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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steven Poole - Does a "deep dive into a big hairy audacious goal", 1 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Who Touched Base in my Thought Shower?: A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon (Kindle Edition)
Steven Poole has performed a valuable function here. Ever since the invention of "bullsxxt bingo" there has been encouraging signs of a fight back against the utterly nonsensical language spoken by modern managers who make David Brent look like an intellectual giant. Your reviewer was once genuinely told by a senior colleague to "bottom out your thinking, and get those ideas up on the table and run with them". Having pointed out that this could be physically dangerous he muttered something about "inherent black thought negativity". What is surprising is how normally intelligent people think that spouting this verbal diarrhoea somehow makes them more sophisticated and managerially "cutting edge". Stephen Poole takes a very big needle and bursts this bubble in this humorous book "Who Touched Base in my Thought Shower?: A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon". It is essentially a trove of the spirit sapping indignities of modern office life and its stultifying vocabulary. Indeed the growing problem is that this type of language is starting to seep out of the office into everyday life with phrases from the pseudoscience of management theory littering broadcasting, charity funding and even sport. Ironically much of the source material for this guff is picked from these settings in the first place particularly the military. Thus " Strategy", "on my radar" and , "push the envelope". Others like "close of play" or the increasingly used "Deep Dive" are taken from sport where of course they specific meaning that made sense in that context. Quite how strapping on scuba gear and going to the depths of the ocean in the manner of Jacques Cousteau mutated into describimg a detailed examination of a subject is a bit of a mystery but when combined with other phrases from this epidemic of linguistic mumbo-jumbo it can produce unintentionally hilarious results. Poole quotes the idea of of a "deep dive into a big hairy audacious goal" as good example.

It is also notable that some former word "stars" of the management lexicon have now fallen into disfavour. The concept of "downsizing" as a euphemism for sacking people is being gradually replaced by another ridiculous term. In April 2013 that financial horror story that is HSBC announced that it was "demising 3000 roles" In short it was sacking these pour souls. It also shows a trick borrowed from modern politicians to constantly disguise meaning and spin something that is completely negative into something that doesn't sound quite so bad. This short book is relentless and it is hoped that anybody who uses terms like "run it up the flagpole", "define the north star", "give it hands and feet", "take a helicopter view", "open the kimono", "come to Jesus moment" or "drink the kool aid" will cease forthwith and reflect on the ridiculousness of it all. Sadly while a 2012 poll found that nearly three quarters of British workers are irritated to point of madness by office jargon some 44% admitted to using it. As Patrick Gray a Forbes consultant ruefully reflected there is a thieves code in the corporate world, namely "that I'll use words that sound important but make no actual sense and give you the same privilege as long as you don't call me out on it" Steven Poole is righty tired and weary of all this and advises that scorn is our best weapon. He is right so let us start by taking "key project deliverables" and sticking them up your managers "backfill". Whilst doing so reward Mr Poole for the effort and agony that he must have invested into writing this book and "cascade" some money into his coffers. Other examples that readers may have experienced of this tripe would be warmly welcomed as comments.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Nov 2013 11:44:00 GMT
The Wolf says:
Hi RoB

This sounds fun!


The Wolf

Posted on 16 Dec 2013 11:07:56 GMT
Lark says:
Have you thought of writing a book yourself?!

Posted on 25 Apr 2014 16:46:18 BDT
Nic Cicutti says:
I'd happily buy the book for this review alone

Posted on 5 Jul 2014 12:12:04 BDT
dandybeat says:
Brilliant review, I really hear what you're saying and I am all over this book. Yes, I had a manager who would regularly suggest we 'run it up the flagpole and see how it flies' or indeed 'let's chuck it all into the bowl and see what kind of salad it makes', and he was inordinately fond of 'blue sky thinking' - I was working in a 'challenging behaviour unit' at the time, a euphemism for a place where agitated/unhappy people regularly might punch, chase or generally frighten the life out of you, so as you can imagine such inspirational management speak went a long way. He probably thought staff were resistant to his ideas but really it was about how he expressed them, he'd have got a better response by just saying 'yeah, let's try it out' or 'let's see what happens'. Do people feel clever when they say this stuff, like they are really bringing an idea to life for the 'troops', or is it an effective (if unintentional) conversation-stopper? I've become increasingly intolerant of such arse-speak and apparently innocent phrases such as 'think outside the box' and 'taking it forward' now have me retching like a cat with a hairball. I donated a copy of Poole's previous book 'Unspeak' when I left another workplace as we were terrorised by business jargon there, one of the least offensive was the manager referring to troubled teenagers as 'stakeholders', I'd give more examples but I have thankfully exorcised them - though I work for a university now and can report the arse-speak is alive and kicking like a newborn mule here. 'Unspeak' was valuable in 2007 for taking apart language used by the government and media such as 'terror', 'tragedy', 'ethnic cleansing', 'anti-social' and 'community'. I am expecting 'Who touched base in my thought shower?' to equally bring some humanity back to the world of work.

Posted on 19 Oct 2014 11:06:21 BDT
My organisation (another bank) uses the delightful term 'Colleague Exit' when it wishes to toss yet more souls on to the scrapheap. Let's invent a term for "We here on the Board will be awarding ourselves a 14% pay rise while you lot can make do with 1%.
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