It’s become commonplace to take the piss out of people who use corporate clichés. Buzzword Bingo did the rounds years ago. Blue Sky thinkers and Base Touchers have been staples of stand-up comedy routines, and they’re still quite rightly mocked in the office.

Unfortunately, for every ludicrous piece of twat-talk that’s held up for ridicule there are dozen less obvious but equally ridiculous terms that have slipped through and started being used regularly and openly without anybody being so much as punched in the face.

I was in a meeting with a colleague and he was explaining how it would be a good idea to check some information before making a decision. He got half-way through the very clear and useful phrase ‘look at’, before cutting himself short and inserting the term ‘eyeball’ instead. Why did he do that? I thought. Why actively replace a phrase that’s conveying exactly what you need to say with one that’s meaningless? Did he suddenly realise that he’d sound way cooler saying “I’ll eyeball that information” and so snuck it in? I could almost have forgiven him for starting out with the toss-word in the first place, but to stop mid-flow and crowbar it in?

Unforgivable. I thought.

I meant to harm him for his crime and I should have done. But I didn’t because, quite frankly, I’m all talk. But the point was that nobody else noticed it. I’m sure of that.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the term bandwidth used to denote available resource, as in, “have you guys got the bandwidth to take that on?” The term is said completely free of irony. The real worrying thing is that people respond earnestly without even a flicker of amusement on their faces. And nobody gets punched.

And you don’t contact someone anymore, you reach out to them.

And instead of saying you haven’t read something, you can say I haven’t had sight of it, and still nobody will hurl you to the ground and stamp all over your face until you cry.

Piece. That’s one! You might not even have noticed it but I bet you any money* that it’s being used in your office right under your nose – if you work in an office of course. In fact, if you aren’t in that unfortunate position then you probably won’t really know or care what I’m talking about. Sorry. But anyway, piece, that’s one! Here’s an example of that innocuous and simple word being used in its new and completely bizarre corporate context.

The new sign-off policies are being implemented across the whole planning piece.

Piece is the one that baffles me the most. Normally the source is quite obvious, but this one is different. Normally the toss-terms are used to try and add gravitas to what’s being said, or just to make it sound a bit sexier (that’s another one by the way, in the old days sexy meant you’d like to fuck it, now it means something altogether less fun). ETA sounds pompous but at least you know what it means, cascading some information rather than just sending it out is daft but fathomable, and if someone says they’re giving you a heads-up, you know they’re giving you advance notice of something even though the fact that they’ve used that phrase shows that they’re clearly the type of person who gets moist around the glans over those diagrams that the Daily Mail print to accompany reports of an RAF bombing operation in the Middle East, with the big arrows looping out of the aircraft carrier and the three jump-jets in a line and some missiles with their trajectory indicated with another one of those arrows.

So, in case I’ve laboured too long there, I’ll get back to the point. Most of the twisted language that’s used to jazz up corporate dialogue can be translated fairly simply, but piece is another matter entirely.

Let’s look again at our example:

The new sign-off policies are being implemented across the whole planning piece.

A piece is a part. Planning is a part of the project. So far so good. But chopping the veg is a part of making a roast dinner, and you’d never say “I’ll action the veg chopping piece”, and if you did then the person to whom you were talking would smash you in the face with a baking tray, and you’d thank them for it.

So the buzz-cocks have taken piece metaphorically, like a chess piece perhaps. Or maybe a piece of cake. It’s a stretch but it could work.

But no. There’s an extra layer of weirdness when the buzz-cocks use piece, and yes, the word piece is starting to sound strange because of the repetition in this piece article. They often use it as in the example, pre-empted with ‘across’ or ‘across the whole… piece’. This makes less sense than a Badger preaching the gospel. When do you talk about something being across a piece? You don’t. What does it mean then?

I have a theory. I’m going to tell you my theory.

What I think, right, is that someone with an annoying shirt and bad cuff-links and an irritating auto-signature on his emails started using the term ‘right across the piste’ to mean the whole thing, across the board, that sort of caper. Get it? It’s a skiing reference, side to side, slaloming across the hillside, covering the whole of the… piste.

And what I think, right, is that someone misheard him.

And then copied him anyway.

*no money

4 Comments to “Buzzcocks”

  1. “I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the term bandwidth used to denote available resource” “resource”, surely you’ve fallen foul of the phraseology that you so fervently critique, they’re not resources they are people, in some cases I concede at best they are only a number to me but that’s due to my own disdain to the hoi polloi I am forced to work with.

    You should at least receive a chinese burn for such actions.

  2. Ah but I was using ‘resource’ as a collective term for both time and people so I win and am duly crowned king of everything!

    I think you should resign from your TV presenting/football management/parliamentary job, hold a contrite press conference or at least tweet an apology for being racist and using the phrase ‘chinese burn’.

  3. I hope you’re cognisant of the can of worms you’re opening up here

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