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Double Take

Hardly anyone saw it coming.  One day, guys in suits were happily revisioning new paradigms, and the next day everything changed.  Where they used to synthesize synergies, they suddenly found themselves having to work together.  Properties that were highly leveraged are now mortgaged and busted.  Things that once were utilized overnight were merely used.  The economic bubble has been no match for the great Language Bubble that, sadly, is only starting to pop.

In this economy, every cover letter attached to a resume has to start with “In this economy”.  It’s a way of saying that “I know everything has changed,” or more accurately, “I know that I’m gonna be working for doodley-squat, PLEASE hire me!”  I’ve talked a lot about the need for language that helps us get a grip on what’s happening around us, and some readers didn’t see the point.  But when the bleeding edge turns into bleeding, you have to describe the problem to 911 pretty carefully and quickly.  What we’ve been doing until recently is using a lot of “doublespeak” or “jargon” or “bullshit”.

Let’s try to get out of the box on this one.

Language isn’t just to communicate ideas, it’s a sign of membership in a group or tribe.  The idea you have is one thing, but if it facilitates an interactive convergence, you’ve got something much more.  No, it’s not a pitch that makes it sound kewl, it’s how you instill confidence in your place as a member of the tribe.  People don’t really care about the product or report that’s in front of them as much as the satisfaction that it’s from someone they can trust.  Trust comes from knowing the right language and saying the right things.  You have to harness the collaborative mindshare when you recontextualize impactful communities.  The benchmark of innovative schemas comes from … no, wait!  Stop!

I have my own jargon, I admit.  I write about the inflation of language or tribalism in a way that makes them sound like terms in general use.  They aren’t  It’s my way of forcing people to take ideas on face value by first letting them know that I’m definitely not from their tribe.  Is this a wise thing to do?  No, not at all.  We’re used to a lot of bullshit in our language, so the lack of it comes off as a failing.  What I hope is to be the little kid who stands up and points out that the Emperor has no clothes because, frankly, the Emperor isn’t all that attractive.  Inventing language for the purpose of poetry or science is one thing, but doing it to cement your membership in a social class is kinda tacky.

What will happen to language in this economic downturn?  What I hope is that people will get practical and interested in good ideas that come from just about anywhere, not just people that wear suits.  I think that hungry people usually don’t care where their bread comes from, so I’m hopeful.  That means that the need to use truly horrible words like “infomediaries” will go away and we can all speak English again. I want to see the economic downturn accompanied by a linguistic downturn.

In the meantime, a little humor might generate the eyeballs it takes to make the message more impactful.  That’ll have to do until people get what I’m saying.

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10 thoughts on “Double Take

  1. I’m compelled to disinfect my grandiose, superfluous lexicon and juss keep it real, main!

  2. My favorite “new” term is de-layering. It is the process by which my current company is trying to restructure to pare down middle managers. Will speed up decision-making time, etc. But it sure sounds better than layoffs.

    “Delayering” is what I want to do after a LONG winter when I want to stop with the turtlenecks and sweaters. Is it time yet? 😉

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