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Talking the Talk - Incomprehensibly


Why use one simple word, when nine or ten will do?

There is something wrong with this news story. Do you know what it is?

Before you make yourself cross-eyed searching, I'll tell you: It's written in plain English. Many poobahs in American industry think only a fool would use a simple word if he's got a couple of jawbreakers handy.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that restaurants using a fancy typeface on the menu can often charge higher prices, because customers believe that complex food takes greater skill to prepare. It boils down to this: if it's hard to read, many people think it's hard to do - and are therefore willing to cough up more money for the privilege of wolfing it down.

Luckily, hamburgers from McDonald's (MCD) and Burger King (BKC) are served up sans serif. That makes 'em cheap - and worth every penny.

We like to think language is used to communicate. Hah! All this palaver can be used to create status, hoard power and bamboozle the unsuspecting - just ask any politician.

This insight into the uses and presentation of language can be extended to all aspects of life -- which means you should go heavy on the nouns, adjectives and adverbs, and avoid those pesky verbs at all costs. They have an annoying tendency to suggest that things are, well, moving forward.

Instead of saying something simple like, "You must meet these requirements before we can issue a permit," try this: "Fulfillment, execution and complete satisfaction of requirements 1 through 10 (see footnotes A-Z, page 99b) must occur in their entirety before the above agency can be caused to effect the issuance of an approval of your stated intention of beginning to commence."

If you doubt that language can make simple things needlessly complex, just try reading the instructions for something simple, like a computer - for which Microsoft (MSFT) offers something loftily called "Partner & Customer Solutions." Solutions, as in: We manufacture problems and then pretend to resolve them.

If you've read this far, you obviously dream of taking over the world - and you've come to the right place, because Minyanville is going to tell you how to do it.

All you'll need is the Universal Buzzword Selector, much like the one first proposed by Philip Broughton in a 1968 Newsweek article. Broughton, then a 63-year-old employee at the U.S. Public Health Service, clearly had a sense of humor (and was therefore a subversive).

Using the Selector is simple: just pick a three-digit number at random, and you're bound for glory. For example, 048 yields the phrase "integrated digital hardware" (or IDH, to you hopelessly uninitiated underlings.)

You'll be large, in charge and beyond reproach, because no one will know what the hell you're talking about.

Warning the First: Don't let this fall into the wrong hands.

Warning The Second: Using these words in an ultra-fancy font for memos, mash notes, and crackpot letters to the editor is overkill.
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