Communication is the strongest and most versatile tool in the world. It can be used to make war, or it can be used to make peace. It can be used to divide, or it can be used to unify. It can be used as an inhibitor, or a catalyst. It can polarize, or it can bring connection.
Just as a hammer can be used to build a beautiful house, it can be used to commit murder; language possesses a similar duality of power. Martin Luther King didn’t have a thought, he had a dream. Barack Obama didn’t hope Americans might perhaps just try a little bit harder, he told them they could.
Nelson Mandela brought peace to a broken country by showing what was possible in a place that had given up hope: “May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears.”
Great communication is simple, clear and direct. The phrase “Brutal Simplicity of Thought” is associated with the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and is often attributed to former CEO Kevin Roberts. It underscores the idea of distilling complex ideas or messages into clear, straightforward, and impactful communication. It encourages cutting through the clutter to deliver a message with directness and clarity, making it memorable and easily understood.
So why do we feel the need to complicate and trivialize our messaging? Sometimes it’s to create distraction and mislead and sometimes its just someone trying to be a little bit too clever. A recent survey has found “Amazeballs”, first used in 2008, is top of the list of the top 25 words British people find most annoying. Unfortunately, it is part of the language now as the Oxford English Dictionary legitimized it by including as a new entry in 2021. It was followed by the lesser used “Holibobs” for holidays and “Awesomness” which conveniently converts a noun into an adjective. But there is a new word emanating from America which is slowly entering corporate usage – and it’s hardly an amazeballs contribution to the language.
Fifteen years since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) some are still using VUCA to describe a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. I am sure we can agree the term needs an upgrade as the global environment has become even more VUCA. What is two steps up from VUCA? uberVUCA? VUCACIOUS? VUCAGEDDON? Or, perhaps something like: “increasingly difficult to interpret and navigate…”. Perhaps not as catchy, but at least it doesn’t require further explanation.
There is a new word emerging in US earnings reports which will add to the growing lexicon of corporate nonsense-speak. I suspect it comes from the investor relations people, desperate for their companies and the people that run them, to have a more human face.
The latest corporate word that will be hitting us soon no doubt is – wait for it – “Choiceful.”
A growing number of CEO’s are suggesting that changing consumer patterns around the world are a matter of choice rather than because household budgets being squeezed to breaking point. Consumer inflation over the past two years has eviscerated disposable income and companies are desperate to deflect criticism about the role they play in rising prices.
It seems to have originated in 2021 when two CEO’s used it independently of one another – both the bosses of Molson Coors and McCormick used it that year, there were nine mentions in 2022 and according to Business TV channel CNBC the word was used in 15 quarterly earnings calls for S&P 500 companies in the most recent quarter.
It’s not a word you will find in more modern dictionaries like Merriam-Webster or on dictionary.com. However, it is in the Oxford English Dictionary which registers its earliest known from the late 1500’s. It might as well have stayed there as it only appears .002 times per million words in modern written English, making it practically unknown.
It is perfectly legitimate therefore that it could be used, especially by CEO’s seeking to confound investors. If you search the Oxford English Dictionary for its meaning you are greeted with: “OED is undergoing a continuous programme of revision to modernize and improve definitions. This entry has not yet been fully revised.”
That makes it meaningless and a wonderful word for corporate double-speak as CEO’s using it are able to attach whatever interpretation they like to it in retrospect.
Dear Dictionary – please cull it before it’s weaponized against consumers, although it may already be too late for that.