I love the English language.
I earn a living in the world of business.
I hate what business has done to the language with the heat of a billion suns.
And it’s not getting better. The decline is accelerating. Lucy Kellaway has been documenting the decline for decades – and is finding that the worst offenders are prospering from their crimes against clear, concise language:
Howard Schultz is a champion in the bullshit space. The Starbucks executive chairman has provided me with more material for columns than any other executive alive or dead. Yet he is still at it, and still out-doing himself. Earlier this year, he announced that the new Starbucks Roasteries were “delivering an immersive, ultra-premium, coffee-forward experience”.
In this ultra-premium, jargon-forward twaddle, the only acceptable word is “an”. Mr Schultz has brewed up a blend of old and new jargon, the fashionable and the workaday, adding a special topping of his own. “Delivering” and “experience” are grim but not new. “Ultra-premium” is needless word inflation. “Immersive” is fashionable, though ill-advised if you are talking about scalding liquids. The innovation is “coffee-forward”. Sounds fantastic, but what is it?
And it serves their purpose:
Over the years, Mr Schultz has consistently proved just how bad language serves business people well. So when an analyst asks if you are going to acquire anything, you can either say no, which is a bit too bald and clear, or you can say 34 words instead, as he did a few years ago: “I would say that we have enough to digest in the near-term, and there’s nothing candidly in our sightline that would suggest that we’re involved in engaging anything that we’re going to acquire.”
Bingo. The audience will be so bored, you will never get called to account.
50,000 foot view? It is what it is.