Monthly Archives: December 2010

Thanks, cobber

At the register in a local service station buying fuel this week, I was amazed to hear the young motorbike rider in front of me in the queue say “thanks, cobber” to the attendant after his purchase was complete. I swear, I have never heard any Aussie under the age of (at least) 65 use this expression, referring to a male ‘mate’ or ‘friend’. I mentioned it to my other half, who says he’s heard it several times in dealing with local business people since we moved to Tasmania. So far, I haven’t noticed any particular differences in the English spoken in Tasmania compared to elsewhere in Australia. I am sure there are some differences… more research required.

Then it got better… later that day, having an afternoon drink with friends at a fairly upmarket establishment in Hobart, the waiter addressed my husband as “cobbs”! Is that the shortened form of cobber?

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A bullfighter’s guide to fighting bull

I have finally read¬† ‘Why business people speak like idiots – A bullfighter’s guide‘, which has been sitting on my shelf for a few months. Crappy presentation clip-art like the bullfighter here is one of the many aspects of poor business communication that the authors are fighting against.

Far from focusing on corporate-speak as I expected, this is a book about action. The authors identify four reasons why business people turn into ‘business idiots’ as they call them. I am not sure that I buy these reasons. But I love their practical examples of how to cut the bull and get real. Tell stories, pick up the phone (don’t email and copy the world), keep a sense of humour, show that you are human, tell the bad news. Recognise that most people are so bored at [insert business meeting here] and your job is to entertain. Otherwise, what is going on inside the heads of your audience is a whole lot more interesting than what you are presenting.

Words and tone do feature prominently of course. And all of us are guilty. It is only through awareness that we can remove the ‘bull’ from business conversations. Here are some I know I have been guilty of saying: touch base, deliverable, deck, thought leadership. Some I hear a lot in my company: reach out, utilise, transformation, align. And I knew I could smell ‘bull’ when people at work started talking about establishing a ‘centre of excellence’. I kept asking what made it different from any other large office, but no-one had an answer for that. This book provides a useful description: “vortex of incomparable splendour, hub of magnificence, apex of awesomeness. No-one likes anyone who works in one of these.” Otherwise: it’s meaningless like so much other corporate bull.

It’s not a terribly funny book. Maybe I’m the wrong nationality for the humour. There are some fantastic Americanisms in there that I would never hear from a non-American, like ‘soup to nuts’. I always wondered what that meant and I’m still not sure. That said, I loved the piece about SGPs (standard generic photographs). You know, the photo library shots your company has on its brochure. Where there is always an appropriate gender and ethnic balance. Anyone over 40 is wearing glasses. And they feature people pointing, waving, looking interested.

As the authors say, go and enjoy a long run of ‘Take Your Personality to Work’ Days. And join the league of bullfighters.

Weasel Word Wednesday #17 – intimacy

There is nothing wrong with using the word ‘intimacy. In the right context. However, in the business world we increasingly hear about ‘customer intimacy’ which sounds kind of creepy to me. There’s understanding your customer and there’s… creepy. Maybe the term evolved when customer relationship management or CRM went out of favour after so many failed implementations of software that was meant to do this job instead of people. Or perhaps it was just invented to keep consultants in work.

Last week I jumped to the wrong conclusion when I spotted someone on LinkedIn calling themselves an ‘Intimacy Specialist’.¬† Guess what… their business was about actual intimacy, advising people on human relationships, love and sex. At least it reminded me of the other use of the word, the one I dislike. I must give credit for the image used above: it comes from a blog post titled: ‘A Customer Intimate Strategy Can Leverage A Co-Creation Process‘. I am not kidding. Take a look.

Weasel Word Wednesday #16 – startup

An increasing number of people starting a business these days call their new trading entity a ‘startup’ rather than a ‘small business’. To me it harks back to the bad old dotcom days of dodgy operators with vapourware (there’s another cliche from that era). Back then it mostly referred to new small businesses in the technology sector, but now it seems anyone in any industry with a new small enterprise in its early development phase is a ‘startup’. I am wondering whether they think it makes them sound cool and interesting, or more likely to attract external investment? Just pretending to be Steve Jobs back in his garage days? Or has the term ‘small business’ lost favour?

23 tech terms that should be banned

This morning I read a nice list of 23 words used in the technology industry that should be banned. Couldn’t agree more. Some of them have already featured on this little blog, such as ‘game changing’ and ‘synergy’. Some particularly awful ones that haven’t appeared yet include ‘monetize’, ‘form factor’, ‘prosumer’ (ugh) and ‘price point’ (isn’t that just the ‘price’ or ‘cost’?).

Instead of just complaining about words and usage that I don’t like, I must look harder for good examples of clear communication in information technology marketing. Now there’s a challenge. If you spot any, please let me know. It will surely help in the campaign for simple English explanations of technology and its benefits.

Of rivulets and tarns

In Sydney, it would be called a creek. But since moving to Tasmania six month ago, we’ve noticed that small waterways are mostly named using the quaint old English version ‘rivulet’. For example, the irregular watercourse that borders our own property is called Fleurty’s Rivulet. Across the other side of the Huon, there is a place called Nicholls Rivulet. And then there is the Hobart Rivulet which flows from Mount Wellington to the Derwent River, the source of water for the early European settlement and before that for the Mouheneener people. After the Europeans got to it, it quickly became polluted and unusable as a water source. Now it is largely underground and of historical interest. There used to be a Hobart Rivulet Tour you could go on to see some of the convict brickwork that went into building the underground portion of it.

‘Tarn’ is another word I hadn’t noticed before moving to Tasmania. This is probably because I haven’t spent much time in mountainous areas, and the term describes a mountain lake or pool, formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier. Certainly I saw a lot of them on last weekend’s visit to the Kosciuszko National Park in NSW. One of the best known in our area is Disappearing Tarn south of Mount Wellington. There are tales of people setting up camp in the evening and waking up next to a large blue lake, or the other way around. No idea if there’s truth in these yarns.