21 Apr 2004, 03:24

The Language of Corporations

Ok, so I was reading this article on MSNBC about the deaths of US contractors in Iraq and it got me thinking on a tangent. In the article there is a quote from Halliburton on the loss of its workers: “There is no road map for something like this and we are doing everything we can to assist the families as well as our employees to cope with this huge tragedy.” The use of the phrase “road map” was what really made me pause. “Road map” is one of those buzzwords that seems to have caught hold lately in corporate and government organizations. For example, the road map for the middle east peace process. Its even in common use at the company I work for. It’s no longer enough to have a plan, you have to have a “road map”. Words and phrases like these arise all the time in corporate cultures. The CEO says something in a big company meeting, and by the next day you can’t get through a single meeting or even break room conversation without hearing it 10 times. It just works its way into the company lexicon and everyone knows what it means. Often the language will make the jump from organization to organization and you end up with the widely recognized buzzwords, like “synergy” or the classic Dilbert example, “proactive”. What really bothers me though, is that the spokesperson for Halliburton couldn’t express a statement of sympathy without slipping into corp-speak. I don’t think they used it out of ill-intent or disrespect, in fact they probably weren’t even aware of that choice of language. But to me, the edge of inhumanity that it gives to the remark is unsettling. I may well be making a big deal out of nothing, but after being surrounded by the language of corporations I find myself being extra sensitive to it.

[Listening to: The Get Up Kids – Overdue]


Comment by Tobin on 2004-04-20 21:47:25 +0000

Hear hear. I’m tired of the corporate talk too. If I hear my boss talk about having some “database opportunities” or “network opportunities”, I’m going to scream. (ok, no I’m not)

But why can’t we just say we have problems? It’s ok to have problems, or issues, or hurdles. Why do they have to be opportunities? It’s so stupid.

Comment by Carrie on 2004-04-22 07:33:21 +0000

“Road map” sounds less scary compared to “quagmire” or “imbroglio” when you’re talking about Iraq.

Just like “insurgent” is a much nicer word to use than the phrase “legitimately pissed off Iraqis who just want their country back”