16th September, 2007
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I thought you might like to hear about something I saw on the M6 the other day. It was a plumber's van, featuring an sign that described it's owners service as 'plumbing solutions'. To compound the error, he went on to proclaim that he offered 'more than just plumbing'.
I wonder what exactly it is he offers that is more than just plumbing? Maybe he’s referring to tea drinking? Perhaps he means harshly sucking air in through his teeth before telling you that what he is about to do will necessitate a re-mortgage?
The point in this case is not the jargon. It's that the jargon has led him to say the opposite of what he means. Instead of, “we do really good plumbing” he is telling the world, “we do something that might be plumbing but in addition we do something else that we regard as more important. As a result, we could well screw up your plumbing while we are focusing on 'more than just plumbing’, which is what we really care about.”
I’ve been counselling my clients against putting random nonsense into their company names for years. Happily, they have listened but there are plenty of companies out there who haven’t listened. I hear Phillips Semiconductor is changing its name to NXP. The old name told everyone what the company did and the new one tells everyone precisely nothing.
However, jargon itself isn’t a bad thing if it comes to mean something useful. Without it we wouldn’t have most of the words in the English language. As a result, I don’t object to the phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’ anymore than I do Shakespeare creating words or phrases. After all, I think the world would be worse off without the words barefaced, critical, leapfrog, monumental, castigate, majestic, obscene, frugal, radiance, dwindle, countless, submerged, excellent, fretful, gust, hint, hurry, lonely, summit, and pedant for instance. We also owe Shakespeare phrases like ‘tower of strength’, ‘rhyme nor reason’ and ‘apple of my eye’.
So in my opinion let’s keep coining new words and phrases and discarding the useless ones. We would have difficulty using this ‘social networking’ software to ‘post a comment’ on a ‘Blog’ otherwise! I think the important advice is that no matter what language you are using to express yourself, make sure that what you are saying is what you intend to say.