"What do you think?"
This seemingly innocuous question came out of nowhere, but, in the silence that followed, I began to realise (with some horror) that it had been directed at me.
This was not good news.
I had, for the previous 10 to 15 minutes, been singularly failing to pay any sort of attention whatsoever, losing track of the main meetings agenda, instead finding myself recording a series of words and phrases, all employed during the meeting, which had left me feeling utterly bewildered.
I've already noted (in earlier posts) my semi-schizophrenic relationship with 'double-speak', the euphemism, misinformation, verbal camouflage and techno-babble that officials often resort to when they wish to disguise 'the truth' or make it more palatable to a general audience (by making it totally incomprehensible). On the one hand I can't help but admire double-speak (for its sheer, naked artistry); on the other I utterly despise it (for confusing simple-minded people like myself). Gobbledegook has bleed into all areas of the modern world, archaeology being no exception (hence the term 'archaeospeak' which is thrown at the profession every time it uses terms like 'ground intervention' instead of 'trench' or ‘Hypothetico-deductive explanation' instead of 'a wild guess' ).
Excising legitimate forms of speech through a word-based form of “regime-change” serves only to create an ever increasing gulf of incomprehension between speaker and listener, which, in the case of archaeology in particular, serves only to switch people off. All practitioners (and not just archaeologists) have, in my mind, a public duty to speak honestly and directly about their profession avoiding all attempts at doublespeak; unless of course they really don't want people to know what it is they do (just in case anyone finds out that their job isn't really all that important).
To begin with I had assumed that the management buzz-words employed in this particular meeting were pretty much incomprehensible to one and all, and, to be honest, I was waiting for someone to snap, slam their fists on the table and shriek "what in billyo are you talking about?".
But no one did.
Looking round the room I saw only a mass of nodding heads, all moving in synchronised mutual agreement. This was all obviously making some kind of sense to them....perhaps, I began to think, it was just me?
For the record (and for my own sanity), I append my list, compiled in those 15 minutes adrift in a sea of verbal incomprehension, of management doublespeak which I did not then (nor since) fully understand:
We need to touch base on that A-Sap
I guess "A-Sap" is a verbalisation of A.S.A.P. ('as soon as possible'), but 'touching base'....? Don't know, but it really does sound unaccountably rude. I've heard people use this particular term before, but have never really worked out quite what it means. Is it a sporting metaphor? Are there 'base-touchers' in baseball (probably) / rounders / cricket / some-other-sport-i've-never-heard-of? (or is, as I suspect, the idea of touching someone's base a form of improper contact for which one can be summarily imprisoned?).
That's par for the course
I'm guessing (again) that this is a sporting analogy / metaphor...probably golf-related. I've never fully got the hang of this particular ‘sport’, so I can’t be totally sure, though I have to say that the phrase certainly proved popular in the meeting (three different people using it at various intervals – perhaps there are more golfers in the world than I had thought).
Let's run that up the flagpole
erm...at a guess I would suggest this is a metaphor for trying something out (akin to 'let's stick our heads over the battlements and see if they get blown off our shoulders' sort of thing...) but I really wouldn't like to bet on it.
Can we take this offline?
I think this means 'let's not talk about this here (in front of witnesses)'
The platform requires significant incentivisation before it can move forward
I wrote this down just as it was spoken - then looked at the phrase repeatedly as it sat menacingly on the page. In the cold light of day, and with much subsequent thought, I'm still not exactly sure what it means. Can a platform be incentivised (whatever that entails) or even move for that matter? Platforms are large, solid, utterly immobile features that people stand on in order to wait for a train....aren't they....?
This news will inevitably cascade down
like a waterfall...? Is this a good thing?
I'm afraid that this has really come at us from under the radar
I guess this means that a particular situation or scenario has caused some degree of surprise?
Can we move forward before the close of play?
er....can somebody please do something before we all go home for dinner and slump in front of the One Show (or some other great televisual feast)?
Let's workshop later
no...sorry…lost me completely. Is 'workshop' a verb?
It's all a bit too shopfront for me
Excusez-moi, parlez-vous Anglais?
My favourite piece of doublespeak in the meeting, however, was the rather spectacular:
The problem as I see it is that things are too top down - we really need to be more bottom up
Now, I'm an open-minded, liberal kinda guy and, if somebody wants 'bottom-up' then, by all means, I think they should have it....it's just that I'm not altogether sure that a management meeting is really the place to discuss this sort of thing. Anyway, suppressing a rather school-boyish-type snigger (from hearing the words 'bottom' and 'up' in an otherwise serious conversation), I became horribly aware that all eyes were now turning towards me.
"What do you think?"
That question again. There had clearly (just) been some sort of a discussion in which my lack of participation had been noted and for which my thoughts were now being requested.
I cleared my throat.
I cleared my throat.