Lawyers have their legalese. Academics have their own intra-academialogical post-linguistic theories. And it was only before the MBAs joined the fray with their own self-important syntax. If you’ve ever been in the sleek office setting of a start-up or some tech-savvy corporation, you’ve heard it. You may have even picked up on its tics to help you sound smarter, too; after all, that’s how it works.
Molly Young has a great new piece at Vulture about this phenomenon, which she has coined “Garbage Language.” Her article is full of insight not only into the ways that we do and don’t communicate, but also how that reflects the other issues inherent in these kinds of office cultures:
[G]arbage language works because garbage is what we produce mindlessly in the course of our days and because it smells horrible and looks ugly and we don’t think about it except when we’re saying that it’s bad, as I am right now.
But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.
When we adopt words that connect us to a larger project — that simultaneously fold us into an institutional organism and insist on that institution’s worthiness — it is easier to pretend that our jobs are more interesting than they seem. Empowerment language is a self-marketing asset as much as anything else: a way of selling our jobs back to ourselves.
It’s a long-ish article, but unlike that padded-out garbage language, the diction is actually substantial and useful.
Garbage Language [Molly Young / Vulture]
Image: Canva Studios / Pexels (Public Domain)
Over at The Startup on Medium, David Laws, semiconductor curator at the wonderful Computer History Museum, has prepared a fascinating guide to Silicon Valley’s “high-tech heritage trail exploring places that housed the early stirrings of the digital revolution.” Covering the “30-mile corridor from Stanford University to the former IBM disk-drive campus,” Laws visits dozens of […]
Brian Feldman of The Intelligencer interviewed New York Times reporter Mike Isaac about his new book, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber. I haven’t read too many start-up histories but Super Pumped is the only one I’ve read that has a significant amount of violence. Uber drivers are pressured to keep driving in adversarial conditions […]
Mountain View — home to some of Silicon Valley’s most profitable companies, including Google — is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, thanks to the sky-high wages commanded by techies, who have gone on to bid up all the real-estate in the region.
For many, the results of a basic DNA test done by one of the major genealogy companies will satisfy their curiosity. Those findings give users the chance to see where they’re from, maybe discover basic health markers they should know and possibly learn about a 4th or 5th cousin or two. And that’s usually as […]
If you’ve recently faced a major shift in where you work — as in, from an actual office to your home — you’re probably in need of a little assistance to help you navigate that transition more smoothly. Or, maybe you’ve always worked from home, and now the rest of the world is catching up […]
You won’t find many Python programming fans who aren’t vocal Python programming fans. And after years of steadily rising up the list of the web’s most popular programming disciplines, the user-friendly language notched a major milestone earlier this year, tying with Java as the second-most-used language among coders. So why the steady rise toward the […]