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Buzzwords - What are They? What do They Really Mean?

Updated on November 20, 2016
janderson99 profile image

John uses his scientific skills (PhD) & experience developing 50+ websites to research, review & evaluate SEO, website design, Social Media

Buzzwords are a type of imprecise jargon or fashionable words that people use frequently because people think that using these words is trendy.

Buzzwords are very prominent in Government Agencies, Companies, Education, Universities, the Public Service, art, salesmanship, politics, real estate,computer science and various technical jargon areas.

The buzzwords chosen are often old expressions such as 'a raft of measures' or similar weird terms that are seldom used elsewhere.

The sloppy expression confuses the reader or listener or may be designed to deceive or obscure what is really meant.

The reader has to plug in their own understanding of what the buzzword means or to accept that they are imbeciles or not part of the in-crowd if they don't know what they mean.

Examples of these are 'overarching', 'stakeholders' or the 'Triple Bottom Line' (how can thee be more than one bottom line?).

As people stuff buzzwords into documents or speeches their meaning becomes fuzzier and less precise. 'Confusion reigns and we all get wet!'

Using Buzzwords in lazy and sloppy expression which clearly shows that the writer puts conformity with jargon and popular words ahead of clarity of expression.
Using Buzzwords in lazy and sloppy expression which clearly shows that the writer puts conformity with jargon and popular words ahead of clarity of expression. | Source

The users of these buzzwords don't really know the real meaning of the words and the context in which they should be applied.

They just want to be 'trendy' or get 'brownie points' for using them. This has spawned the game of 'Buzzword Bingo'. Attendees at a seminar are given a list of common buzzwords for the topic.

During the talk the listeners tick off the words on the list, and when someone finds that all the words on the list have been ticked they have to stand up and say 'Bingo' to win a prize. The speaker has do idea what is going on, but its lost of fun.

This article lists some of the common buzzword and offers an insight into what they really mean. Warning this can 'rot your brains' as every time these words pop into your mind, or you read or hear them, their true meaning will pop up as well. Maybe that is a good thing. You are invited to add your favorites to the comments section.

Why Do People Use Buzzwords?

People chooses buzzwords because of:

Laziness - They are lazy and cannot take the time to find the precise term that matches exactly what they want to say.

Intentional vagueness - In management, administration or politics, vaguepopular jargon words with unclear meaning are used because people think no one will question their meaning- 'Its a Gibbon'

Impress the Audience - Use of these words highlights a desire to impress a boss, an examiner, colleague, an audience or peer group, in to win an argument.The meaning of buzzwords is seldom challenged, often because no one really knows what they mean and they are so vague.

Impress Laypersons - People often use a jargon term becauseit sounds important or technical and immediately conveys the sense of superiority to an audience who may have no idea what it means

Use a Stylish or Trendy word - Often people use the latest buzzword or jargon because they believe that it shows they are up to date with the latest developments in the field. The thought is that simply 'everyone has started to use that word' and so I better use it as well.

The True Meaning of Common Buzzwords

  • Stakeholder - A pair of BBQ tongs
  • Overarching - The Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • A raft of measures - The set of rulers Huckleberry Finn took with him on his Mississippi adventures
  • Triple bottom line - Sorry, there can only be one bottom line!
  • A Win Win or Win-Win equals 2 wins, or is it just a typo - a win is a win is a win is a win
  • Rotating Chair - So what! The CEO's chair rotates!
  • Buzzwords - The language of bees
  • Downsize - How far you fall when you jump out of the window
  • Hit the ground running - Its mpossible to run with a broken leg
  • Best practice - The training you do to become the best
  • Push the Envelope - Post a letter
  • Client-centric - A client named 'Centric'
  • Customer-centric - A customer named 'Centric'
  • Holistic - A Religious Twig orStuck in a sticky hole
  • E-learning - learning about 'E's
  • Empower - The power of M&M's
  • Information superhighway - The road used by superman to get to the town 'Information'
  • Think outside the box - Your thoughts before you die and get put into a coffin
  • Business - A term used by non-business groups to make them sound important
  • Competitive Salary Offered - We remain competitive by paying less than our competitors.
  • Must be deadline orientated - When you start you will be six months behind schedule
  • Join our faced-paced Team - No one will talk to you help or provide training.
  • Duties will Vary - Anyone in the office can boss you around and get you to do their work.
  • Must have an eye for detail - We don't employ blind people for this job.
  • Seeking candidates with a wide range of experience - The person getting the job will replace three people who just left.
  • Problem solving skills a must - We expect you to solve all our problems that no one has been able to solve
  • Good communication skills - Just shut-up and do what the boss tells you
  • Leverage - If you don't do it you will be sacked
  • Curate, curated - That line of shoes or pile of files belong in a museum
  • Whys and Wherefores - A pop group that sings songs with meaningful words
  • Above the fold - The last part of your handkerchief where you blew your nose
  • Devoted to Transparency and Accountability - We are experts at spin - when you probe for the details all you will see is more fancy multimedia presentations with beautiful photos.
  • Public-private partnership - The business model is so bad that no private business would dream of investing in it.
  • Blue ribbon panel - All the panel members are women with long hair.
  • Paradigm shift - We made something up to replace what we had forgotten
  • Infrastructure - Its and undefined list of things that need to be built - we won't burden you with the details
  • Mindset - Brain encased in concrete
  • Siloed - The burden of sighs
  • Value-added - Placing a price ticket on something for sale
  • At the end of the day - Sunset
  • Break through the clutter - Fox in a hen house
  • Bring to the table - An apple for the teacher
  • Empowerment - A misunderstanding about the power of M&Ms
  • Exit strategy - Leaving and closing the door
  • Face time - Putting on make-up
  • Globalization - Rolling it into a ball
  • Grow the business - Forestry
  • Impact - I mean effect but it sounds much more dramatic
  • On the runway - Bitumen
  • Organic growth - If we recycle the wood it may actually grow
  • Proactive - Professional golfers who compete in tournaments
  • Reach out for support - Stop tripping over
  • Sea change - The tide went out
  • Streamline - A river lined with a concrete wall
  • Synergy - Temptation
  • Wellness - A well near Loch Ness
  • Higher-order thinking - the boss is always right
  • Run like a business - diarrhoea
  • Ballpark Figure - number of home runs
  • Bandwidth - How fat is the band
  • B2B - To be or not to be that is the question
  • Best practice - If you practice you might get better eventually
  • Downsizing - Hitting a nail with a hammer
  • Event horizon - Sunrise at Dawn
  • Herding cats - Our cattle dog is bored
  • Knowledge Process Outsourcing - Everyone makes their own cup of coffee
  • Logistics - Logjam of logs all bound together
  • Low Hanging Fruit - A bowl of fruit picked from a tree
  • Make it pop - What happen when pin meets a balloon
  • Seamless - Stop worrying - We've hidden the relationship between the parts
  • Benchmarking - Graffiti on steps
  • Back-end - I'm to embarrassed to say 'rear'
  • Content management - To place into a jar
  • Content Management System (CMS) - A box
  • Cross-platform - Angry Shelf
  • Digital divide - "V" sign made with your fingers
  • Digital Remastering - Clenching your fist
  • Digital signage - A 'X' made by dipping a finger into paint
  • E-learning - learning about 'E's
  • Framework - False evidence
  • Folksonomy - Everyone jumping on top of me
  • Fuzzy logic - Thoughts by someone with frizzy hair
  • Mashup - Mashed pototoes and pumpkin
  • Podcasting - A competition for throwing peas
  • Portal - An old name for a suitcase for everything
  • Real-time - Awake and no day dreaming or nodding off
  • Social bookmarking - Randomly moving the bookmark of a friend's book when they are not looking.
  • Social software - Second hand clothes market
  • User generated content - Spam
  • Virtualization - Religious conversion
  • Webinar - What a spider makes in your ear

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • Angela Blair profile image

    Angela Blair 

    6 years ago from Central Texas

    Delightful Hub and the definitions were a true hoot -- buzz words have always irritated me terribly and you've given me some new ammunition for the buzz word people! Best/Sis

  • diogenes profile image


    6 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Well done! Had a chuckle at these. You mentioned "Above the fold," and old newpaper term...there are a lot more in that pandoras Box, too.



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