Monday, March 5, 2012

The language of execuspeak

Yes, the reason I wanted to talk about execuspeak all stemmed from watching Futurama. I feel absolutely no shame in this. Futurama is brilliant.

This is a bit of a looping point but from the Urban Dictionary we get the below definitions. There is also such a thing as an Execuspeak Dictionary for definitions on execuspeak words and not just one. There is also this print Execuspeak Dictionary by the same author. And if you think it ends there, think again. There are many more.

The Execuspeak Dictionary was created by 
Carol Heiberger 
who has had 35 years of exposure to the language. My first reaction to this is pity and my second is a shocked wonder at just how long this garble has been in use. Because of this horrified shock I decided to start looking into the history of execuspeak.

What? Why? How? When? Where? Who do we blame for execuspeak in all its ignominious hilarity.

I decided to look at the definition for execuspeak in that Urban Dictionary as I don't ever want to buy a book on it. Definitions are always a good starting point as sometimes we misunderstand the meaning of words.

"The art of speaking like an executive."

On a side note, execuspeak is also known as business jargon, corporatese, business speak, corporate jargon, corporate communication, marketing speak and spin (public relations). Spin is about the most honest name for it.

I also came across this definition in Wikipedia and I included it as it is quite blunt.
"Business speak, also management speak refers to a particular syntax often used in large organisations. The tone is associated with managers of large corporations, business management consultants, and occasionally government. The term is typically derogatory, implying the use of long, complicated, or obscure words, abbreviations, or acronyms. Some of these words may be new inventions, designed purely to fit the specialised meaning of a situation. Frequently management speak is used to "spin" negative situations as positive situations."

"The art of talking without saying anything."

"Verbal executive communication in broad, vague terms that rise above normal speak. Characterized by an excessive use of executive words such as robust, paradigm, and drill down. Those on the receiving end of execubabble are no better informed after the speech than when it began."

"When an executive of a company makes up an excuse for not wanting to talk to a subordinate or take action upon a particular topic."

There are also such things as execuglide, execuhair and execuside as well as many more. But I don't just want to copy that hilarious list of definitions, as fun as they are to read.

To promote the business voice and image so as to gain customers, instill market confidence, whitewash mistakes and represent negative situations, incidents or results as positive. (see what I did there? 'Positive' and 'negative' aren't as powerful as 'bad' or 'good,' 'devastating' or 'reassuring' and that would be a beginners example on how you whitewash. It just reads like statistics, unrelated to potentially tragic events.)

Execuspeak, or corporate communication, stems from the field of public relations. For almost the last century the public relations departments of any big corporation has been working on the voice and image of the respective businesses, the competitive nature of such departments and businesses popularising the language, giving rise to what we now call execuspeak.

Originated roughly a century ago.

Worldwide big business speaks execuspeak everyday, the first versions of which were established in the 1900's-1930's. The origins lie in those business and corporations with high profit margins roughly 80 -110 years ago, whether American, English, European or otherwise, as long as the original language was English. Execuspeak is a dialect of English but that does not mean that non-English countries don't have their own versions of the dialect execuspeak. 

Big businesses likely to have helped create through use the original execuspeak:
State Grid
General Electric
General Motors
U.S. Postal Service
Johnson & Johnson
Kraft Foods
Walt Disney
Delta Air Lines
Warner Brothers
Emerson Electric

Executives, CEOs, marketers, management communicators, advertisers, government employees, public relations workers, internal communicators, investors, speech writers and more are all to blame for its proliferation to the point where execuspeak, or corporatese, has been labelled a dialect.

The popular impression why execuspeak is used
Crooked business men and women trying to cover their tracks, impress and sell garbage as gold.

I will leave you with this one hilarious site: Productive.

1 comment:

  1. Michael: Don't you worry about execuspeak, let ME worry about execuspeak.
    Rosalie: You execubabbling me or quoting?
    Michael: I'm a nerd, Rosy - I was quoting the 80s guy.
    Simon: Don't you worry about blank. Let me worry about blank!
    Rosalie: Yeah I know, I'm not worried about blank.