December 29, 2009


You may recall that in September I trashed a website called DailyFinance for providing what was possibly the most imbecilic review of a Dan Brown book, ever (and that's saying something). Well, today I am officially upgrading DailyFinance to 0-for-2 and on my shit list, for another piece of brainless, poorly researched, PLAGIARISED "journalism". So...

From DailyFinance: Speak No Evil: The Decade's Worst New Business Terms
Perhaps we were doomed from the start. In a decade that we never knew how to name -- the aughts? the naughts? the zeros? -- tortured words and phrases in business communication blossomed. The list of jargon is long and lackluster: jump the shark, it is what it is,meta, there's no there there, [blank] is the new [blank], no worries, verticals, the new normal.
Okay, first of all: jump the shark? Really? REALLY? For a start — and admittedly I ain't as well acquainted with the business world as I used to be — as far as I know "jump the shark" isn't a particularly common phrase in corporate boardrooms. But even if it is, it isn't primarily a business term, isn't JARGON (definition, OED: "words or expressions used by a particular profession or group"), and isn't an expression new to the fucking DECADE. I'm sure I don't need to explain to any of you hardened internetistas that "jump the shark" refers to a Happy Days episode from 1977 and has been around as an expression since at least the late nineties if not, according to (unverified) Wikipedia, the mid eighties.

Now, let's see — what else is on the list?

•"It is what it is." A cliché, maybe, but again, not jargon (I'm reminded of my unofficial motto: doesn't anyone know how to use a fucking dictionary anymore?).

•"Meta". Meta?!?! First used on its own as an adjective in 1979 (doesn't anyone know to use fucking Google anymore?).

•"There's no there there". I will give them a pass on this one because (a) I initially had no idea what it meant and (b) it turns out it's a Gertrude sodding Stein quote and hence jargon for insufferable modernist literature snobs — but it still isn't a fucking business term and, hello?, Gertrude Stein died in 19-effing-46 so it's not exactly current, eh?

•"[Blank] is the new [blank]"/"the new normal" (apparently they're too thick over at DailyFinance to hold more than two list items in memory at the same time). Language Log to the rescue: "X is the new neutral" in the late seventies, "X is the new black" in the mid eighties, and not a huge jump from that to assume that "X is the new Y" (as Pullum et al. have it) is a lot older than this decade. (Bonus example, from elsewhere in the realm of exceptionally boneheaded internet writers: Is Yemen the new Afghanistan? Jesus, I fucking hope not.)


What's particularly heinous about this inane introductory list of non-00s, non-business, non-jargon phrases is that it actually has about zero to do with the actual 00's business jargon that the rest of the article quite rightly complains about — so I am doubly bewildered as to why it's there. Or at least, I was, until I listened to the "Audio Extra" that author David Schepp links to at the bottom of the page: an interview with They Might Be Giants about... annoyingly overused phrases! Turns out Schepp apparently confused "annoyingly overused phrases" with "contemporary business jargon" and lifted the entire list, without proper attribution, from the Giants interview! It's fucking PLAGIARISM! Can you believe it?!

So, yes, you're on notice, DailyFinance: I am watching you and your team of alleged journalists like a fucking hawk; try to grow some brains, and buy a fucking dictionary.

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