YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


What we have here is a failure to communicate

October 16, 2005|Christine N. Ziemba

If the latest company memo has you a little baffled because it dictates that "microwaiting" time must now be reported on timesheets, plug the term into the website before asking the head honcho for clarification.

You'll find that "microwaiting" refers to: "Time spent in front of the employee break room microwave while your lunch heats up. Regularly occurs a few minutes before noon and is generally not reported as a part of the lunch hour."

Developed by John Walston, a former deputy managing editor of USA Today and executive editor of the Wilmington News Journal, the 5-year-old website is a guide for those trying to navigate the world of business jargon. Its mantra is simple: "Buzzwhack has no patience for companies and individuals who use buzzwords to 'impress' and befuddle the rest of us." Though the site hasn't been updated recently, the glossary still serves as a handy tool for those "Dilbert"-like moments in the office.

The sentence: "In our B2B plan reorganization, we're incorporating additional best practices and developing collaborative partnerships in order to once again reach our core competencies" would fit perfectly into many an annual report. But Buzzwhack aids in translation. (For those who don't speak corporate, the sentence means that the company is struggling and is now looking to good outside examples to get back to its basic business plan.)

Other glossary entries, such as "alt+tab," may even help with job security. According to Buzzwhack, "It's the latest way to save your job. Hitting "alt+tab" on your keyboard will hide the window that's on your screen and bring up one from behind. It's used frequently in the workplace to hide the fact that you've been surfing the Net instead of doing that report the boss wanted."

If more corporate communicators were to drop the jargon in favor of plain speak, we'd have a real "megadigm" (think paradigm shift, but only better) on our hands now, wouldn't we?



The company lines

Here is a random sampling of the entries on the online dictionary.

Action items: A term that sounds more macho and businesslike than "to-do" list.

Columbo site: A Web page that opens after you unsubscribe from an e-mail list, where a final appeal is made to keep you. Named after TV detective "Columbo," who always had one last parting shot just as he turned to leave.

Deck: A staple of every modern business meeting -- the PowerPoint "slide" show. "There were only 12 slides in the deck, but the presentation lasted an hour."

E-ternative: An alternative with an electronic bent. E-mail is an e-ternative to snail-mail.

Manscaping: Shaving or trimming a man's body hair to change his appearance. Thanks to TV's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," we now know that manscaping can make your midsection look thinner.

Over normal: To be above a standard or accepted level. "I don't consider myself fat, I'm just over normal."

Sept. 10: Anything that's outdated, old-fashioned or no longer cool. Used to describe the world that existed before Sept. 11, 2001. "That dress is so Sept. 10."

Verbing: It's Corporate America's favorite pastime -- the practice of turning a perfectly good noun into a verb. Example: "We're transitioning to the new building in April, just after we finish databasing the surveys."

Web rage: When Net frustration turns into violence. Most harmless form: A computer monitor gets whacked. Most serious: A cubicle mate gets whacked. Chief causes: Slow-loading websites and unhelpful help buttons.

Los Angeles Times Articles