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Speaking Plainly

September 20, 2012

I was a business reporter for 23 years. This is typical of the business jargon I encountered:

Prior to, or immediately upon executing egress from the self-enclosed module, it is incumbent to achieve the maximum diminution of illumination re: standard procedure to optimize cost-effective initiatives vis a vis utility and/or other documented/budgeted expenses.

That means: Turn the light off when you leave the room to save money on the electric bill.

I don’t know how many times while I was interviewing a CEO or COO or CMO, or someone else whose title consisted of the alphabet, that I asked after he or she was was done speaking: “Does that mean you’re raising prices?”

Every industry has jargon so that its members can communicate with one another, but so much of it is dreck. At the least it should be colorful and amusing, vis a vis the following:

One order of Becky’s eggs,  cup of mud with the lights out and zeppelins in the alley.

That’s diner jargon, spoken by waiters and waitresses long ago. The translation: Bacon and eggs, coffee without cream and sausages on the side.

If you ordered roast duck the waiter might tell you, “Eighty-six on the quack-quack,” eighty-six meaning “We’re out of” and quack-quack meaning, well, you know.

It’s a lot more amusing than having someone tell you to “think outside the box.” Businesses have to be officious, I suppose, to be taken seriously. That’s what I was always told. My reply was that “Dr. Strangelove” was damned serious but it was also funny as hell.

And so it’s nearly dinner time here in Chicago, and tonight I’m going out to have one chewed fine (make it cry) in a fog, a velvet, large dog soup (hold the hail), and nervous pudding for dessert.

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