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Sprachen vous Appointees?

by Barrie Blake Coleman


Look at any job vacancy supplement these days and you may be forgiven for believing that the English language has little resemblance to the vocabulary employed by the big recruitment agencies.  This corruption of English is being labelled Appointees, and in comparison, Eurospeak is a paradigm of comprehension.


So convoluted is the terminology that the story of the young metallurgist who inadvertently applied for a marketing executives job described as requiring ‘core matrix analysis’ and responsibilities ‘tasked to weld and unite separate elements’ isn’t far apocryphal.


Squirm as you may, as superlatives run into idiom and jargon yields to buzzword.  Ah, but were it just buzzwords – no such luck!  Mrs Malaprop might refer to it as bollix.  There is a perceptible competition between the agency copywriters, each trying to out-buzz the other, so that every week there is yet another semantic mess.  In this world, teapots are ‘beverage infusion vessels’ and spades are not called spades anymore – ‘earth transit devices’ are what they are.  Each affectation fits the current trend to obscure the cracks in some of life’s hard truths.  It’s all down to perception, appearances and image.  In this Brave New World, public exposure to what we are (or do) shames the delicate social conscience.  The levellers found a salve.  If the big boys can have ego inflating titles, why not exploit it at the other end of the ladder by creating camouflage for menial and low status occupations.  True, the disguise is transparent, but after all, the intention is simply to bolster employee’s self-esteem.  Aggrandising roles is easily done with pretentious titles.  Dustmen become refuse disposal officers, sewer men are now sanitary inspection engineers, while hospital patients have turned into ‘clients’.  The whole thing is insidious.

The vocabulary of the marketer and role maker now applies to all sectors of the job market.  Pretentious ill usage of words modifies thought (to paraphrase Bacon) and this has the corollary of obscuring right thinking and common sense.  Unfortunately artificiality, imagery and similar mental deceits, have started to invade our lives so much that it has come to distort even the way once sacrosanct jobs, hitherto immune from mister marketing man, are filled.  Previously it would have been anathema for an academic post to be advertised using anything except plain English.  Regrettably, no more.


Our metallurgist might well have smiled to himself having seen one vacancy inviting applicants with a ‘solid degree in metallurgy’ but he would have little understanding of ‘Downsizing’ or ‘Downcosting’, ‘Rightsizing’ or ’Smartsizing’.  What happened to ‘rationalising’, cost reduction, self-regulating (if this is what these compounds mean)?


Job candidates, poor souls, now need to be equipped with skills far beyond human attainment.  A ‘record of over-achievement’ was wanted for one vacancy – actually sounding as though it were a character defect.  Clairvoyants are in demand to ‘initiate foresight programs’ which simply can’t be the same as ‘tactical forecasting’ or ‘mission defensive attitudes’ – can it?  Acting as an expediter means your role will be facilitative and thus you will probably have a ‘proven success in business empowerment’.


To the uninitiated, this does not mean a thing, which is good really, because it doesn’t mean a thing to anyone else either (but you can bet your life your friendly recruitment consultant will want to see it on your CV!).


Increasing company strengths and expertise will mean ‘expanding further into their competency areas’ whilst ‘pioneering approaches’ is a simile for trailblazers who forgot to light the fire.  In one instance, the successful candidate would be comfortable with undertaking ‘extensive and targeted analysis with prestigious provider units’ which is lovely alliteration (!) but conveys ‘sod-all’ unless you divine that the last bit refers to notable suppliers of a particular product.


Sometimes the seduction is overpowering, ‘energetic self-starters’ used to be just plain ol ‘self-motivated’ but even that isn’t good enough now.  The winner is the man with ‘a huge strength of character to achieve goals’ having a ‘global reach’ and an ‘entrepreneurial flair’.  Add the ability to be ‘product arena focussed’ (i.e. concentrate on your market?) and superman has arrived.  We stand bedazzled by those able to ‘implement time critical solutions’ (timely answers) or ‘mission critical solutions’ (actions necessary to complete the task?).


Even worse is ‘implementation of enterprise wide IS program’ which one supposes has something to do with a resourceful approach to IS whatever that IS.


Does design of ‘fault resilient’ (equipment) mean the same as unconditionally reliable, dependable, infallible, or what?  Isn’t fail-safe the buzz-word we once endured, or is that old fashioned?

Does personnel skilled in ‘prove-in trials’ mean anything, anywhere, to anyone, in any context?  It has to be the new university course of the future, this ‘Appointees’.  A first in English will only rate you a pass in Appointees.  Journalists, now abed, will think themselves cheated they missed out on a formal course in the new lingua franca.


R.I.P. the Plain English Society, all things must pass, it’s a well-known fact that anyone who can interpret the adverts gobbledygook gets the job – now, where’s my CV?

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