Bad Language

One of my myriad of pet hates is the rotting of the English language. And having been in Germany last week, (see previous postings), I have noted that it’s not unique to us, but our chums in the land of the Autobahn also feel it too. It’s not a new phenomenon, and in many cases, the shrinking of the world means we get some great words added to our vocabulary. If you are like me and fall about laughing when the wife bangs her head, you will also be a gleeful student of schadenfreude. You can also chuck in here comedy use of language: students of lower league football managers will also be aware of the glorious ‘bouncebackability’ as delivered by Ian Dowie (see also Ian Holloway and Kevin Keegan). Having worked for a US software company, they do appear to specialise in it. I have some favourites: ‘What’s the net net on this Graeme?’ (erm?) plus a raft of others too awful to mention.

I am running a totally unscientific poll today by the way. I’d love to hear from people about their favourite or worst examples of IT industry rubbish talk. It can be internal to your organisation or external, and will be unattributed unless you are happy having your name attached. I’ll write up the best next week, so get sending please, either via the comments box or email.

However, this is not the easy target of my ire today, rather the obfuscation of meaning (sic) through the use of jargon in our industry. And why is this important? Because the world of IA is a naturally geeky one, but we need to talk to other people to explain a) Why they need to pay attention, b) Why they need to take it seriously, and c) Why they need to pay for it. Some have postulated that we in IA are in a relatively happy place post CSR/SDSR, but my point is that unless we learn to explain in our mother tongue why it’s important, that’s not necessarily going to be the case.

One of the more joyful things I get to do is review documentation from SMEs (nope, Subject Matter Experts actually) from Government and industry, and then distill them into English for colleagues either here at Sophos or externally. I am constantly bemused by the point that they are trying to make. If I struggle to understand it, what chance has the chap in Legal, HR or Finance got? We need these people on board, and if we bury ourselves in geek, all we do is send them to sleep. I am still seeing presentations on Cloud that singularly DO NOT SAY WHAT IT IS. If we are presenting to each other, great (sort of). But we aren’t. So let’s be clearer next time.

Let me give you another example. The reason why Apple gets the press it does is because it has successfully managed to eclipse geeky stuff and present in English the things that matters to its customers. Do you think most iPad owners care what the OS is? Or what version it is? Nope. The messages that appeal to the iPad user is that it’s cool and does most of the things that someone would want from a laptop, but tells the world that the owner is a go-getting, thrusting, cutting-edge sort of person that should be bought a glass of fine wine and talked to in admiring tones. We need to take heed of this. Why should the Legal person be interested in IA? Because we stop them having to go before the Judge/Parliamentary Committee/Chairman to explain WHY the customer data got posted on the website. The Finance chap needs to know that actually, spending some money on Security saves in the long term the expense of compensating angry customers.

Right, message in a line time. Times are tough. Money is tight. Cyber is high on the priority list. Stop talking as if the person who is listening knows exactly what you mean when you talk about ‘polymorphic viruses’ or ‘DDoS’. They don’t. And they may think you sound like a right wally when you do.

And don’t forget to send me some examples of jargon please.


About Graeme Stewart, McAfee

I work for McAfee as Director of Public Sector Strategy and Relations, UK&I
This entry was posted in Cloud Computing, CSR, Legal, Security, Viruses. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bad Language

  1. Sarah Carter says:

    ooh. You are thinking outside the box aren’t you? I’m glad you reached out and touched base with me, so that we can externalise the problem, I’d like to think that we’ve strategised and got our ducks lined up in a row with the eggs. I wonder if you can walk the walk as well as talking the talk though and monetize the ecosystem? However, if I know you, you’ll take a 30,000 foot view, as you’re a robust team player with a dynamic market leader, so I’ll expect you to give me the ETA on delivering the value proposition of your customer oriented USP.

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