5 words I don’t want to hear in 2012

Originally posted December 2011

It’s the season for Words of the Year, but as regular readers know I tend to go against the trend, just because I can. So, I’m not going to extol the virtues of any particular word to have entered the lexicon in 2011, but rather whinge about five words that I hope to ban in 2012.

"Engage" is the referee's cue in rugby for the sides to form a scrum. Not the mental image you need during a boring business meeting.

“Engage” is the referee’s cue in rugby for the sides to form a scrum. Not the mental image you need during a boring business meeting.


Whenever I hear “engagement” or one of its derivatives the image of a nervous partner on bended knee arrive unbidden in my mind. If I’m in a particularly combative mood it conjures up soldiers going “over the top” to confront the enemy, while during the rugby season the now pointless scrum feed is foremost in my thoughts. (For those of you unfamiliar with a scrum feed, here’s a photo).

I think you will agree with me, these are bizarre pictures to be focusing on when discussing participation and enthusiasm in the workplace, or any of the other trite phrases including the “engage” family.

Why it should be banned: as I mentioned in my earlier post 10 buzzwords and why we hate them, assigning new meanings to words that are already entrenched in the psyche is asking for trouble. People can interpret them in so many ways – rarely the one you want them to.


Used to describe everything from fast food to Angry Birds; European debt to UK phone hacking; and internal collaboration to brand loyalty, ubiquitous has become so ubiquitous it’s boring.

In itself the over use of ubiquitous would not warrant inclusion in my list – it’s just another buzz word after all – but the ubiquitous misuse of the word does earn it a spot.

There is nothing tricky about ubiquitous, it simply means being everywhere at the same time (a permanent, part of the fabric of life) so how does it turn up in discussions on people’s lunch time dining habits? (Yes, I actually encountered this personally).

Why it should be banned: first and foremost it’s a buzzword and that’s reason in itself.  Secondly, George Orwell’s masterful advice “never use a long word where a short one will do”  would dictate everywhere, widespread, everyday, commonplace or the like would suffice.


Until I started researching this blog post I had no idea that Millennials were simply Gen Yers rebranded. It’s not so much the name I object to but its use in just about every mention of today’s technology trends, uptake and usage (it’s use as become ubiquitous).

I’m not a Gen Yer, Millennial or any of the other four terms coined for this group of individuals born anywhere from 1973 to 2000. And quite frankly neither are the majority of people I communicate with professionally or personally.

Constantly putting Millennials in the same sentence with anything interesting, innovative or social-media-related simply alienates me.

Why it should be banned: The basis of good communication, whether with colleagues or potential customers, is knowing your audience and talking to them. Constantly talking about someone else is just boring.

Footprints are the marks made by FEET, not CO2 or some other abstract idea

Footprints are the marks made by FEET, not CO2 or some other abstract idea


I accept I have little hope of eliminating footprint from the vocabulary (it’s been around for 4.5 centuries) but I’m still hoping for collective sanity to prevail.

Obviously, a footprint is the mark left behind by a foot; just like a fingerprint is made by one of the digits at the end of your hand.

So logically it is impossible for the following to leave footprints:

  • Carbon (CO2)
  • The environment
  • Digital technology
  • Geography

For those interested in word history carbon footprint made its an appearance about 2000 (or there abouts, specific year unknown) but was probably beaten into the vernacular by digital footprint, which was mentioned back in 1996.

Why it should be banned: like all corporatese there are much simpler and easy-to-understand expressions for the same concept. Let’s stick to presence, impact or effect. (I’m secretly hoping Millennials will find the word too old fashioned and coin their own).

Calling people resources effectively dehumanises them.

Calling people resources effectively dehumanises them.


I am a person not a resource, so please stop referring to me as an inanimate object that can be moved around without repercussion.

My previous post I’m not a resource sums up my feelings on this point. But I’m including it here in the hope more people will realise in 2012 that euphemisms that turn people into commodities don’t help their cause.

Why it should be banned: If management thinks of employees as numbers on a spread sheet it’s hardly likely that staff will see management as anything but the signature on their pay slips – which doesn’t help employee engagement does it! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

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