I recently tweeted a link to a truly wonderful piece by the FT’s Lucy Kellaway, How I lost my 25-year battle against corporate claptrap, and a couple of people demanded an aidspeak version. Where better to turn than the FP2P hivemind?
Her 8 rules are:
- Never use a short word when a long one will do
- Everyday euphemisms are the way forward
- Disregard the grammar you learnt at school
- There is no such thing as too much emotion
- If you produce something simple, rebrand it so no one will know what it is
- Do not limit yourself to words that are in the dictionary
- There is no such thing as too much metaphor and cliché in one sentence
- Ignore Rule 1 (use short, well-known words, but the catch is you use them to mean something different. The word of the moment is “play”.)
Recognize any of these? Yup, me too (especially rule 5). So it’s time for a spot of crowdsourcing: what are your top candidates for an aidspeak collection of all-time worst claptrap?
But be warned, corporates set the bar very very high. Here are the three all time winners (in reverse order) from Lucy’s doomed 25 year crusade against corporate BS:
‘Bronze goes to Rob Stone, co-CEO of advertising agency Cornerstone, for heroically mixing cliché, metaphor and hot air to say nothing: “As brands build out a world footprint, they look for the no-holds-barred global POV that’s always been part of our wheelhouse.”
Silver belongs to Angela Ahrendts who, in a Burberry annual report, wrote the most mysterious sentence ever composed in the English language: “In the wholesale channel, Burberry exited doors not aligned with brand status and invested in presentation through both enhanced assortments and dedicated, customised real estate in key doors.” I have showed it to many business experts over the years, but no one has ever been able to say what it means or explain why a raincoat maker could be talking so intently about doors.
The runaway winner and deserved gold medallist is John Chambers who, while CEO of Cisco, fired off an email to underlings beginning “Team”, and ending: “We’ll wake the world up and move the planet a little closer to the future.”
He has used plain words and simple syntax to produce the most terrifying piece of bullshit ever.’
So, the gauntlet has been thrown down: send me your worst examples of aid industry BS, and if they are good enough, I will publish them in collected form. And yes, submissions from FP2P are eligible……
Update: lots of traffic, but v few actual suggestions. Frightened of losing your jobs? Anonymise if you have to but just to be clear, I’m looking for examples from aid documents and emails, not just words and phrases you dislike. Come on, you must have some that you haven’t deleted!