Category Archives: Plain Language

Brain hurt – too much thinking outside of box

Seth Godin has started a Squidoo lens on the Encyclopedia of Business Cliches. There’s a top 10 that has morphed into a Top 83 (and counting) and that  will change as votes are cast in favour of one or another & other cliches are added. The current top 3 are: Best Practices, Synergy & Thinking outside the box.

The main thrust is that these terms, though (arguably) once useful, have been discredited through over-use and by functioning as a shield agaisnt actually saying something useful, insightful or relevant.

Cliches are more than just linguistic shortcuts, they’re typically also intellectual & creative shortcuts. It’s easy to fall back on one of these vacuous expressions, deferring responsibility for saying something meaningful or least forcing the reader (listener, etc..) to interpret for themselves. In fact, its probably better that these cliches are used so often. It allows the consumer/interpreter to come to their own conclusions.

I’m sure if business rhetoric all of a sudden became honest, transparent, insightful and useful, we wouldnt have a clue what was going on & what was expected of us. At least now, when some someone says "lets think outside the box" we know they don’t have clue what they want and are expecting us to come with the answer that will save their skin.

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Refreshingly Honest Obituary or This really is your life.

Hat-tip to Matthew Ingram for pointing out the Best.Obituary.Ever.

Obituaries, unlike eulogies, aren’t bound to the convention of presenting the deceased in the best possible light. In fact, good ones are highly accurate accounts of an individual’s life & impact – whatever it may be. However, it’s still common for them to paint a favourable portrait as the person writing them is often intimately acquainted with the person (friend, family, etc..).

So what to make of one that starts:

Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.

and ends:

He never married.

You can find the full obituary here. It’s definitely worth reading.

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