Introducing Guffipedia, an outlet for all victims of bull

I am urging you to submit horrible new words or phrases

Next time you hear someone say: “This deal, we feel, is the right deal to go forward. In the go-forward scenario, we plan on doing the deal”, which was precisely the bull AOL’s Tim Armstrong spouted when it was bought by Verizon this year, don’t swallow it. Photograph: the New York Times

Next time you hear someone say: “This deal, we feel, is the right deal to go forward. In the go-forward scenario, we plan on doing the deal”, which was precisely the bull AOL’s Tim Armstrong spouted when it was bought by Verizon this year, don’t swallow it. Photograph: the New York Times

 

At this time of year, my mind naturally turns to guff. Every December I open the cupboard in which I store the worst examples of the year’s jargon and begin the search for winners of my annual Golden Flannel awards.

This year, as ever, the cupboard is stuffed with ugly words and phrases that people have written or spoken in 2015. To pick a few at random, there is “passionpreneur”. There is delta (to mean gap). There is to solutionize, to mindshare and even to role-model. All are new. All reach new linguistic lows.

There are two tragedies here. One is that people actually talk like this. The other is that the only person with a key to my guff cupboard who can enjoy its riches is me. The first of these tragedies has no remedy. Bullshitters will go on bullshitting. The law of bullshit, as I have often pointed out, dictates that the market for it has only one phase – the bull phase.

Yet for the second tragedy, help is at hand. This year the Financial Times has decided to let readers rummage in my cupboard and marvel at the hideous pile of wretched words and phrases within.

So ghastly

Angela AhrendtsDick CostoloTim Armstrong

The point of Guffipedia is not just for you to admire the extent of my guff collection, but to help me curate it going forward, as they say in Guffish.

I am urging you to submit horrible new words or phrases, to have a stab at translating them into serviceable English, and to state where you found them. You don’t need to name the perpetrator (though it would be nice if you did). “Heard in a lift” is fine - so long as it actually was. And if you get your entries in before the end of the year, they may end up winning a prize in my 2015 Golden Flannel awards, announced the first week in January.

To keep standards high at Guffipedia I will be strict about what I allow in. So if you have just started to get annoyed at the way people say “reach out” then Guffipedia is not for you.

It is true that the phrase is annoying - but then it has been annoying these past 15 years at least.Neither do I want the stock examples that lazy people reach for whenever the subject of jargon is raised. There will be no “open the kimono” on Guffipedia, as I have never heard anyone say that in earnest. Rumour has it Jamie Dimon once used the phrase, but the only times I’ve heard it are by people lamely protesting at how much they hate jargon. Not only will Guffipedia be a valuable work of reference, it will serve a higher purpose. This is not to shame business people into speaking with clarity, simplicity and elegance, as that is not going to happen. There are too many good reasons for continuing to talk guff. It makes you sound clever; it shows you belong to a club; it is an alternative to thinking and, most important, it means you can say things that sound decent but are actually meaningless.

Another new word

This last is another new word that I have plucked from my cupboard, only for once I rather like it. Its grammatical form is unpromising – mentee, sponsee and tutee are much to be disparaged. But bullshittee gives us a neat way of talking about what being on the receiving end of bullshit is like. I found the word in an unusually dazzling bit of research by academics in Canada who presented people with words taken from Deepak Chopra’s Twitter feed that were rearranged into extra-meaningless aphorisms. Yet on reading phrases such as “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena” many of the bullshittees claimed to detect meaning. The more they a) believed in the paranormal and b) were fans of Mr Chopra, the more they judged the drivel to be profound. Extending these findings to management suggests that the more we accept the prevailing business culture and the more we rate the people who lead it, the greater the likelihood of us swallowing whatever they tell us – however nonsensical.

Next time you hear someone say: “This deal, we feel, is the right deal to go forward. In the go-forward scenario, we plan on doing the deal”, which was precisely the bullshit AOL’s Tim Armstrong spouted when it was bought by Verizon this year, don’t swallow it. Be a proactive bullshittee, spit it out and send it our way. Guffipedia: ft.com/guffl – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015

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