Tuesday, March 28, 2006


From Richard Dawkins, Postmodernism Disrobed:

Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content.

Well that is rather harsh. Certain jobs such as White House spokesperson or manager require you to appear to be communicating even when that is exactly what you do not want to actually do. Jargon's purpose is to fill otherwise empty air with an illusion of meaning. Mysterious acronyms are added for extra obfuscation. Average listeners will assume that everyone in the room but them understands and that it is only their own ignorance of the topic that prevents their understanding. Perhaps they missed or dozed through the meeting in which the acronym was explained. Few are bold enough to risk exposure to interrupt a bath in the warm goo of this verbal pudding to ask "excuse me, what is KPF mode?" Keep the Plane Flying, of course. Everyone knows that. Haven't you been paying attention?

Such terms are needed to hide unpleasantness. "G-Dick" sounds less depressing than "your job just went to India". "Leverage" sounds better than "take advantage of" or simply "use", so "leverage the infrastructure" sounds like you're doing something clever when in fact it only means that you are using what's already there.

Abstractions achieve the status of concrete nouns over time. "Efficiency", abstract enough to begin with, has become a noun measurable enough to be countable so can become "efficiencies". Which you can then attach an "action verb" to, to sound dynamic, thus "drive efficiencies". A "linkage" can be "linkages", as concrete as sausage links. "Synergy" is likewise an abstraction you can treat as a concrete noun, and "leverage". This language shares with poetry a purpose other than plain communication. Its purpose lies beneath the words--to evoke anti-meaning, to sooth, to mesmerize. A manager has the soul of a poet. Here we explain why your job just went to India:

While eating our own dog food
I will open my kimono to display
the linkages
to the plane that we keep flying
that keeps the boat afloat
that leverages the synergies of the infrastructure,
and drives efficiencies into the regions.

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