May 20, 2010 by Preeks
When I was in Class 11, we had a story in English. It was an Anton Chekhov love story, and needless to say, my English teacher was swept away with emotions when she was reading it to us. In a moment of utter epiphany, she remarked, “The lead character is not in love. She is in love with the idea of being in love.” I know, the statement isn’t exactly the best concoction of words you have ever heard, but for me, at that age, this was a huge deal!
For the next three months or so, every alternate answer in my English Exam answer sheet had someone in love with the idea of something. So, for an essay on the “Boons and Banes of Technology”, I wrote how we were all in love with the idea of automation, but were not exactly ready to take up automation. This still made sense. There were far worse ones. For instance, on a question about whether I agreed or disagreed with the author, I wrote “I am all for the idea of agreeing with the author, but I do not actually agree with him.” That clearly showed my ineptitude to make a decision about the author’s view and that was when my English teacher told me sweetly, that a phrase used too often, becomes a cliché, and more often than not, it is unwelcome.
Phuussss. My bubble had burst.
Since then I have had this knack of looking out for clichés, and words that suddenly become clichés. While it is a lot of fun doing that, I have to say, clichéd terms at the workplace tend to irritate the skin out of me. And, let’s face it, there are too many of them to ignore. Every few weeks, our office has a new buzzword, and we use that term incessantly, in every presentation, in every meeting, in every client call, in every workshop, in our sleep, in our nightmares, till some genius discovers a new jargon to adopt! I, by a self imposed rule, do not take up any of these clichés. Silent Observer me is!
When I had first joined office, all we could talk about was GTM or Go-To-Market strategies. Irrespective of whether the product was to go to the market or not, we were asked to make this “Strategy”, which by the way is another cliché, beware! The clients, I am sure, wondered what the big deal was with going to the market, but we just harped on about it!
Then the big Boss went to a conference where he heard the term “Story behind the product”. For the next few weeks, we were making up stories, for our products. Some were sensible, some were sad, most were comical, but when one horror story came up, we knew it was time for a new buzzword!
That’s when my favorite one, and the reigning leader came up. “Due Diligence”! Suddenly, we have been ascertaining “due diligence” for everything from Contracts, to deals, to leave applications, to Ms. Valentine nomination, to office party locations! Quite literally E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
Other trite vocabulary which are on my Chartbusters list of worst cliches, losing the top spot narrowly, would be Strategy, innovation, excellence and value addition! Like Hugh MacLeod would say, most of us wouldn’t know strategy if it jumped on our tables and danced in front of us, but we are okay using these big words!
I guess it is not that big a problem; it’s just that my painful history doesn’t let me be fine with clichés. I am learning though. I am not in love with clichés, though I am already in love with the idea of clichés. 😉
Picture Courtesy: Gaping Void