The obvious creep of unnecessary English

I’ve been berated for the number of times I use the word obvious too many times during my time at the company I work for. However I know that its not just me that has this problem: I can’t help but listen to some of the sales staff and I find it almost ridiculous how many times the word gets used.

At the end of the 80s, it was the word ‘like’ – and is still a common word if we’re all honest. In the mid 1990s, it’s arguable that it was the word ‘whatever’. All over the country, we hear the word ‘innit’ – especially among the younger sections of society. In parts of the South East and in particular London, it’s the phrase ‘Know what I mean?’. And in workplaces across England, it’s the word ‘obvious’ and its adverb variation ‘obviously’.

Consistently the English language becomes infested with words and phrases. They find their way into everyday speech as a vocabulary fad and surface repeatedly, like some sort of habitual expression addiction.

Obvious is far from the only word which has found itself in high-rotation on the lips of British workers. The use of ambiguous business jargon, phrases and acronyms are rolled out frequently with careless disregard for audience comprehension – drill down, fire fighting, moving target, journey not a destination, and process management are just several examples that the editorial team deal with on a daily basis where I work.

Three letter acronyms are trotted out in a vain attempt to exhibit expertise in a certain area, to veil a lack of understanding or accidentally-on-purpose confuse the listener. Acronyms often have a huge variety of meanings which can differ greatly from one industry to another. Even the acronym, TLA, meaning three letter acronym has a total of 72 current meanings including: top level aggregation, text link ads, total laboratory automation, thin layer activation and two location algorithm. Those are just some of the business related uses let alone the mobile phone short hand meanings such as True Love Always or Textual Laugh Attack.

When so much time is spent on the phone dealing with clients, attending conferences and taking advantage of networking opportunities, I think it’s a good idea to consider the background of the listener(s) and make sure people are actually following what you say. And remember, limit the use of the word obvious. Especially don’t start the answer to a question with the word obviously. Obviously it wasn’t obvious otherwise they obviously wouldn’t have asked the question…obviously.

T. Brown and Olsoweir

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