049_G17 Arena

Global_17

Arena Books Whatever happened to plain English? Who Touched Base in my Thought Shower? A Treasury of Unbearable Offi ce Jargon Steven Poole, Sceptre, London, 2013, 212pp ISBN 978-1444781847 The ability, or rather desire, to speak clearly seems to have decreased substantially in recent years. Offi ce jargon emerged across the UK and the USA in the late 20th century, but it has grown more meaningless and, frankly, perverse as time has progressed. Author, journalist and cultural critic Steven Poole attempts to chase the roots of some of the more common and obscure examples of modern-day offi ce jargon in Who Touched Base in my Thought Shower? Poole gives examples of offi ce jargon ranging from “across the piece” to “zerotasking”, giving hilarious literal deconstructions before exploring the origin and development of each phrase. The book appeals for individuals to say simply what they mean, rather than subjecting workers to the horrors of jargon, which he refers to as one of the most “spirit sapping indignities of modern life”. There is nothing more frustrating than obscuring meaning through the use of meaningless terminology, which presents itself as “a kind of cheap competence that often marks a lack of competence in anything that matters”. Poole writes of how he became extremely popular upon fi rst writing about jargon for The Guardian in 2013. Commenters on The Guardian website’s network related to Poole’s fury by saying that offi ce jargon made them want to “stab someone in the eye with a pen”, and even admitting to engaging in “Bullshit bingo” during meetings, by picking out how many times bosses used ridiculous terms. Nowadays jargon is extensively used within the workplace and by those in the public sphere, and has proved particularly popular among politicians. Poole points out that Margaret Thatcher was one of the few politicians who refused to use jargon, referring to it as “all this guffy stuff”. Speaking about his book on Radio 4’s Today programme, Poole emphasised that offi ce jargon often has far more sinister undertones than just being annoying, and is frequently used by bosses in an attempt to obscure what is actually going on. Examples include referring to the need for staff cutbacks as ‘resizing’ the company, rather than simply saying that people will be laid off – resizing would never be used if a company was being expanded. Poole’s message is on the importance of clarity of communication. In a world where offi ces and organisations are increasingly interacting with people for whom English is not a fi rst language, it is important, now more than ever before, to communicate clearly and without all the ‘guff’ that offi ce jargon encompasses. Meaning is so easily lost when tied up within jargon, if indeed a meaning ever existed in the fi rst place. To give a famous example, Kevin Rudd told an interviewer back in 2008 when asked a question about Asian security: “I’ll reverse engineer and start at the third and move back to the fi rst.” Frankly, your guess is as good as mine – and presumably his. Poole’s concise jargon dictionary is a hilarious look at modern offi ce jargon and the perceived need to obscure all meaning. A phrase which stands out as perhaps the most memorable: “As the astronaut Jack Swigert famously said during the nearcatastrophic Apollo 13 mission: ‘Houston, we have a solution opportunity’, because of course, it would be wrong to ever admit to there being a problem. Jade Fell, Global staff writer global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 49


Global_17
To see the actual publication please follow the link above