Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jargon and guff

The word jargon has an uncertain origin in Old French. If you prefer to tell a fairly tale, you instead could blame it on the mythical French hot-air balloonist and self-promoter Armand Jargon (shown above). Jargon originally referred to the inarticulate utterance of birds (twittering). Later it came to refer to unintelligible or meaningless talk.

Similarly, guff refers to empty, windy talk increasingly favored by companies. Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has collected examples of it in her Guffipedia, a brief dictionary introduced in a six-minute podcast. Twenty of them are shown above in a table. The most outrageous is the eight-word phrase pledge allegiance to the promise of our brand which can simply be replaced by the word care.  

The drawing actually is of Gaston Tissandier and came from the Library of Congress.

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