Jargon Drives Me Crazy

The owner of a car lot narrated the following radio ad:

“…These cars are heavily incentivized…”


I’ve heard of “offering incentives.”

But incentivized?  I had to check it out. Sure enough, it’s in the dictionary, and it means “to give incentives to.” Another form of the verb is incentivizing (what a mouthful!).

I stand corrected. Incentivized really is a word. But is it the appropriate word to use when advertising cars — or anything, for that matter?

I hate it when people use big, impressive-sounding words when small ones will do.

What could the car salesman have said instead of, “These cars are heavily incentivized”?

How about:

  • Buy this car today, and you’ll get a $2,000 rebate.
  • Our cars are priced to sell.
  • No one is buying our cars during this recession, and we’re panicking. To keep from going out of business, we’re offering you the best discount ever.

OK, that last one probably wouldn’t work, even though it’s closest to the truth.

Which brings up another jargony phrase that drives me nuts: economic downturn.

Sounds so soft, palatable, and hopeful, doesn’t it? We all know we’re in the middle of a recession; just call it what it is!

Then there’s leverage.

Whenever I attend business meetings, people talk about leveraging this and that. The word started out as a noun that means “power or ability to influence people, events, decisions,” or “to get a high return off one’s investment.”  Now converted into a verb, it’s batted around in the marketing world like a beach ball. People must think “leveraging” makes them sound important and educated.

Yes, I understand it’s easier to say, “Let’s leverage our investment” instead  of, “Let’s shoot for a high return on our investment.”

But it would comfort me to hear people speaking like human beings and not robots.

Here are more hundred dollar words I detest:

  • Irrefutably: Michael Phelps is irrefutably the world record holder in several swimming events.
  • I concur: I concur with your hypothesis, Sherlock.
  • Wherewithal and doggedly: The detective had the wherewithal to doggedly pursue the kidnapper.
  • Precipitate and hereby: Your actions hereby precipitate a lawsuit.

…And even more jargon bandied about at a conference I recently attended:

  • Knowledge worker set
  • Change management
  • Best practices
  • Green space
  • End users
  • Information assets
  • Enterprise space
  • Social technologies

Your turn! What hundred dollar words grate like fingers on a chalkboard? How many can you cram into one sentence?

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  • http://www.thermostatz.com temperature controller

    Jargon and buzzwords drive me mad and I’m not taking it anymore! …. but I think the language would drive me crazy “moving forward”. .

  • Rachel

    How about ‘preventative’ vs. ‘preventive’ or ‘recur’ vs. ‘reoccur’? Sadly some words are begrudgingly allowed as correct in writing simply because of usage. Use a word incorrectly enough times and it is accepted like squatter’s rights or common law marriage. Four out of five of my friends interchange the pronunciation of ‘nuclear’ with ‘nucular’ and turn ‘vehemently’ into ‘vehemenently.” But as to jargon, my recent favorites are social networking, urban dictionary, information super highway.

  • Scribe Jillbratcher@gmail.com

    “Pro-active bugs me, but that’s probably more because of who told me in the late 80s it was going to be “the new phrase” – a boss who treated me

    And I’ll forgive your dislike of “wherewithal” (which I love) because you were such a wonderful keynote speaker this weekend in Castro Valley. :D

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Jill – Thank you for forgiving me! “Wherewithal” is kind of fun when you just look at the word by itself. It’s so Victorian-sounding.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Rachel – I think I may be guilty of “preventative.” I’ll have to work on that one.

    Ooh…. “nucular” drives me nuts! Former President Bush always pronounced it that way and it made him sound so hillbillyish.

    One time I heard a keynote speaker who shall remain nameless refer to the “information super highway” as the “super information highway.” I kind of like the mistake better!

  • http://jbmthinks.com Janisbmeredith

    One of my co-workers Ken Jones taught at a writer’s conference with you last week. He pointed me to your blog since I am a blogger (http://jbmthinks.com). I love what you say here! I think you have a new fan.
    I also work with Ken in communications at our church.

  • Laura

    Hey, thanks, Janis! I remember meeting Ken amid the sea of other faces. Glad to have you in the Blogging Bistro fold.


  • Mmoser

    “Change management” sounds awful! I think my least favorite word batted around my work place is “approach.” It just irritates me.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Do they use “approach” as a verb (as in, “Let us approach the problem…”) or as a noun (as in, “We will address the problem using the following approach.”).