Buzzword Bulletin

Buzzword is shorthand for what were traditionally known as vogue words, terms, or phrases. And, as always, some come, some go, and some stick around forever. Bottom line has been with us since the mid-1960s, inhibition for just over a century (thank you, Sigmund Freud). What has changed is the speed with which these newcomers gain currency.

If buzzwords cause no harm, they wear out their welcome when used to excess and are seen as just one more cliché – or, to surrender and use a prime example, jump the shark. Constant repetition of virtually anything tends to annoy, and no sooner did at the end of the day fade than a new batch of buzzwords caught fire: throw him under the bus, kick the can down the road, double down, pivot, absolutist, baked in (this one fresh from the word oven!), and the adult in the room  – the last perhaps from the elephant in the room, this decade’s metaphor of choice for a big idea or hard truth left unspoken.

There is no compelling reason to drop the aforementioned (and countless other) buzzwords or phrases from your speech, but it’s wise to steer clear of them when writing. Without question, your choice of words matters to one degree or another, and embracing the trendy too enthusiastically may paint you as predictable and boring.

Or could it be that I have another think coming? (a phrase dating back to the turn of the twentieth century and now more often voiced as “another thing coming”). Don’t hesitate to jump in and discuss the place of the buzzword in American English, whether you treat it with kid gloves (c.1830) or take off the gloves (c.1920).

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