Laser-like focus: maximum super-mega hyperconcentration power

As a translator and writer, I need to keep my eyes clean and my attention sharply aimed at adequately evoking images or relaying messages. As such, I like to use words—and syntax—that I feel are suited for the type of communication I am working on.

A great deal of my work is in communications, management and political administration. It is often a stern, arid environment where ideas, decisions, and thoughts are conveyed by people who are very busy. A lot of pundits who write on “serious” issues and topics have fully loaded schedules, are highly driven people who share their opinions on many platforms, namely, reports, blogs, newspaper columns, tweets, and so on. Most of them have not been trained in literature, nor do they have the time for thorough redaction.

But does prolificacy equate to proficiency? Well, of course, the answer is “not necessarily”. Of course. We could say that if practice makes perfect, if you repeat the same mistakes often enough, you’ll eventually make them perfectly. I’ve learned that one of the most sure-fire (efficient) ways to improve your writing was to read abundantly. OK. But if you read poorly written papers day-in and day-out (constantly), chances are that you are not going to do much better yourself.

What I do find fascinating is that, in an area such as politics, administration and overall corporate communications, vocabulary is so thin. In English, especially, significant words, the mot juste as it is, have all but been banned from the main discourse to make way for more methaporical terms, such as “laser-like focus”. This almost childish lexical behaviour has always been part of the English political and financial world, often filled with animal representations (e.g. lame duck session, bull vs bear market). By no means do I condemn it, although it does make French look dry in most of these instances.

What does get under my skin (irritate me), is that writers really go to great lengths to come up with simplistic, yet convoluted, unnecessary images to represent otherwise simple notions that everyone understands. Such as “laser-like focus”, which is just another, albeit punchier way to say To give the utmost attention to. Why in the world would one use the image of a laser (which I get is an extremely concentrated light beam) to replace that? How is that clearer?

Here, a microscopic quiz. Guess what these means. Well, if you’re middle management, you probably know already:

  • a) chewable chunks
  • b) low-hanging fruit
  • c) evergreening

Should we be talking about the “ether-like volatility” of the stock market, or the “TIE fighter-like maneuverability” of small government?

I don’t know. Maybe we should.

Here are a few fine links:

MBA Jargon Watch

HRM Guide article: Jargon Baffles Employees

The Weekly Gripe

Answers: a) project/workload/task segmentation, as to handle more manageable workloads; b) easily attainable goal, as a fruit that hangs at reaching distance; c) continued renewal

And finally, to loop the hook:

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