Who Moved My English … !

Gnomedex Day 1

These days when I forget checking if the child has done his homework, my wife does not scream at me. She gives me ‘feedback’.

I am told that in most organisations, these ‘feedback’ sessions are particularly elaborate and gladiatorial. Teams are taken ‘off site’, and outing to a charming and unsuspecting place like Goa, holed up in a five star hotel throughout the stay, and encouraged to give trenchant ‘feedback’ about one another. Success stories, the scene Soon turns into a bloody rink of jibes, jealousy and finally unrestrained cat fights and humiliation, with the human resources flunkeys cheering from the sides. That’s ‘feedback’ for you.

As India becomes the post global India Inc., the English it speaks is suddenly becoming unrecognisable. Thousands of people, especially the poor losers who know the languages otherwise, but are not part of the boardroom and hence the great success story, are alienated from it.

You no longer speak to explain. You speak to hide, baffle, impress, belong, and most often, bore. This is a vocabulary hurriedly curried up for Powerpoint presentations and meetings, and broad rooms and over ‘power’ lunches chiefly by the engines of the industry – the MBAs a.k.a. widely known and respected as Mediocre But Arrogant.

Words of change, clear, simple words have suddenly become untouchable. You will no longer start something, you ‘activate’. You don’t like each other, you ‘connect’. You cannot activate me: you are either ‘in sync’, or to borrow a Bush-ism, ‘with me’.

People no longer reply or respond. They ‘revert’. At a lesser level of literacy, one ‘reverts back’. Just as one has ‘future plans’, thankfully, and not plans for the past or this moment. Change is no longer profound enough. Thinks must undergo a ‘paradigm shift’.

And smart people don’t think, they ‘ideate’. Nor do they write letters. They send ‘communication’. Getting a new customer is ‘acquisition’, and working with somebody is ‘partnering’.

Satisfying me is not enough, you want my ‘mind space’. Merely being creative is passé, since there is a shatteing-ly cliché for it: you must let the ‘creative juices flow’.

There is a corporate term for spaced out thinking as well, and I love this one- ‘blue sky thinking’ – something you claim to do when you do not have even a straw of concrete thought about anything. Common acronyms but perhaps the most pillaged is ‘impact’. In every sentence uttered at a meeting, the noun is dragged like a reluctant house to water, to its awkward and grotesque verb form, ‘impacted’.

Some acronyms make their way from teen text messages straight into corporate vocabulary, and are subsequently made even more puerile. Take FYI (for your information), for instance. The wildly popular acronym has found its siblings in important business talk- FYIP (a ‘please’ added politely when writing to a senior), FYIA (‘for your information and action’, to bully juniors) and FYIANA (‘necessary action’, making you wonder how much unnecessary action is otherwise encouraged).

And after much good work, you were no longer become a name, you become a ‘brand’, and your goodwill is ‘equity’, even if you have never invested in stocks.

To fully explore the contours of this new species of words is beyond the scope of this piece. But it will be interesting to see how long the English language can take this brisk repositioning in the rear.


[Disclaimer: This is not my article .. the author is not known .. I am just sharing it with you.]