cousins across the pond, Down Under
    and elsewhere).
    Discover all sorts of words you’ve always wished existed but never knew,
    such as fornale, to spend one’s money before it has been earned; cagg, a solemn vow or resolution not to get drunk for a certain time; and
    petrichor, the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a
    dry spell.
    Delving passionately into the English language, I also discover why it
    is you wouldn’t want to have dinner with a vice admiral of the narrow
    seas, why Jacobites toasted the little gentleman in black velvet, and
    why a Nottingham Goodnight is better than one from anywhere else. See
    more on

    with best wishes



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