Published here August 2018

## Fuzzy Language Anyone? A Lesson in Bafflegab

Last month in our papers department we reviewed a beguiling book by Rex Conner titled: What if Common Sense was Common Practice in Business? Certainly a good read, but then it occurred to us that maybe, just maybe, there are people out there who really do want to talk in riddles. Indeed, it has been said that for academics, if more than three people in a lecture hall really understand what you are talking about, it means you are not a real academic.

Then again, there are all those politicians who are keen to answer "questions from the floor"[1] without actually answering the question posed. Or otherwise they just want to sound impressive. For example, back in 1954, a UK businessman by the name of Bryan Samain made a business trip to the US and was given the advice that follows.[2]

So here goes for a quick lesson in Bafflegab.[3] The procedure is really quite simple. Just think of any three-digit number and then select the corresponding buzzword from each of the three columns in the following table. The resulting phrase can be dropped into virtually any presentation, lecture, academic paper, report or interview exchange, with the ring of knowledgeable authority.

For example, take the numbers 1, 2, and 3 and you get "total monitored mobility". That sounds pretty impressive. Let's try again with 7, 8, and 9. This gives us "synchronized third-generation contingency". Obviously, that is something pretty current, even if it was suggested twenty years ago!

Here is the Table:

 Think of any 3-digit number and apply each digit to the corresponding columns First digit Second digit Third digit 0 integrated 0 management 0 options 1 total 1 organizational 1 flexibility 2 systemized 2 monitored 2 capability 3 parallel 3 reciprocal 3 mobility 4 functional 4 digital 4 programming 5 responsive 5 logistical 5 concept 6 optional 6 transitional 6 time‑phased 7 synchronized 7 incremental 7 projection 8 compatible 8 third‑generation 8 hardware 9 balanced 9 policy 9 contingency

Of course, if you think you can improve on some of those words, feel free to substitute your own.

Here's a list of ten fuzzy words or phrases frequently heard around a project team's meeting table. Just drop them in where they fit best.

Going forward; Drill down; (Thinking) Outside the box; Low hanging fruit; Best practice; Results driven; Action plan; Bells & whistles; Moving the goal posts; Quick win.

But if you really want to "go to town" then select from The 50 most annoying office jargon terms that you should find here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4563616/The-50-irritating-office-jargon-terms.html. We wish you the best of luck.

1. In other words, typically the press!
2. It is not clear from the text whether the advice was given as a humorous legpull, or given with serious intent. Given North American humor, we rather suspect that it was a bit of both.
3. Culled from Management Today, a UK Business Magazine, March 1998, p104