Your RDA of Irony

Autopsy Turvy

I must have missed the obituary but the English language is definitely dead. Yesterday I received this notification of an opening for a free-lance writer.

The project: The client is looking for a communications expert to help develop a change management program to affect change from the senior management team down throughout a large department and streamline their communication processes. This role also will be responsible for executing the communications program they develop.

My first assignment would be to translate that job description into English. I have no idea what it means, although it does seem sinister. A change management program sounds like a euphemism for “downsizing” which in itself is a euphemism for massacre. If so, why would you hire a writer to organize a purge? (Actually, Stalin worked as a journalist and an editor, so there is a precedent.) I don’t know if the employer would want a resume or a rap sheet, but I won’t submit either. Whatever the job actually is, the description appalls me.

MBAs and bureaucrats are waging a Jihad against intelligible English. These Jargoons would impose on us a nerd-minimalist gibberish, or as “they” would say: wordize wordizations. Do you think that I am joking? It may be a satire, but we are living it.

I once was assigned to write a booklet explaining an employee pension plan. If accountants determined the Nobel Prize in Literature, I would have been in the running. My work was praised for its clarity. An employee focus group said “this is the first time that I understood our pension plan.” That is why the corporation’s Human Resource department vetoed the booklet’s publication. The writing was too lucid. I was summoned to the office of a HR vice president. Her demeanor had no semblance of emotion; on her office wall was a Masters’ Degree from the University of Chicago, confirming that she had been completely drained of humanity. Although she was not the one who hired me or was paying me, she usurped the right to fire me. My writing apparently was subversive. She complained that if the employees understood what they read about the pension plan, they would have specific expectations and the company might feel trapped into honoring its commitments.

At least I was paid for my work. I don’t know if a pension booklet was ever written for this major corporation. You could be certain, however, that any such booklet would be a proactive teamization.

  1. Bob Kincaid says:

    I am de-wordalized, Eugene, but, as we journalists used to be told, I’m “efforting” a response.

  2. David in Tenn says:

    Your revealing and much needed obituary is way past due. Your thoughts should be used a means test for job applicants. I once reported to a Mr. Sensenbrenner’s retarded nephew. The elder Sensenbrenner being the Republican from Wisconsin. The younger wrote these remarkable emails. His personal best was 73 words using one comma and one period. He contiunes to get very good money for very bad work.

  3. Hal Gordon says:

    In the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.”

  4. karen finerman says:

    great call as usual…and as usual, this is all sad but very true.

  5. Alan says:

    I too have no idea what a “change management program is,” but a valuable clue comes from the fact that the desired end is to “affect” [sic] change DOWN through the organization. It tells you what kind of change there will be: we order, you obey.

    “Streamline” is a tired metaphor/buzzword for “simplify, often by gettting rid of people or excluding people from decisions.” That’s probably what they’re planning.

    To “execute” senior management’s plan, whoever takes the job will write down senior management’s decrees; all attempts do to so with clear and humane writing will be considered insubordinate.

    Incidentally, it’s a bad sign when HR people confuse “affect” and “effect” and can’t put a subject and verb together (“This role will be responsible…”). They write like the bureaucrats they are.

  6. Peggles says:

    RIP The English Language

    The funeral procession was led by George W. Bush.

  7. Richard Greb says:

    They (whoever the antecedent) seem to equate a “change management program” with streamlining communications. If this is a massacre, will it be execution by the pen rather than the sword?

  8. As a history student, I know something about massacres. Still I doubt if a writer is really qualified for the task. Imagine if Catherine de Medici had plotted the St. Bartholomew’s massacre with Michel Montaigne.

    “We’ll lure the Huguenots into the Louvre courtyard and then premiere a scathing parody on Jean Calvin.”

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