Buzzword Bingo

by Tom on March 12, 2004

Yeah, the guys over here probably think they’re pretty hot stuff, right?

After all, it’s definitely a very cool thing to be able to print off your own specially configurable buzzword card from the web, take it to the next buttock-shrivelling meeting you have to attend, patiently tick off the matches against your boss’s (or boss’s boss’s boss’s) tedious meanderings, and finally get yourself fired by standing up during his/her peroration and shouting ‘Bingo!’

I can’t be the only one, can I?

But I’m afraid that synergizing, leveraging and proactivity (so last century), just won’t cut it any more. I learned at a presentation today that the cool kids have moved on:

Once upon a time, benighted souls referred to ‘ways of dealing with people’, but now, we have engagement models instead. Aren’t you glad?

Better yet, consider the case of disintermediation, a bloody awful word if ever there was one, but which did at least once have a meaning, namely ‘getting rid of the man in the middle’.

It now seems to be used to mean ‘placing oneself in the middle when one really shouldn’t be’, the precise opposite. (Example usage: ‘If you find my guys are disintermediating you, tell them to get out of the way, and then tell me so I can fire them’).

(I’m supposing that this semantic shift reflects the fact that being able to say ‘disintermediation’ an hour into a meeting is a mark of exceptional, rather suspicious, and evidently promotable keenness, and thus that attention to the obvious literal meaning of the word looks pretty effete and is frankly an indication of sackability. That’s a terrible word also, in every way.)

Finally, I can offer to managers the rousing cheer that one is raising the bar so that you guys can swing from it.

Nobody present had sufficient courage to ask whether a noose would be involved, but my making that observation evidently reflects no more than deficiencies in my own reserves of can do, an old favourite I don’t hear as often as I’d expect.

Look sharp, CT’ers. I’m looking for some other good examples to add to my own Bingo Card. Suggestions?



alan 03.12.04 at 9:58 pm

Disintermediation? The word is not listed in the 163 pages of dis… words in my Oxford English Dictionary. If we accept the sense “reversal of action” of the prefix “dis”, plus the word intermediation, which is in the O.E.D., it is a legitimate, if ugly and pretentious, word. It is another tiresome example of replacing a clear, simple phrase made up of short words with a polysyllabic Latinate construction to sound important.

This sort of nonsense abounds in the Harvard Business Review. I flicked open a copy at random and found “Traditional channel strategies proceed directly from market segmentation”. Being able to say that is obviously worth $500,000 a year. Only a laughably unimportant simpleton would say “Bring the product to the customer”.


John Quiggin 03.12.04 at 10:09 pm

My own last-century favourite “run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” gets a good listing.

On the other hand, I couldn’t find “taking ownership” (that is, of some plan the boss has dreamed up for you to implement).


Tom Runnacles 03.12.04 at 10:38 pm

John Q,

If I remember right, the flagpole thing can be traced back to ‘Twelve Angry Men’, in which it’s a line given to the irritating adman who comes round to Henry Fonda’s point of view eventually.

As to ‘taking ownership’, feh, I hear that one so often that I barely even see it as being a buzzword anymore. I believe I even ‘took ownership’ of something today, shortly after after being ‘actioned’ to do so.

How do you type the sound of vomiting?


Mary 03.13.04 at 12:11 am

“adding value” is a favourite.

Incidently, people I know call it Bullshit Bingo. I’m trying to make this leap myself. It’s been actioned.


bonkydog 03.13.04 at 12:30 am

‘If I “take ownership” of this project, do I get to keep any profit it generates? I mean after all, I OWN it, right?’


liberal japonicus 03.13.04 at 12:44 am

Fun faculty meeting games. More challenging is that you have to announce that you have bingo by saying it during the meeting. ‘When the students come to this program, I’m hoping that they will say ‘bingo!, this is an opportunity I want to take advantage of.’

Another bingo possibility is to list the annoying tics of other faculty on a bingo card, so when faculty member X sniffs three three times in an attempt to take the floor, bingo!

A more challenging variant is to meet before the faculty meeting and make a random list of words and assign them to the various participants. The goal is to use the word in the faculty meeting. Really tough when you draw a word like ‘wildebeast’


GC 03.13.04 at 1:21 am

(home to the famous Bruno Latour action figure, as well)


Jeremy Osner 03.13.04 at 3:06 am

John, that “flagpole” thing took me right back — the only place I have ever seen that phrase used was in the comic strip “Pogo” by Walt Kelly, during a discussion of one of Albert Alligator’s endless stream of business models, when Howland Owl and Churchy La Femme were discussing how to market the scheme.


humeidayer 03.13.04 at 3:12 am


morvern callar 03.13.04 at 9:46 am


andrew 03.13.04 at 10:37 am

“Skill-set” screams insecure middle management, not sure what they get paid for…


gemma 03.13.04 at 11:05 am

“Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it” is obviously an army expression, dating from at least WWII. Like many such expressions, it was once witty but has now grown stale.


Mrs Tilton 03.13.04 at 11:37 am

I was in a meeting once with some shockingly expensive consultants and our mutual client. The most voluble of the consultants used the term ‘milestone champion’. So far as I can tell, the English for this would be ‘the person responsible for getting done some particular aspect of the task at hand’. I am pleased to be able to report that the consultants were, not long after that, reverse-integrated (shall we say) into the project.


morvern callar 03.13.04 at 12:28 pm

… “disintermediation” might even make it into the Oxford dictionary:

(the author of the website is a contributor to the OED)


meg 03.13.04 at 5:27 pm

“Sigma Quality Control”


Mrs Tilton 03.13.04 at 9:11 pm

Ah, but how many Sigmas, Meg?

I settle for nothing less than seven meself.

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