How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Buzzwords

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It’s a shame that the concept of buzzwords exists.

Buzzwords are original phrases used to describe new concepts but due to their overuse, become trendy and therefore eventually “out-of-style”. At least that’s my definition.

The word synergy comes to mind. It’s sort of the black sheep of buzzwords. In the 90s it was at the top of every corporate leader’s vocabulary and before long it was making people cringe. But synergy is a great concept. Synergy means that the combination of two or more forces is greater than their individual effect. Two heads are better than one. What’s so bad about that?

Buzzwords get a bad wrap because of the way they’re used, or overused I should say. You grasp firmly onto their syllables and twist them until the last drops of meaning have been drained. Some people thrive off of doing this.

marketing buzzwords

Exhibit A: The buzzword poacher

You could position yourself as an authority in your field just by studying buzzword trends and using them in everything you write and say. You won’t be contributing squat to the field, but at least you’ll be recognized for the great words you can use.  You kind of be like a buzzword poacher.  Running around hunting new words to mount on your wall of selling points.

One definition of a buzzword is a trendy phrase used to impress laypersons – nonprofessionals, people not in your field who have crossed into that circle. It’s difficult for them to identify the real pioneers and thinkers in that industry because the buzzwords are attractive yet deceptive.

Let’s talk about thought leadership

On more than one occasion I have seen a website’s blog titled “Thought Leadership”. If you think you can be a self-proclaimed thought leader then you completely missed the point. These are the buzz fiends that I’m talking about. They take the word-of-the-month and turn it into a business.

Thought leadership is a great concept. It’s about ideas and spreading them and teaching people and growing a community around a single concept. It’s not a clever name for a blog section on your site.

Turning Concepts into a commodity

The big problem that buzzwords create is they belittle the meaning they represent. Something as profound as the concept of “thought leadership” gets bastardized and hated because so many people turn it into chewable, bite-sized pieces that they can use to bait casually invested customers.

Casually invested. It’s because of these passive buyers that buzzwords exist. It proves how strong the words and the concepts behind them are. Buzzwords are excellent selling tools and most people know that so they use them up until there’s no meaning left or worse, until people despise hearing them.

Once a concept has been declared a buzzword we convince ourselves that it has no potential for meaning or growth. When I was in high school, one of my best friends always made the joke that the word “proactive” is a buzzword people say to sound smart. Not giving a second thought I would chuckle and carry on living but with a growing distaste for the word proactive. After some time, my ignorance wore off and I discovered the true value of this word and it’s place in society. There’s really no other word that could replace.

God save the buzzwords

If we let people take advantage of hot words when they’re popular, a resistance will start to form against those words. When this happens we lose the ability to explain new concepts and new ideas. There was a never a word like proactive because we didn’t need it. But when the concept comes about, we need a way to explain it.

A buzzword is just the negative connotation assigned to a new idea just because it has been overused. Protect our buzzwords. Give them new life. They are important.


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About the author: Scott Taft
Scott Taft loves good writing, good coffee and good music. He currently works at SEER Interactive in Philadelphia but in his spare time he loves blogging about content right here on OG Content. Learn more about Scott Taft here.

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