The splendid Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has published her annual “gongs for guff”, aka the Golden Flannel Awards.
The prize for “Best euphemism for firing people” was close-run.
News agency Reuters impressed by announcing staff would be “transitioned out of the company”. But HSBC wins for “demising” managers. Writes Kellaway: “In ‘demising’, it has done the impossible and invented a euphemism that is harsher than the real thing. It made it sound as if it were not merely sacking staff – it was exterminating them.”
Winner of the “Rebranded common object” award is a bottle of water “recently described as an ‘affordable, portable lifestyle beverage’ by an analyst”.
And the “Chief obfuscation champion” prize, “given to the CEO who never opens his or her mouth without a blue streak of guff pouring out” goes to Rob Stone, CEO of PR agency Cornerstone, who is especially commended for this: “As brands build out a world footprint, they look for the no-holds-barred global POV that’s always been part of our wheelhouse.”
The Golden Flannels are among the most consistently rewarding of the yearly newspaper-column-as-spoof-awards genre.
One from 2010 sticks in the memory: Toyota’s description of a car as a “sustainable mobility solution”, which Kellaway award the Daft New Names for Common Nouns prize.
In the same year, stockbroker JM Finn took the Golden Fig Leaf for enthusing to customers, “We have decided to further progress a fee element.”
And the Golden Flannel Award for 2010 went to investor Chuck Davies who had been quoted in the FT saying: “He is a deep-dive, granular, research-oriented person who really understands the inner workings of companies and is just a very free-cash flow, hard-asset-based investor.”
In a similar vein, the New York Observer warns of “the most annoying personal brand buzzwords of 2014”.
And as an antidote, the NZ Plain English Awards – 2013 edition here – celebrate organisations that have tamed the gobbledygook.
See also: Grammar pedant or language bully?