Sunday, January 17, 2010

How reaching out to touch base will impact you

I easily identified with Quid's post from a couple of weeks ago about buzz words and phrases . I have long had a fascination with words and in my adult life that has included the ubiquitous tired cliches in the working world.

What I have observed is that these words and phrases vary in popularity but once they are "born" they hardly ever die. Sometimes they are real words that just become overused (e.g. "impact" as a verb), while sometimes they are made-up words like "pro-active."

Here are my top ten favorites (and I use the word "favorite" to note how much they make my skin crawl), in no particular order:

1. "Issues." When I went to law school, I learned early on that a law student had to identify the "issues" in cases. Politicians deal with the "issues" that are of interest to voters. But once I entered the business world I learned that an issue is a much cooler way of saying "problem."

"If we use that software, that will result in real issues when we give our presentations."

"Does this present any issues for you?"

Please, please, please -- I am having issues with the overuse of "issues."

2. "High Level." People I work with are just nuts over this one. "Give me just a high level overview of the new regulation," someone will say, to which I am tempted to reply, "As opposed to a lower level overview?"

3. "Functionality." I have a colleague who, in the five years I have worked with him, has never gone through a work day without using this made-up word. What's wrong with the word "ability" or simply saying, "It can do this" or "It can't do this."

4. "Pro-active." A non-word. I turn pale when I hear this one. It's meaningless.

5. "Touch base." Unless I'm playing tag or baseball, I don't do this. And neither do you. Call me or write me but don't touch base with me. Ever.

6. "On the same page." I am not collaborating on any written volume with anyone so nobody needs to be concerned about being on any page with me.

7. "On the ground." This is probably my favorite of the last couple of years. It started in the media but quickly migrated to the business world (how many businesses do you know of that are operated above the ground or underground?!) and even to the faith community. The minister who spoke in my church Sunday said it at least half a dozen times.

8. "Impact" as a verb. "How will this impact you?" "We have been really impacted by the changes in the systems." I have a theory that this has come about because people don't know the difference between "affect" (verb) and "effect" (noun). Whatever the reason, it's a poor choice.

9. "Synergy" or the plural, "synergies." This one caught fire when mergers and acquisitions were so prevalent a couple of decades ago and is supposed to represent the benefits of two parties coming together and what they create. Why can't we just say, "Here are the benefits of what these parties will create when they come together?"

10. "Reach out." This is the latest one that is spreading like crazy. You don't call, write, text, e-mail or even TOUCH BASE anymore; rather, you reach out. "Let me reach out to So-and-So and I'll let you know what he/she has to say."

That's fine, but please, no reaching back in my direction.


Kelly said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

I must admit I've been guilty of "touching base" with people. I'll try to make sure I never touch base with you. For that matter, I'll try not to reach out to you, either.

Hmmmm... I thought pro-active was an acne medication.

Pam said...

Oh, good post, Bob! I tend to agree on these tho' I hadn't really thought about them before.

I still say the one thing that curls my toes is "Efforting" as a "I'm efforting that information for you right now."

It has become a staple with more and more correspondents.

Redlefty said...

I hear every single one of these every single day.

Maggie said...

DAD! Let's touch base soon and catch up! I feel like we have some high level issues that we need to work out. If we both become pro-active I think we could be on the same page. You've impacted me greatly and I hate to see our relationship slip away over these small issues. We don't even have to reach out in person, we can just talk on the phone...oh the functionality of the cell phone!

Love you,

p.s. Might be going to Birmingham this weekend..come with? (For anyone reading...that's another one that makes his skin crawl...he just left it out)

Pencil Writer said...

Enjoyed your post. Especially enjoyed your daughter's comments to compliment your take on how crazy language morphs.

quid said...

What a great list! I had to stop and think about "reach out"... and then realized how much the people around me are using it!

Thoughtful post.


Debby said...

And I thought that Proactive was a flea treatment...

Maggie had me laughing out loud. These kids. Honestly! Where do they get this from?

Bob said...

Yes, Debby, she's a gem. I miss her.

quid said...

Isn't proactive Jessica Simpson's facial cleaner?????