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Please, Don’t Open the Kimono.


Please, Don't Open the Kimono.

Language in Vogue

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) reportedly kicked off its 2010 conference with a surprise fashion show wherein the models wore t-shirts emblazoned with the hottest trends in business-speak, based on a poll on the ANA’s Facebook page. Among the winners (or losers, depending on your paradigm) of the poll were new and classic buzzwords such as Go Viral, Out of the Box, On the Same Page, and Glocal. While we appreciate the ANA’s display of self-awareness, we can’t help but wonder how thick with buzzwords the air was for the rest of the conference.

It’s easy to understand why buzzwords are coined and spread so quickly, especially in sales and marketing. As people who communicate for a living and have to do it louder, faster, and more cleverly than all the other people trying to do the same thing, certain ear-catching turns of phrase stand out above trite and hackneyed modes of expression. If a phrase catches on, then we use it to sound like we’re forward-thinking, hip, or otherwise cognizant of changes in modern language. To wit, we can run with the big dogs, provided that we’re all on the same page and can synergize with the rest of the team.

As an aspiring linguist and budding lexicographer, I find buzzwords particularly interesting because in many ways, they signal evolution in the language. If you had asked someone 30 years ago about low-hanging fruit, he or she would have thought you were into agriculture. These days, though, people know that you’re referring to easily-achieved tasks or easily-converted prospects. Another point that should be made here is that the word “buzzword” is itself considered to be a buzzword, so if you really dislike buzzwords, you had best find another way of describing them. May I suggest “jargon du jour?”

Buzzwords Gone Bad

As a company whose business is to supply promotional products for other people’s marketing efforts, we here at InkHead Promotional Products hear our fair share of buzzwords and phrases, so after circulating an informal poll around the InkHead offices, we have created our own list of jargon we’d like to hear a bit less. The InkHead team was divided in their dislike between the phrases that overcomplicate much simpler ideas:

  • Do you have bandwidth? instead of Do you have time?
  • You feel me? instead of Do you understand?
  • Take it to the next level instead of Do it better.
  • Open the kimono instead of Let’s share information.
  • Let’s take it offline instead of Let’s talk later.
  • I’m in the weeds instead of I’m busy.

…and that corporate-speak which sounds meaningful but doesn’t actually say anything at all:

  • Make it pop.
  • Increase the WOW Factor.
  • Social lift.
  • Impactful.
  • All the way to bright.

Eager for more buzzwords? Check out Wikipedia’s running list of buzzwords or look at Merriam-Webster’s Trend Watch which identifies, defines, and explicates words that have recently seen a sharp up-tick in the number of searches—i.e., words that are gaining buzz. Want to create your own buzzwords? Then, use Merriam-Webster’s Open Dictionary to submit new words and phrases that you think should be in the dictionary!

The Bottom Line

Somehow InkHead has managed to become one of the fastest-growing companies in the promotional products industry without looking, acting, or talking like everyone else in the biz…or maybe because of it. Rather than brushing upon our meet-speak, we’ve focused on building a website that has won numerous awards for technical innovation and accessibility, stocked it with thousands of best-in-class Discount Promotional Items (whoops, let one slip), and backed it all up with unparalleled customer service. The result has been a stellar roster of clients and high customer satisfaction across the board. Guess you could say we’ve been proactive…even if we won’t.

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