Smashed is cooler than mashed: adjustifying our languaging

I like that people play with words, and with spelling even – sometimes. Playing around with something generally indicates that you like it and that you enjoy the interaction. That’s pretty neat. Yesterday I posted a Facebook update, yep – I do those and I read those of others, I like them. They are we humans, communicating with each other, through language. That’s something I enjoy very much. Mine read:

aaah! smashed avocado on lightly toasted rye, dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of paprika, topped with crumbled goats fetta finished with a drizzle of virgin olive oil and cracked black paper. and a flat white dusted with cinnamon sugar. Saturday – I like you a lot!

Why smashed, not mashed? Sounds way more hip don’t you think? Just like at work these days we don’t say all on the same page anymore, we say working off the same spreadsheet. Gotta love those buzz words and buzz phrases. I was delivering some training recently and someone mentioned that at a forum the week before, one of the speakers had used the word ‘fluid’ in a context they hadn’t heard before. I was quick to say “ah! you are reforming, right? people start to say ‘fluid’ a lot until the new structures kick in fully”. Weird. the things we do.

As anthropology students, back at uni – we used to joke that every anthropologist invents a word at some stage in their career. The question “is that even a word?” was an OK one that was laughed off, to some degree – even in essays we planned to submit. If the concept made sense and it was clear what the thinking behind it was, we used them. I should have been more accepting perhaps then, when I received an email at work recently asking me to ask my team to cease and desist from using a certain acronym to indicate a particular role and to use the title in it’s full expression. The informal directive, which I questioned, was that we are just “changing our languaging” around that particular idea. OK.

I guess that if you take the idea of linguistic determinism, which essentially notes that by our words we make our world “languaging” really does matter.

Linguistic Determinism:

The idea that language to some extent shapes the way in which we view and think about the world around us.

These ideas have been around for a long time. It often occurred to me when I lived and worked with people from other language groups that of course the language that we primarily exchange with and tell our stories in has a deep influence upon who we become as we grow as a person. Equally, “the limits of my language are the limits of my world”. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus explored these ideas. In our own bumbling and stumbling way, we’ve been playing around with some of them ourselves, just lately at work.

Take that idea of “busy”, or rather the rejection of busy as an acceptable notion in my workplace. Yes, it’s still bugging me! It turns out it’s bugging other people as well. There are lots of uncomfortable and insulted people up and down the halls, so in the way that things can, it’s become the latest “in” joke. When people are feeling really pressed for time and overloaded, they tend to say (tongue in cheek) things along the lines of “I’m having time management issues at the moment” or “I haven’t made that a priority for you yet” and quite bluntly “I’m just very disorganised”. Interesting. Is this what our manager wanted? Maybe it is. He wanted us to think about it. We are!!

We came up with another really quite funny spin-off idea from the whole busy discussion. Now that we none of us are busy, we’ve decided that the tried and true old saying:

If you want something done, ask a busy person.

Now in our world actually means: rack off. None of us are busy, after all.

So we have our in words at work. At the moment they include, in our light humour: active, engaged, engrossed, hustling, persevering, diligent, industrious, on the go, assiduous. If nothing else, we’ve exercised our vocabularies a little. They are the group words, the stuff we do as part of our “forming and norming” if you are a fan of the stages of groups. Then there’s the buzz words. Has anybody else noticed that HR types seem to be the biggest fans and users of buzz words? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that way in my world!

I must admit that, as a trainer, buzzwords sneak in to almost every session. Trainers talk a lot. Duh! Some script their presentations, I tend not to. I get bored too. I cover all the learning outcomes and required content, in the correct sequence, every time … but as to actual phraseology … I like to change it up. I’m looking at the list of top 50 business buzzwords of 2013 and I’m seeing some that definitely slide into my sessions – some more regularly than others:

moving forward
touch base

Oh yeah! I hear ya! I know some people whose entire conversations are mostly made up of those kinds of words and phrases, to the point where, after they leave … people turn to each other and say “what was he/she actually talking about!?!”. It’s kinda funny. I’m guilty as charged though, with some of the above (not all, just some) and I think I have a few verbal ticks of my own which are currently emergent:

all about you
zoomed out (I blame that on a particular activity we use, though)
skim the surface
solutions based

I hear those words/phrases sneak in when I’m not concentrating, when my mouth stops waiting for my brain to supply something meaningful and just decides to muck in and do the job without supervision … they are the kinds of things I seem to say. I hear myself. Maybe that’s what buzz words are for? Those moments when the brain has gone for a little walk and yet your mouth feels the need to indicate your general participation in the world of work … pull out a buzz phrase!

However, if you are an over-user of the buzz driven language, perhaps you should read “Most annoying business jargon” on Forbes. It warns us:

The next time you feel the need to reach out, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it, because all that meaningless business jargon makes you sound like a complete moron.

Forewarned is forearmed! Language your own linguistics. Only dead fish go with the flow.

4 thoughts on “Smashed is cooler than mashed: adjustifying our languaging

  1. notyetanomad says:

    “Jargon masks real meaning,” says Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

  2. peterhanley1 says:

    Hi Allirah
    I enjoyed your post but I was uncomfortable with the use of smashed in the reference to avocado. Maybe I am being too sensitive (or precious?) about the use of language however “smashed” to me brings in an element of violence that I am sure was not intended. I have a friend who objects strongly every time she hears the word bullet points.
    Recent headline posts in the Townsville Bulletin include “Sugar war brewing” (very clever) and “Police blog racks up hits”. It is interesting but perhaps not surprising that we count hits on a web site.
    I do not think it is going too far to suggest that our language is becoming more and more violent reflecting the violence present in our society.

  3. notyetanomad says:

    HI Peter,

    Interesting and very pertinent points. I might need to reconsider smashed. I picked it up from Jamie Oliver’s treatment of potatoes. Chefs generally use it to refer to a consistency more lumpy than traditional mash, I think.

    Food aside though … yes, we are more and more at home with violence and I’m sure it reveals itself in our speech patterns. “smash it out” as a way of saying: get something done quickly and “you killed that” as a way of indicating that someone did something very well.

    I will have to start listening more closely! Both to myself, and others. Thank you.

  4. […] wrote a post, ages back, about Smash (being way cooler than mash).  I think I was more on about word usage than food styles, at that point.  But – however […]

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