This is a blog by Tom Ewing about the intersection of online culture and market research. I work for BrainJuicer in this area: everything on this blog is my own personal viewpoint, rather than BrainJuicer's. Here is an good place to start if you're interested in what I think about all this stuff. Contact me at Tom.Ewing@brainjuicer.com, or via @tomewing on Twitter.
"If [International Art English] were simply the set of expressions required to address a professional subject matter, we would hardly be justified in calling it a language. IAE would be at best a technical vocabulary, a sort of specialized English no different than the language a car mechanic uses when he discusses harmonic balancers or popper valves. But by referring to an obscure car part, a mechanic probably isn’t interpellating you as a member of a common world—as a fellow citizen, or as the case may be, a fellow traveler. He isn’t identifying you as someone who does or does not get it."
From this essay, which is very interesting and well worth reading.
I’ve been interested for a while in “business speak”. I’ve been interested in it because a) it’s ubiquitous but b) it’s continually changing and c) it’s a terribly easy target, and one thing I believe is that easy targets - and the bile aimed at them - often hide fascinating things underneath.
For a start, like a lot of easy targets, people who take aim at business language tend to miss. The language moves on and mutates - I can’t remember the last time I heard “outside the box” used unironically, for instance. (Not to mention the fact that a simple critique of language - however graceless it sometimes is - is really no substitute for, and can easily distract from, more cutting criticisms of practises, ethics etc.)
Much more interesting to zoom in on what business speak is and what it’s for. Which is why I found this piece on “International Art English” so resonant - the thoughts on where words come from, how they spread, the effect of the web, the ‘esperanto’ of art-speak… all of them were things I’d thought or half-thought about business language. And the piece’s cool dissection of preferred metaphors, or its precise observation of the contorting effects this language has on nouns and verbs and other grammatical forms - all really good stuff.
Also, Art English and Business English may sit at different ends of one (self?) perceived axis but the globalised milieu of conferences and MBA schools which produces business English is obviously not that distant from the worldwide proliferation of Bienniales this essay critiques. In both cases, too, it seems like a particular style of language - the obliquities of French literary criticism in one case, the metaphoric punch of American motivational speech in the other - has served as a basis for a global pidgin to emerge. So both of them are case studies of what happens to language (and culture) under globalisation - and it’s on that basis (not “LOL idiot business dudes”) that they should be understood or resisted I reckon.