Call it “corporate-speak inflation”—or maybe “buzzword burnout?” You can’t do anything at work anymore without headline-ready slang popping up to describe it. Stop by your colleague’s cubicle to chat? You’re a desk bomber. Staying, unhappily, at a job? You’re experiencing resenteeism. Work closely with two other colleagues? You’re in a work throuple. (Ok, we made that last one up. But time will tell if it transcends the joke!)
In February 2020, writer Molly Young introduced the world to garbage speak: her word for the business-critical, omni-channel move to operationalize the way corporate leaders talk. It was one of the most-read stories among Pocket readers, and distinctly prescient: Three years later, it’s not enough that corporations are deploying garbage language internally, workers are eager to brand their every move, from their “hush trips” to their “rage applying.”
“Empowerment language is a self-marketing asset as much as anything else,” Young wrote. “A way of selling our jobs back to ourselves.” It makes sense that at a time when we’re all trying to make sense of a very weird jobs market and floundering with our motivation and increasingly depressing grind culture that we’d need this PR nudge.
Anne Helen Petersen, co-author of Out of Office has a more generous explanation. “We come up with terms to try and make the illegible legible—or, to play with the metaphor a bit, to create a grammar and structures that makes what’s happening feel understandable in some way,” she told Recode’s Rani Molla for her excellent investigation into why we are pulled to talk like this.
However these words make you feel—pandered to, seen, or somewhere in middle—we want to arm you with a field guide to the latest terms. Call over your work wife and dig in.
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