How buzzwords and high sounding expressions are dominating our lives

A plethora of words and expressions are dominating our lives and successfully squeezing dry any meaning in our expressions. For understandable but not forgivable reasons, we have all fallen prey to the predatory trend in which the market forces have subdued us to submission. This is the era of buzzwords and high sounding phrases that do not necessarily mean much.
Oscar Kimanuka
Oscar Kimanuka

A plethora of words and expressions are dominating our lives and successfully squeezing dry any meaning in our expressions. For understandable but not forgivable reasons, we have all fallen prey to the predatory trend in which the market forces have subdued us to submission. This is the era of buzzwords and high sounding phrases that do not necessarily mean much.

Several years ago I was told by my Professor that to gain an extra mark in one’s coursework there was need to create an impression in the mind of the Lecturer or Professor by using, or call it deploying, words or expressions that are at once fashionable or trendy. My immediate thought about this was that this is an era when form has triumphed over content. This is why, according to Phillip Ochieng, a columnist in the Sunday Nation “if the bowl is ugly, it won’t whet your appetite for the uji in it”. For none-Kiswahili speakers, uji is the word for porridge.  

Let us get closer to what has been termed “hot buzzwords”. Kate Lorenz observes that there are occasions when one witnesses a presentation that sounds impressive, but at a closer look, you are left wondering what it all meant after all! Have you not marveled at a colleague’s ability to deliver a discourse consisting entirely of recycled phrases that sound brilliant but say nothing?

This is something of an art-form even if you don’t think you can use them with a straight face. Knowing the buzzwords could come in handy when you want to deflate a pompous consultant, impress a “buzzing” interviewer, mask the absence of substance in a report, or are simply at a loss for words but need to sound authoritative.  As it has been said, a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to check on the time and you pay for it. And we have many of these chaps around don’t we? This is another subject for another day!

Some of the said buzzwords may sound a little misplaced but they drive the point home. They have remained words of exclusion and are in mortal danger of becoming worthless through distortion and overuse. Corporate jargon and clichés are so pervasive that their use--or abuse—has yielded a buzzword of its own: “Deja Moo” (the feeling you’ve heard this bull before). There is an array of these buzzwords that could be of interest to the reader.  When a senior manager agrees to take the flak for an unpopular decision, while someone lower in the chain of command does the dirty work, the expression ‘air cover’ applies. In this case, a Chief Finance Officer (CFO) will provide air cover, while the CEO will reduce staff by half. This term, as you may have noticed, is borrowed from the military.  There are others that are so new. ‘Bleeding edge’ is one of them. This is a market research term referring to the “coolest kid in the neighborhood”. “If the alpha pups go for it, we’ll sell millions of them”. Full proof would me
an creating a product that won’t be made obsolete by the next wave of technological advancements. There are others like “market cannibalization”, “living document”, “reaching critical mass”, “pockets of resistance”, “repurposing”, “reverbiagize”, “value stream”, “value migration”, “white space opportunity”, “chips and salsa” and so on..   

 “Car hopping” is the soliciting or accepting an invitation for a joy ride, usually from a stranger. This practice, a growing pastime among teenage girls in some cases can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, casual sex, rape and even murder. “Car hopping” can also mean stealing a car for a joy ride, stealing small items from cars or hitching a ride on rear bumper.

Corporate Anorexia means a debilitating business disease resulting from excessive belt tightening, known today as downsizing. This is not uncommon especially among European countries that are undergoing serious financial crisis following the global financial meltdown that started in the United States at the end of 2007. 

In Singapore words like “downgrading” or “mindset change” have been in vogue owing to the painful transition Singaporeans have gone through. At better times when jobs were plentiful, the popular term was “upgrading”. Everything was being upgraded—skills, jobs, and houses. Today, the direction is the opposite; things are being “downgraded” (or downsized) for everything.

zword that is now common in this era of civil service reform, now a subject of considerable anxiety is, “rightsizing”. This is hated by both the Trade Unions and the civil Servants with a passion partly because, roughly translated, it means staff “rightsizing”, or “pre-emptive retrenchment”.

In Rwanda we need to borrow a leaf from the Singaporeans who have had to undergo “a mindset change” to survive in this era of economic challenges and unemployment. The interesting thing with unemployment though is that you never get a day off!

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