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Jargon: It’s not the business world’s fault!

Why we blame the wrong people for our most annoying phrases

How do I fire thee? Let me count the ways: lay off, downsize, rightsize, optimize, streamline, restructure, reshuffle. In an infamous December 2012 press release, Citigroup announced that it would begin “a series of repositioning actions that will further reduce expenses and improve efficiency,” resulting in “streamlined operations and an optimized consumer footprint across geographies.” Translation: 11,000 people would be repositioned out the door.

Business-speak, with its heartless euphemisms and empty stock phrases, is the jargon that everyone loves to hate. Complaining about it has become such a sport that this past February, Forbes constructed its second annual March Madness–style business-speak bracket, pitting “thought leadership” against “takeaway,” “going forward” against “make it happen.” And yet a new analysis suggests that we may have the wrong culprit: Some of our most detested business jargon may not come from business at all.

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