You’re Awesome! I’m Amazing! This Post Is Awesomely Amazing! No, Wait! It’s Amazingly Awesome!

April 26, 2010

Awesome: inspiring awe, admiration, or wonder. Amaze: to affect with great wonder, to astonish.

Don’t be afraid to be amazing. • Andy Offutt Irwin

Several weeks ago, I read Ann Handley’s post “9 Business Buzzwords I’d Like to Ban Because They Make Us Sound Like Tools (Part 1).” Her April Fools’ Day post was no joke. I am an educator and we are particularly prone to the dense and often incomprehensible use of meaningless jargon and overused buzzwords. Here’s Handley’s list (see http://www.openforum.com for her wisdom): impactful, leverage, learnings, synergy, revolutionary, email blast, proactive, drilldown, 30,000 foot level.

I’ve never used some of these, but there are two I’m fond of. Proactive is one. Students need to be and yet they sometimes sit in class and wait for fate to happen to them rather than asking questions if they don’t understand something or aren’t certain what course requirements are. Waiting until it’s too late to do anything seems to be the opposite of proactivity; I’m not sure what I’d replace that word with. And then there’s synergy.

I’d like to make a plea to retain the use of the word “synergy,” using it when it cannot be replaced by Handley’s offerings of “cooperation,” “help,” and “joint/pooled/combined effort.”

I’ve worked on many committees. I’ve team taught and presented at conferences with other educators. Despite many opportunities to work with others, I have seldom experienced synergy, where combined efforts produced something that was greater than the sum of the parts. Indeed, I have sometimes found that combined efforts can lead to a kind of anti-synergy as creative energy is sucked from the group by endless wrangling and sub-committee-ing and nay saying.

Finally, forget dumping business words. I’d just be happy never to have to hear “awesome” or “amazing” being used to describe anything, except, of course, when I use them.

What words would you do away with because they are overused? What words would you keep even if they are overused because, frankly, they’re just so awesome and amazing?

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.
• Wendell Johnson


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