4 Blog Updates, 1 Household Hint and A Song

(Originally I planned to include three updates to previous blogs. But then something really surprising happened, so it’s four blogs to update.)

Blog Update #1. Last week I blogged about the book on writing, Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotinik and Mr. Plotnik himself commented on it! In that post, I had noted twelve words, the meanings of which I wasn’t sure, from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. This week I am re-reading Freedom, Mr. Franzen’s most recent novel. Naturally, I’m finding more words that are I’m not familiar with, and since I am reading on my Kindle, I note it (handy Kindle feature) so I can look up those words later, and re-examine the sentences in which they appear.

As Mr. Plotnik says: “What if a word is likely to be outside the reader’s active or half-known vocabulary? Then even undefined it should lend some special aura, some majesty or exoticism, to the context.” So even if the reader couldn’t give the exact meaning of a word, the sentence in which it appears is crafted such that he still gets it.

This was a really big deal to me, that Mr. Plotnik commented on my post.

Blog update #2. I reviewed the excerpts from the finalists in the ABNA 2012 Contest in both the General and Young Adult Fiction categories. I did not predict correctly in the General category but in the Young Adult, I did.

A Beautiful Land by Alan Averill wins for General Fiction. It started out with a good hook but ended with a bad simile, the one about the Poe boarder.

But my pick for best Young Adult did win, On Little Wings by Regina Sirois. And the really exciting thing (to me) was that this author actually found the review and commented on my post. Think my post had anything to do with her winning? I doubt it, but I’m glad for her. It’s a good story.

Last year, I was 0-for-2. This year at least I got one right. Congratulations to both winners. What an accomplishment!

Blog update #3. Last October, I published The 24 Most Annoying Phrases for 2011 but I need to bump that up to 25. This phrase has been in use for a while, so it still applies to the year 2011.

Reach out!

This is how you make initial contact with someone in business-speak. You can reach out to someone in many ways: phone call, e-mail, instant message, or just bumping into the person who needs to be reached out to in the salad bar line at the cafeteria. Probably want to skip the rest room for any serious reaching out, but anywhere else is fine.

This phrase is so annoying that I made a solemn vow never to let these two words fall from my lips, consecutively, in the same sentence. Other assemblies of the two words in the same sentence are not considered offensive as long as there is at least one word between “reach” and “out”.

Alas. I was once upon a time on some sort of conference call and after much reaching out was being attempted by others, and before I had the proper amount of time to correctly formulate my thoughts, I heard the phrase “reach out” come out of my mouth. I had said it. Gagh! I have yet to forgive myself for it. I will go to my grave knowing that I once said “reach out” and meant it. (It’s perfectly okay to say it if you are being sarcastic or joking around, but if you say it and mean it, this is a vile happening indeed.)

One commenter on the post mentioned this phrase should probably be included in the list and I realized he was absolutely right, that this is one of the worst offenders and yet I had mistakenly omitted it. My apologies, Reach Out, for not including you, and kudos to you for being one of the most ridiculous, silly, meaningless buzzphrases of all!

Blog update #4. I once wrote a blog about marketing strategies that I didn’t think worked and one of them was the Jos A Banks “Buy 1 get 4 Free!” advertising methodology. They recently sent four coupons to my husband “in honor of his birthday”. How they got that information, I don’t know.  

Yippee! Each coupon was for $25 off on a $125 purchase. Okay, that’s nice. And there are four coupons remember. Or instead, says Jos, take $100 off a $500 purchase! But wait, that’s, uh, yeah, that’s 4 times $25 and 4 times $125… Got it! Obviously they think people can’t multiply. Come on, Jos, your customer base is buying cashmere coats and merino wool suits and silk ties. Which is a real good indicator that they aren’t Joe The Plumber and probably are educated and affluent and they can multiply a couple of numbers by 4. Geesh. It isn’t even insulting, it’s just stupid on their part.   

Household Hint. The e-cloth! Found in Real Simple magazine, this is a great way to clean up. These cloths contain millions of tiny fibers which supposedly grab on to all kinds of household gunk and remove it. You can clean anything with just water. Tile, showers, porcelain, glass and there’s even an eCloth for polishing your wine glasses. There are packs for the kitchen, for the bath, for the car, or “all purpose” eCloths. Dust cloths are used dry, all the others use plain water. No more chemicals. It’s fast and it works.

I have been trying to find a way to clean black granite for years – Voila! The eCloth was the solution. Highly recommended.

A great song. Coast by Eliza Gilkyson. It plays regularly on my Emmy Lou Harris Pandora station. Listen to how beautiful it is, how melancholy. Very moving.

My Top 40 Favorite Corporate Buzzwords

There are so many great, fun buzzwords, it’s hard to pick my top 40. I’m interested in corporate nonsense, the character in my next book, February Moon, will be too. He’s an “I’ve seen it all” kind of guy, who isn’t impressed with EYMs any longer (Earnest Young Men. You know the type, the twenty somethings who regularly congratulate others on what a “good job” they did doing whatever it is they do.)

Our hero may have been an EYM in the past but he certainly isn’t any longer, having age and experience in his background. And in fact, he and his likewise jaded friend coin their own phrase to see how it takes off and a funny meeting ensues as they discuss “storming the glass castle”, which is met with blank stares by the other meeting-goers who know they should know what storming the glass castle means, but don’t.

Here’s my Top 40 and their definitions (according to me):

1. At the end of the day – The realization that one can plan and plot, figure and reconfigure, all day long, but nothing will change.

2. Bandwidth – As in, do we have enough bandwidth to accomplish this? Or, how many people can we force to work overtime to get it done?

3. Bio break – Visiting the restroom.

4. Blue sky thinking – (See thinking “outside the box”.) The person who comes up with the most bizarre solution wins.

5. Bobbleheading – Mass nods, agreement with the boss, even though he may have his head up somewhere dark.

6. Challenges – Things we suck at.

7. Change management – Forcing objectionable ideas down the throats of customers / employees without them noticing.

8. Come up with an action plan – A “to do” list, but action plan sounds a lot more businesslike and so much cooler.

9. Customer-centric – The pretense that everything we do is with the customer in mind, usually said to the customer.

10. Deliverables – Things that need to get done and stuff that needs to happen, which may or may not, get done or happen.

11. Drink the Kool-Aid – Hold your nose and suck it up until you can collect early Social Security.

12. Empowering our employees – Getting them to work on the weekend.

13. Goal-oriented – Being committed to a future event or future competence, as in “my goal is to end world hunger” or “my goal is to win the lottery” or “my goal is to make it to the weekend”.

14. Going forward – The act of putting bad news behind you so that no one talks about it anymore. Politicians like to use this phrase after they’ve been seen shirtless on YouTube and corporations like BP use it so people will stop talking about how they have totally screwed up our environment and instead start talking about how the price of their stock has rebounded.

15. It’s a new headwind for us – We suck at this.

16. Knowledge transfer – What you do when someone in India is taking your job.

17. Lessons learned – All the stuff that went horribly wrong, and how to keep it from happening again, which of course you can’t because next time it will be new stuff that goes horribly wrong.

18. Leveraging – Stealing someone else’s ideas or expertise, usually without his or her knowledge and in the unlikely event that it is with his or her knowledge, is documented in the form of an email to that person alone where you acknowledge the leveraging but don’t copy anyone else. You rely on the person’s unwillingness to forward the email at the risk of drawing attention to himself and not appearing to be a “team player”.

19. Low-hanging fruit – Stuff that is really easy to do, which has a lot of eye appeal – usually things like papers flying into folders, spinning icons, and mouseovers with a hint of humor.

20. Managing expectations – Being very careful to point out what the project won’t do, so, by contrast, what it will do, will seem awesome and like, totally amazing.

21. Moving the goal posts – Changing the rules midstream as soon as you know that the project is doomed to failure. See “Managing Expectations”.

22. Multi-tasking – Able to walk and chew gum, simultaneously, or able to debug a Java class while listening to Foo Fighters.

23. Next steps – What you propose when your one-hour meeting is up and nothing has been decided.

24. Offline – As in “let’s take that offline”, which means, shut up and I’ll call you later. Only I won’t.

25. On the same page – Oh, groan. Does anyone still say this? It was cute the first time someone thought it up, but now saying it risks corporate shunning. It means having the same tired, slanted, prejudicial corporate mindset as everyone else.

26. Open door policy – The pretense that someone, usually a manager, will actually listen to someone who reports to him. It sounds good in an email, but is a dangerous activity to actually attempt.

27. Think outside the box – Having an original idea, as if anyone could in corporate America. Figuring out new ways to do something, which accomplishes the same old results. This one too, is pretty tired and worn out, so use it with caution.

28. Outsourcing – Elimination of the American middle class.

29. Ownership – Shifting responsibility to someone else so you don’t have to be bothered with supporting it, as, “I’m giving you ownership of our bankrupt client backlist”.

30. Paradigm shift – A new way of thinking about an old, tired subject. Commonly used by dumb people who want to sound smart (note the silent “g”).

31. Proactive – The main ingredient in buzzword soup. A high-scoring word that no resume or project proposal is complete without, at least once in every paragraph. The opposite of reactive, which is bad. Basically, it means, after the meeting, I will get my email out first because I type faster than you, thus, making me “proactive”.

32. Repurposing – The after-the-fact redefinition of the goal of a process or project to comply with what has already been developed, not necessarily what anyone actually wanted.

33. Seamless – The act of incorporating change that is invisible to the naked eye, unnoticeable, a “seamless” transition, until 2:00 AM when all hell breaks loose.

34. Skills transfer – (See outsourcing, above.) When what you do well is given to someone else to do, and you are given things to do that you do, not well.

35. Singing from the same songsheet – Being able to mindlessly reiterate all corporate buzzwords and bs, as if you had thought of it yourself.

36. Ten-thousand foot view – The big picture, i.e., having a lot of grand ideas with no clue as to how to get any of them to work.

37. Touch base – Sending a CYA email to someone to let them know that you haven’t yet done anything, and, in fact, have no intention of doing anything, about a problem to which there is no solution.

38. Transitioning – (See outsourcing, above.) The opposite of a promotion, a lateral move, which is on a gradual, slight decline, usually resulting in the elimination of bonuses or salary increases. As in, “I’m transitioning from Corporate to the Mayville branch.”

39. Win-win – Management wins, customers and employees lose.

40. Wish-list – A well-organized spreadsheet of nice-to-have items, usually prepared by clients, that would increase productivity and improve accuracy, and which they have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting.

It is important to note, that “buzzword” is in itself a buzzword, making it iterative and circular. And totally confusing.

Please comment with your favorite buzzword!