Friday, July 21, 2006

Little Things I loathe No 2

I've changed the title of this thread - "Little things for which I have an irrational loathing" is clumsy, and also, I've decided, inaccurate. Contemplating these loathsome things, I came to the conclusion that my loathing was not irrational, but actually entirely justifiable and correct, and that anyone who disagreed with me was wrong. Hence the snappier title.
So - today's object of disaffection is management speak. The English language is the most glorious and infinitely subtle way of communicating on this planet. It might not mean much to be born English these days compared to the glory days of Empire, but being a native speaker of English is a huge advantage. The language is supreme as an instrument of expression, capable of conveying nuances of the most subtle kind. It's a lot to do with the way that successive waves of invaders have left their mark without erasing the previous vernacular. It means we have lots of synonyms, but with slightly different connotations. Freedom and liberty mean the same, don't they? But there's something stirring about the Anglo-Saxon freedom that the Anglo -French liberty doesn't manage. You can think of other examples.
So why, given the vast resources of the language, do people resort to the ludicrous gibberish that is management speak? Not only do they write in this strange hybrid language, which reads as if written by an Albanian on a correspondence course, but they talk it too. It's hideous. What sort of stuff do I mean? Using "impact" and "benchmark" as verbs, saying "delivery" for "teaching", "rolling out" instead of introducing... Using ridiculous buzz phrases - "best practice", "value for money", saying "issues" instead of problems...
It's not uncommon in certain circles to hear this kind of thing:
"We've got some issues impacting around delivery. We need to benchmark best practice, and see if we can get vfm on this, yeah?" And if it's said with a rising tone, then my trigger finger gets very twitchy.
I did enjoy a remark in the Radio 4 show Weak at the Top, featuring an obnoxious Jeremy Clarkson type. "When someone from HR speaks, it's like a neutron bomb - the building's standing, but everyone's dead."
-and HR (or Human Resources) instead of Personnel is a classic piece of management jargon. Ugh!

10 comments:

Anglepoise said...

YES!! Finally someone who agrees that using 'impact' as a verb is a hanging offence! And 'deliver' too - I immediately eschew anyone who uses these terms around me. Two very good reasons not to work in education.....

Rob Spence said...

There are worse places to work - but what's really worrying is that this kind of management rubbish is now quite common in the average staff room.
I shall attack it at every opportunity.

Anglepoise said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/articles/2005/01/19/voices_management_speak_feature.shtml

Anglepoise said...

Blogger is bluggering me about a bit. That link refers to some lovely examples of management speak I thought you might enjoy. Or not.

kat said...

"delivery"

This makes my angry because it seems to imply that it has nothing to do with the people in the room - as long as it's delivered. Maybe it's just me but it doesn't seem to make any sense. It isn't the right word and it has nothing to do with learning.

Rob Spence said...

You are right kat - it reduces people in teaching to the level of postmen.

kat said...

I don't think it is a matter of reducing anyone to anything. It's just the 'we must deliver' 'we will deliver', 'we have delivered'. :-)
And that's not to mention all the discussions about the delivery.

kat said...

Forced myself to think about why the word gets under my skin and I suppose it is because it doesn't acknowledge the learner/students part in the process. There are no human qualities to it. Presumably they've just taken delivery, which is nonsense.

Rob Spence said...

Exactly - it's a model of education which sees the process as akin to a postman shoving something through a letter box - there's no question of interaction between searner and teacher. The teacher just delivers stuff into the empty vessel that is the learner. The scary thing is, this is the usual language of education courses all over the country.

kat said...

the empty vessel

As a student myself I find that view highly insulting. They can go to hell with it. :-)