I Wanna Be Literated #214

I Wanna Be Literated #214

Saturday, 07 March 2020

Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism
John Patrick Leary

It’s a 1984 type of situation working at some companies. I’m talking about double-speak: talking one way, while knowing that it means something completely different. While we’re not quite there yet in our society, in the environment of a company it manifests itself as corporate jargon speak. You know what I mean. Sentences like “Let’s take this conversation offline so we can consolidate our innovations and sunset this project.” While it’s unavoidable in some cases, the real question is always whether anyone actually believes it. While some individuals think it’s a more evolved way of speaking which actually sparks productivity, the rest of us recognize how it’s actually unproductive and only helps to separate those in the company who are clueless from those who have actual ideas.

I’ve always wondered how deep the jargon pool gets, which is one reason I was interested in John Patrick Leary’s book Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism. I’m sure the pool is in the hundreds, but Leary curates 47 words, overused and stripped of their meaning, that have been appropriated in the capitalist setting. Organized in alphabetical fashion, Leary breaks down the words, the context that they’re used in, their origins, what their true meanings are, and how they’ve been appropriated. Of course it’s all flexing their muscle. Bosses want words to have a certain effect and Leary is quite good at discussing them in a comical fashion, injecting humor in his analyses, and making what would normally be a demoralizing venture, actually entertaining. There are some all-time favorites here, like Brand, Coach, Innovation, Passion, and Synergy, and some I’ve never encountered before (thank God), like Curator, Ecosystem, Nimble, and Wellness. I can think of several bosses I’ve had in the past who would love adding these words in their vocabulary, which is why Leary’s book is so great. Few things are as annoying as a word being misused by a person who thinks they have an elevated understanding of it.

Leary’s book empowers the reader and the worker by helping them recognize their enemy. It’s presented comically and in easy to digest pieces. Read it in one gulp, before you go to bed, or even on the toilet.

Get it from Haymarket Books.

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