Category Archives: Overused

Weasel Word Wednesday #24 – core

I was a little surprised to see the words “ASIA IS CORE” shouting from the front cover of this month’s MIS* magazine.

Core? Core of what? Core to what? Nope, just core. Could be worse I guess. It could be KEY.

I’m sure it’s a quote from the ANZ bank executive featured on the cover, but that’s no excuse for printing it.

There are some wonderful uses of the word ‘core’, especially in science and nature. Take ‘apple core’, the molten core of the earth and so on. It’s also nice used to mean something central to something else, for example, ‘the core of the problem’.  In the technology sector, there are plenty of terms containing ‘core’ that I figure are mostly acceptable because they’re widely understood industry or technical terms, such as ‘core banking systems’ and computer processor ‘cores’. However, more often it’s unnecessary management speak, and unfortunately it has spread to schools and other public services. Here are some alternatives to common business uses of ‘core’:

Core values = values

Core skills = skills, or perhaps basic skills or essential skills?

Core customers = customers

Core business = our business, what we do.

There’s a fantastic advertisement running on TV in Tasmania at the moment, where one of the family members who runs Wyllie Tiles (perhaps unsurprisingly, they sell tiles) declares that his parents taught him that “tiles are our core business.” Really? It’s good thing airtime is so cheap in Tasmania, it means they can afford to waste it.

* For the non-technology industry folk – MIS or ‘managing information systems’ is a good quality business technology magazine aimed at chief information offices and other senior technology executives. It’s published by Fairfax as part of the Financial Review group of publications.


Weasel Word Wednesday #21 – manifest

I just spotted this word used in the headline of a press release and thought it warranted a quick post. Apparently by attending a workshop, you can

learn how to manifest with ease

From my understanding, it is most commonly used as an adverb, but when it’s used as a verb, you usually manifest something – you make it clear or evident to the eye or the understanding. For example, you might manifest an emotion by doing something. According to one poster artist during the US presidential election, Obama manifested hope. You don’t just manifest.

Regardless, I have been to enough business seminars to be very suspicious of people who manifest anything. Usually it means they imagine some kind of better future and if you believe it hard enough, it magically happens. Generally they’ve read a book called The Secret that specialises in this kind of blind faith.

I’m all for optimism and having a positive attitude, but YOU are the only person who can make things happen. You can’t just manifest – you have to actually do something!

Weasel Word Wednesday #19 – gala

The use of this word isn’t restricted to corporate event types. Charities and not-for-profit clubs are amongst the worst offenders. It first came to my attention (or started to grate) as a member of a car club in NSW, when the club’s president decided that adding the word ‘gala’ to the front of every event made it sound more important. I was reminded of it today in an email I received about a fundraising dinner. And I can only imagine how many Australia Day ‘gala events’ are going on around the country as I type. In many cases, I think it’s used to indicate that the event is black tie or formal – why not say that?

Since the car club gala overload, I’ve heard it used often, for example:

  • gala dinner
  • gala presentation
  • arts gala
  • comedy gala
  • gala ball
  • gala party

In short, I think it’s a word that has lost its impact. Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  1. use it on its own – hold a ‘gala’ meaning festival rather than use gala as an adjective meaning ‘festive’
  2. drop it altogether and come up with a more creative name for your event.