Every decade seems to have its particular buzz words that roar through the culture and become mantras in media, business and political lexicons, then disappear after few years like Boy George. Topping the business charts in the 1970 was the very buzzy 'Management by Objective'- MBO. CEOs and Governors twitched with excitement over it. And remember 'synergism,' in the 1980s? It sounded vaguely sexual. America was going through one of its frequent merger cycles and 'synergy' was the yellow brick road. That is, until 'vertical integration came along.' And who can ever forget 'solution' as in 'We are the solution to your....fill in the blanks' - a huge hit during the high-tech boom which, in turn, expanded to include 'end-to-end solution.' At the same time, the news media lexicon was echoing with the phrase 'creative non-fiction' in response to their increasing competition from the internet. This was often mis-interpreted by reporters like Jason Blair, late of the New York Times, who thought 'creative non-fiction' meant you could actually make up people and things. Some buzz words morph into new versions of the same meaning. For example, up until the 1980s, companies either 'fired' or softer, 'laid off' employees" Then, 'laid off' became 'down-sizing' which was bleached into 'right-sizing,' which is now called 'outsourcing.' Or the current use of the Iraq buzzword, 'surge' which used to be called 'escalation.' Some buzzwords tend to linger on well beyond their sell-by date like 'AnyTechThing 4.0' Microsoft dropped the numbers thing years ago. You get the idea.
May we submit for your approval the Best Buzzwords of the Past Year. Please feel free to add to the list.
1) Authentic : It is THE political buzzword. Can you imagine if Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney get their party's nominations? 'Authentic' will be major. He has taken both sides on key issues and is viewed by some as too Central Casting to be real. She's perceived as a manufactured candidate, pandering to win at any cost. Then there's candidate Ron Paul, who comes across as Uncle Cranky but 'authentic,' because you get that he genuinely believes in his not-for-mainstream Libertarian positions. Look for 'authentic' to migrate* to the business world.
2) Transparent: Here's a buzzword that is embedded* in all levels of culture. It started in the business world following the Enron-Arthur Anderson-WorldCom-etc scandals. Corporations now strive for transparency in all their accounting and customer processes. Politicians talk about making government more 'transparent' on the heels of secrecy charges. Psychologists talk about 'transparent" relationships.
3) Bandwidth: It started out strictly as a tech word but has now replaced 'capacity.' throughout the non-tech business world. It has even crept into the HR lexicon as in, 'Does she have the bandwidth to do the job?'
4) Google: This buzzword has legs. It has gone well beyond buzz to become an actual verb, an action. It's like Kleenex is to tissues. Google is now synonymous with the whole concept of search. Looking for a plumber? Google it. Google has also come to signify status. If your name does not show up on a Google search, you are not a player.
The problem with buzz words is, the more they're used the more they lose their meaning. In a few years, 'authentic' will be used to describe reality TV. 'Transparent' will be with us for a while until folks realize that sheer transparency is like pure democracy. It requires parameters. And 'bandwidth' will become so ubiquitous, it will probably show up in a Jenny Craig commercial referring to our waists.
* Runners-up for buzzwords of the decade.