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Vulture
29 mins | May 13, 2020

Garbage language

Why do corporations speak the way they do? Molly Young is a seasoned start-up worker, with close to ten years of experience in multiple companies. Upon taking one gap year to do some freelance work, she returned to the office life with renewed enthusiasm, except for one thing: the language that governs it. In this absorbing piece for Vulture, she aims to decipher the way this type of communication impedes words, and why it is also purposefully designed with that in mind. "Another thing this language has in common with garbage is that we can’t stop generating it. Garbage language isn’t unique to start-ups; it’s endemic to business itself, and the form it takes tends to reflect the operating economic metaphors of its day. A 1911 book by Frederick Winslow Taylor called The Principles of Scientific Management borrows its language from manufacturing; men, like machines, are useful for their output and productive capacity. The conglomeration of companies in the 1950s and ’60s required organizations to address alienated employees who felt faceless amid a sea of identical gray-suited toilers, and managers were encouraged to create a climate conducive to human growth and to focus on the self-actualization needs of their employees. In the 1980s, garbage language smelled strongly of Wall Street: leverage, stakeholder, value-add. The rise of big tech brought us computing and gaming metaphors: bandwidth, hack, the concept of double-clicking on something, the concept of talking off-line, the concept of leveling up." This article was originally published in Vulture in February 2020.

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