Helvetica on Wheels

Association can be deeply ingrained. Think corporate, think business, and if you’re design-oriented, you’ll see all kinds of words floating above your head, twirling on their axes in a simple, smooth font devoid of pizzazz or personality. What I tend to see are the actual words.

It’s clear that language is a living thing powerful enough to reshape how we speak, read, and write. I appreciate that and allow for some wiggle room. Although I refuse to use disrespect as a verb (we all have our standards), the words nauseated and nauseating are used interchangeably without any twitch of the eye, and that’s fine by me. Such judgment calls depend on how conservative you choose to be. Although irregardless is a word, if your aim is to be taken seriously, you cannot use it; people will question your integrity, your level of education, your hygiene, and the ability to maintain relationships.

But what slaps me in the ear canal is the repurposed terminology and cliches so common in business language, or tradespeak—the use of which forces my computer to underline it in red as if to say, “Really? C’mon.” Sometimes you just have to add-to-dictionary as you shake your head.

I wanted to do some 360-degree thinking, get all my ducks in a row, then loop back and touch base with you later so that we could take a cradle-to-grave approach to this question. In leveraging a few thoughts and cascading them through the group, I’m sure we can achieve a paradigm shift in our way of responding, especially since we are all team players in a global market of knowledge-based deliverables.

The cradle-to-grave approach just kills me! I had the same reaction one fine day when I gasped out loud in a meeting after someone used “office” as a verb, as in He offices in Singapore. The culprit smiled when he heard me, assuming I too wanted to office in Singapore. I preferred to meet him at high noon with a loaded pistol.

Someone just told me about an executive who was going to do a “speak” prior to making an “ask,” the translation of which requires some upscaling: she was delivering a presentation as part of a donation request. I couldn’t help but equate this with a five-year-old using simple words to talk about pooping.

I hope we all feel suitably incentivized to add value to this discussion, thereby enhancing the possibilities for a more synergistic approach that will facilitate some thinking outside the box.

It’s always a possibility that any one of these underscored words or ridiculous phrases may escape and be used in the wild. So whenever I think corporate, I think mace and sharp weapons. A woman has to defend herself.

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