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This past weekend a colleague and I went to a conference for foreign language teachers - the SCOLT/SCFLTA Conference - in Myrtle Beach, SC. We were able to be there only for the Saturday morning sessions. After experiencing the quality of those sessions, we wished we had attended all three days of the conference. It was far better than the national ACTFL Conference we had attended the fall of 2006!

I'm fluent in French, can hold my own in German, and can handle some situations in Spanish and Chinese. However, one of the things I found difficult at the conference was trying to understand a language that I'm not very good at - educational buzzwords. This is the impetus for today's iv....


Buzzwords, expressions like scenario, 24/7, soft money, proactive, venue, wiki, hit the ground running, win-win, affluenza, dotcom, fatcat, gridlock, etc., both amuse me and drive me crazy (crazier?)! People in management, geeks, politicians, the media, and even educators love to use buzzwords.

According to Wikipedia, "a buzzword (also known as a fashion word or vogue word) is an idiom, often a neologism, commonly used in managerial, technical, administrative, and sometimes political environments. Though apparently ubiquitous in these environments, the words often have unclear meanings."

Some would readily point out that the word buzzword itself is a buzzword, so named because of the desire to employ the words that create a special effect, or buzz, in another's mind.

In the business world, it seems to be important that reports contain lots of buzzwords. What the reports actually say isn't nearly as important as the ability to show that you are on the cutting edge in the use of the current buzzwords.

In 1968, Newsweek magazine published a short, but humorous article, How to Win at Wordsmanship. After years of hacking through etymological thickets at the U.S. Public Health Service, a (then) 63-year-old official named Philip Broughton had hit upon a sure-fire method for converting frustration into fulfillment, at least jargonwise. Euphemistically called the Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector, Broughton's system employs a lexicon of 30 carefully chosen "buzzwords."

The procedure is simple: Think of any three-digit number. Then select the corresponding buzzword from each column.

For instance, number 257 produces "systematized logistical projection," a phrase that can be dropped into virtually any report with a sincere ring of decisive, knowledgeable authority. No one will have the remotest idea of what you're talking about, but the important thing is that they are not about to admit it!

BUZZWORDS FOR MANAGERS (or wannabe managers)

1. heuristic 1. organizational 1. flexibility
2. systematized 2. monitored 2. capability
3. parallel 3. reciprocal 3. mobility
4. functional 4. digital 4. programming
5. responsive 5. logistical 5. scenarios
6. optional 6. transitional 6. time-phase
7. synchronized 7. incremental 7. projection
8. compatible 8. third-generation 8. hardware
9. futuristic 9. policy 9. contingency
0. integrated 0. management 0. options

After my experience at the teachers' conference this past weekend, I wondered if the same could be done for educational jargon, which borders on buzzwords. Educators are often guilty of using "edspeak" - a language spoken by those inside the education profession that is often not comprehensible to people outside the profession. The term is modeled on George Orwell's "newspeak" from his novel 1984. This professional jargon is also known as educationese, eduspeak, edubabble, and pedagogese. The following could also be helpful to anyone writing a grant proposal.

The table below enables you to create most of a sentence, giving you a verb, and adjective, and a noun. You just have to flesh it out. For instance, 239 would yield "benchmark cross-curricular methodologies". You could then craft that into a powerfully cryptic sentence such as, "This assessment tool would allow us to benchmark our present cross-curricular methodologies." Scary, huh?!


Verb Adjective Noun
1. assess 1. child-centered 1. articulation
2. benchmark 2. competency-based 2. competencies
3. disintermediate 3. cross-curricular 3. curriculum integration
4. enable 4. developmentally appropriate 4. decision-making
5. facilitate 5. global 5. experiences
6. implement 6. hands-on 6. higher-order thinking
7. integrate 7. holistic 7. initiatives
8. morph 8. metacognitive 8. learning styles
9. optimize 9. performance-driven 9. methodologies
0. strategize 0. standards-based 0. outcomes

I got the words used above by picking my favorites from a long list of edspeak words at http://www.sciencegeek.net/lingo.html It's a fun site to visit - there's a button at the top that you can keep hitting to generate random phrases from their long lists.

If you'd like to see a long list of other buzzwords, each one linked to its definition, go to http://www.investopedia.com/categories/buzzwords.asp

You can have more fun with a random buzzword generator at http://www.1728.com/buzzword.htm


"I think we educators are unusually prone to use jargon, and of all people we ought to be the clearest in our language." - Dr. Ruth Steele, at the time she made this statement, director of the state Education Department and a former English teacher

=^..^= =^..^=

Remember: Today's buzzword could very well be tomorrow's drivel.

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5 Comments on “Buzzwords”

  1. #1 megan (dooley)
    on Apr 8th, 2008 at 8:04 am

    I love this! Had to forward it to my husband in the corporate world working with customers in the Middle East. Talk about stumping people – or at least stopping a hostile conversation.

  2. #2 Joanne
    on Apr 8th, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who isn’t fond of the modern jargon that is constantly being thrown around! As a young wife and mother, I constantly run across phrases like; “this season of life” “stay-at-home-wife (or mother)” “frugality” “home management center” (ie. folder to keep all home related paperwork & lists in one place) “think outside the box”. Things like this may sound ‘cool’, but really, do we have to be ‘cool’, can’t we just say what we mean to say?

    And personally, I’m still trying to work out how to think inside the box…let alone head outside!

  3. #3 J.D.
    on Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:28 am

    What a great post!!

    I love buzzwords. In fact, I must confess to playing a few games of “buzzword bingo” in long, boring meetings!! The sad thing, though, is that the meeting doesn’t end when someone gets a “bingo!” =)

    You can see and print out sheets at the link below:
    http://isd.usc.edu/~karl/Bingo (This page is totally fine, but some of the pages linked there may contain some coarse language.)

    I shouldn’t be confessing to so much, but some of my co-workers and I have made bingo sheets for each other and our boss. Unexplainable, uncontrollable giggling can be a dangerous result. =)
    We don’t use the hard copies anymore. It’s enough just to lift an eyebrow. =)

  4. #4 Amanda
    on Apr 9th, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I implemented your hands-on buzzword methodology to great success. Your generator facilitated a lot of laughter.

  5. #5 Ellen
    on Apr 9th, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    This has nothing to do with your entry, but I just wanted to wish you and your wife a happy anniversary. I heard your names on the radio. Hope you had a wonderful day and were able to celebrate!

    Rob adds:
    Thanks for taking the time to give us your best wishes, Ellen! It was a very nice day for us.