Every time I put up a post on Facebook or Twitter about buzzwords that annoy people, I get a huge reaction. People are delighted to have an opportunity to rant about phrases like “going forward,” “blue-sky thinking” and “no problem.” I tried twisting people’s minds recently by asking them to come up with buzzwords which actually don’t annoy them. But the mere mention of buzzwords was enough to get their dander up.
Why should they be so annoyed? They’re only words. But every time we choose a word, we’re tapping into an emotion. And when people hear buzzwords, they feel they’re being lied to, or that their concerns are being brushed aside. The worst thing about buzzwords is that they are used to give the impression of sincerity, while being completely insincere.
If you were to strip the statements of politicians of all buzzwords, you’d find nothing there. Buzzwords allow politicians to say nothing while appearing to say something. They’ll start an interview with a journalist by saying “I’m glad you asked me that,” then completely avoid it, using a string of carefully crafted buzzwords. They can cleverly sidestep questions, avoid admitting errors and doge out of making promises to take concrete action.
Buzzwords like, “Bear with me” and “No problem” are also much beloved by customer service representatives at call centres. They give callers the impression the rep will take action on behalf and sort out the problem. But people just feel they’re being fobbed off when they hear phrases like that. They’d rather their query was dealt with promptly and efficiently.
Even in our own conversations, we tend to rely on buzzwords to get our message across. People on the UK and Irish side of the pond have become fond of Americanisms like “my bad,” which aside from being hideously ungrammatical, doesn’t come across as a real apology. When Irish and British people use Americanisms, it can give the impression that they’re trying a bit too hard to be cool. What’s wrong with our own slang, I find myself thinking when I hear them.
What bothers you about buzzwords? Do you find them insincere? Or do you rely on them from time to time?