Corporate jargon; variously known as corporate speak, corporate lingo, business speak, business jargon, management speak, workplace jargon, corporatese, or commercialese; is the jargon often used in large corporations, bureaucracies, and similar workplaces. Marketing speak is a related label for wording styles used to promote a product or service. When referred to by such terms, the language register is generally being presented in a negative light or disapprovingly. It is often considered to be needlessly obscure or, alternatively, used to disguise an absence of information. Its use in corporations and other large organisations has been widely noted in media.
Coinage and use
Corporate speak is associated with managers of large corporations, business management consultants, and occasionally government. Reference to such jargon is typically derogatory, implying the use of long, complicated, or obscure words; abbreviations; euphemisms; and acronyms. For that reason some of its forms may be considered as an argot. Some of these words may be neologisms or inventions, designed purely to fit the specialized meaning of a situation or even to "spin" negative situations as positive situations, for example in the practice of greenwashing. Although it is pervasive in the education field, its use has been criticized as reflecting a sinister view of students as commodities and schools as retail outlets.
The use of corporate jargon is criticised for its lack of clarity as well as for its tedium, making meaning and intention opaque and understanding difficult. It is also criticized for not only enabling delusional thoughts, but allowing them to be seen as an asset in the workplace. Corporate jargon has been criticized as "pompous" and "a tool for making things seem more impressive than they are". Steven Poole writes that it is "engineered to deflect blame, complicate simple ideas, obscure problems, and perpetuate power relations".
Marketing speak is a related label for wording styles used to promote a product or service to a wide audience by seeking to create the impression that the vendors of the service possess a high level of sophistication, skill, and technical knowledge. Such language is often used in marketing press releases, advertising copy, and prepared statements read by executives and politicians.
Many corporate-jargon terms have straightforward meanings in other contexts (e.g., leverage in physics, or picked up with a well-defined meaning in finance), but are used more loosely in business speak. For example, a deliverable can become any service or product. The word team had specific meanings in agriculture and in sport before becoming a ubiquitous synonym for a group spanning one or more levels in a corporate organisation.
The phrases going forward or moving forward make a confident gesture towards the future, but are generally vague on timing, which usually means they can be removed from a sentence with little or no effect on its overall meaning.
Corporate speak in non-English-speaking countries frequently contains borrowed English acronyms, words, and usages.Russian-speakers, for instance, may eschew native constructions and use words such as лидер (literally: lider for 'leader') or adopt forms such as пиарщик (piarshchik for 'PR specialist').
Jargon, like other manifestations of language, can change over time; and management fads may influence management-speak. Thus the much-maligned use of the term empowerment may have peaked about 2004 before declining.[original research?]
- Buzzword bingo
- Corporate communication
- Corporate identity
- Corporate propaganda
- Military terminology
- Weasel word
- Bryan A. Garner (28 July 2009). "Commercialese". Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 168–69. ISBN 978-0-19-987462-0. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- Sandberg, Jared (24 October 2006). "The Jargon Jumble: Kids Have 'Skeds,' Colleagues, 'Needs'". Wall Street Journal.
- Darics, Erika (29 June 2016). "Looking under the bonnet of annoying management speak". The Conversation.
- Gorsevski, Ellen W. (2015). "Chipotle Mexican Grill's Meatwashing Propaganda". In Samuel Boerboom (ed.). Language of Food. Lexington Books. pp. 201–225. ISBN 978-1-4985-0556-7. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
- Mulheron, Maurie (August 5, 2013). "Corporate-speak reflects a sinister ideology". Surry Hills Education. 94 (7): 8.
- Linnell, Garry (17 March 2017). "Going forward, corporatese should be confined to the dustbin". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Young, Molly (20 February 2020). "Garbage Language Why do corporations speak the way they do?". Vulture.
- Poole, Steven (25 April 2013). "10 of the worst examples of management-speak". The Guardian.
List, B.; Schiefer, J.; Tjoa, A. M. (2003). "Process-Oriented Requirement Ananlysis Supporting the Data Warehouse Design process - A Use Case Driven Approach". Database and Expert Systems Applications: 11th International Conference, DEXA 2000 London, UK, September 4-8, 2000 Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Vol. 1873. Berlin: Springer. p. 601. ISBN 9783540444695. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
[...] the purpose of each business process is to offer each customer the right product or service (that is, the right deliverable) [...].
- "team". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- Brians, Paul (19 May 2016). "Going forward". Common Errors in English Usage and More. Retrieved 29 July 2022 – via Washington State University.
Owen, Jo (3 October 2020). "Responsibility". The Leadership Skills Handbook: 100 Essential Skills You Need to be a Leader (5th ed.). London: Kogan Page Publishers. p. 9. ISBN 9781789666700. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
Responsibility is massively abused in management speak. Most people's hearts sink when responsibility comes into the conversation: it is rarely a positive development.
- Cierpich, Agnieszka (2018). "English-Polish contacts in corporate speak". Socjolingwistyka [Sociolinguistics]. 32: 91–106. doi:10.17651/SOCJOLING.32.6. ISSN 2545-0468; (in English). See pp. 102–103 for examples. (Direct PDF download – 341 kB)
Korczynski, Marek; Hodson, Randy; Edwards, Paul K., eds. (2006). Social Theory at Work. Oxford University Press. p. 40. ISBN 9780199285976. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
... what in managementspeak is 'empowerment' is more accurately described as degradation. ...
- "empowerment" usage: 1960-2019 Google Books Ngram Viewer[original research?]
- Bryan Garner (2011). Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195384208., regarded as an authoritative guide to legal language, and aimed at the practicing lawyer.
- Maria Fraddosio, New ELS: English for Law Students (Naples, Edizioni Giuridiche Simone, 2008) is a course book for Italian University Students.
- BBCi (2006) "Workplace jargon isolates staff" 
- Reef Business Information (2006) "Managers unable to communicate with staff," Personnel Today
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- Jargon Grader Database of over 700 corporate jargon terms
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