He may have had you at “hello”, but if your partner works in business services, sooner or later he’ll be “looping you in”. Confused? Welcome to my world. Just trying to have a conversation in direct English with my husband these days is a struggle thanks to the insidious creep of his business jargon.
Now a US author has coined a term for these dread corporate buzzwords I’m deciphering daily: garbage language. In her book, Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener unpacks the modern phenomenon for relying on empty weasel words, acronyms and idioms that seem to pepper conversations in the media, tech, marketing and management consultancy worlds.
Out of the Boardroom, into the Bedroom
But in my case it’s seeping out of the boardroom and into the bedroom. It started innocently enough. I can still remember the first time I called my husband, who had just begun his big new job at an American firm in the City and, instead of the usual off-hand greeting, said: “Oh, hi! Thanks for reaching out.”
OK … I thought, bewildered. I passed it off. He was in a business meeting (“team huddle”) at the time. Before long, though, he was using phrases like “top of mind” when simple thinking used to do fine, and “circling back” to problems instead of raising them, like we had before.
Sometimes it feels as though just having a chat over a glass of wine — which I’ve had to “put in his calendar” for what used to be called the evening and is now often referred to as “close of play” — is a minefield. Is this discussion about our son’s potty training “business-critical”? Should we be “innovating” to ensure we “future-proof” family life? “What,” he has been known to ask when particularly frustrated with our son’s dismal attempt at a pre-school craft project, “is the end goal here?”
What used to be called the evening is now often referred to as “close of play.”
Frequently it seems our domestic life is reduced to a snappy deck of slides; our small children the difficult business “stakeholders”. And yet, maybe he’s got the right idea — let’s face it, life at home with toddlers is essentially running a creche on no pay. Maybe it’s time we drop the romantic pretence, go the whole nine yards and refer to ourselves as Frazzled Family plc. Just pray it doesn’t creep into your emails too; I’ve received one from my beloved signed off with “kind regards”.