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Corporate jargon: “What I really meant to say was…”

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Politicians are, naturally, absolute masters of the art. So: “Let me be absolutely clear on this point” translates as: “I’m now going to take you as far away from this issue as I possibly can.” 

Another gem is: “Of course there is a lot more work to be done” meaning: “We have no idea at all how to deal with this problem.”

I came across one government minister who said in print recently: “I am pushing through radical reform to make sure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.” Has he stopped to think that turning everything upside down will probably result in a whole new series of mistakes? This kind of muddle-headedness has caused endless chaos in our health and education systems for generations.

Another rich source of smoke and mirrors can often be found in the chairman’s statement accompanying the company’s accounts. These usually start with the splendid phrase: “It gives me great pleasure to present” when he/she really should say: “Oh God, it’s that time of year again.” 

In the current economic torpor, the words: “Conditions remain challenging” can be found all over the place, whereas: “We are just about hanging on in there” would be nearer the truth.

Just in case such phraseology makes you want to reach for the glass of whisky and the loaded revolver, many chairmen then resort to the time-honoured: “We are leveraging our core competencies” which I think means: “We are trying to get back to what we are actually supposed to be good at.” Ah, so there is hope? Not when he or she rounds off the statement with the well-worn: “We are well-placed to take advantage of the upturn”, which means: ” If things don’t improve soon, we’ll be a gonner before my next chairman’s statement is due.”

Mind you, in its interim results this week, Barclays surpassed all of the above by announcing: “We are focused on creating happy customers and positive operating jaws.” Wow, steady on tiger!

Meanwhile back in the boardroom, there is a whole variety of weasel words at play, such as: “We need more granularity on this”. In my view anyone who comes up with this twaddle should be fired on the spot. The dictionary tells me that granularity is the breaking down of tasks into smaller and more manageable parts. Well, why not say so then?

To help you out with a few further translations:

“Joe Bloggs has done the heavy lifting on this one” means “Joe Bloggs has actually done what he is paid to do.” 

“We need to improve the optics” means “It would be nice to be more transparent but, in reality, we need to cover our tracks.” 

“Can we take this offline?” means “I know I’m going to lose this argument we are having and I don’t want to look like a complete chump in front of the whole board.”

It seems only fitting I should round off with a line that media master Rupert Murdoch recently fed to the House of Commons Select Committee…

“This is the most humble day of my life” means “Dammit, I’m not as good as I thought I was.”

Dear reader, what are your favourites? Post your comments below.

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