By Robert Strohmeyer, Steve Fox and and Elsa Wenzel
As technology moves forward, the English language sometimes takes a step backward. You can thank public relations professionals, CEOs, and technology journalists for that. Whether grammatically incorrect or simply annoying, these overused tech buzzwords are painful to hear.
But don’t feel too bad if you’re guilty of using some of this lingo: For every one of these terms, we can identify a member of our staff who says it regularly (the rest of us just secretly scoff).
1. “Dot-com“–as in, “the dot-com sector had a strong fiscal quarter”–is a victim of progress: It’s no longer especially relevant to distinguish Web businesses from “brick-and-mortar” (another outdated term) companies. In fact, if your company isn’t on the Web by now, you’re doomed.
2. “Tweener” originally referred to a basketball player who was too tall and slow to be a true guard and too shrimpy to hold his own at forward–so he ended up playing for the Warriors or the Clippers. But referring to gadgets that straddle two or more categories or usage patterns–such as tablets, which can be viewed as a midpoint between phones and laptops–as “tweeners” is just obnoxious. Knock it off.
3. “Visionary” has some validity as applied to, say, Joan of Arc, but the term has been abused for decades as a way of offering fawning praise to tech entrepreneurs of all stripes, regardless of how derivative their products are. Double points if a CEO describes himself as a visionary.
4. “Convergence,” which once described an important concept in technology, now says practically nothing, given that every gadget you own represents a convergence of at least 10 other things.
5. iPhone (or anything else) “killer” is probably the most overused metaphor of all time in tech headlines. We disavow any knowledge of our ever having used this bit of hyperbole ourselves.
6. “Game-changing” is the kind of trite, nonsensical piffle you get when sports metaphors and nerd metaphors converge in the hands of a journalistic tweener. This one needs to be buried in the Meadowlands end zone with Jimmy Hoffa.
7. Does the word “solution” have any discrete meaning anymore? Does it ever involve actually solving something? Spare us.
8. “Bandwidth” is not a mental function unless you’re a RoboCop or a Terminator–nor is it a monetary one. What you really mean is “attention” or “time” or “additional resources.”
9. In a group setting, the phrase “let’s take this offline” is acceptable only if the meeting is in fact online. Which it usually isn’t. Similarly, “You wanna take this outside?” doesn’t work as an escalation of an alfresco disagreement.
10. We can accept “googling,” “photoshopping,” and even “friending” as verbs, but good sense must take a stand somewhere. “Facebook” is a noun. You can google it.
11. “Social graph” is a marketing term that means… well, we have no idea what it means, and we suspect those who use it don’t either.
12. When IT administrators map out their networks, they typically draw a little cloud to signify the Internet. But calling the Internet “the Cloud” is taking things a little too literally. (We never liked “Saas” much, either.) And the spinoff term “cloudsourcing” must bear the bulk of the blame for the truly execrable “crowdsourcing” that followed in its wake.
13. When people say “form factor,” what they mean to say is “dimensions” or (even more simply) “shape.” The extra word isn’t impressing anybody.
14. Sometimes we kind of wish people who say “bleeding edge” would end up on one.
15. We’d pay money just to see a new tech gadget that actually incorporated “bells and whistles.”
16. When talking about the cost of something, there’s no need to say “price point.” It’s like calling “tuna” “tuna fish.”
17. “Prosumer,” as a marketing term for high-end products, means very close to nothing. What, exactly, is a professional consumer?
18. The next time someone says “gimme your digits,” we’ll try to resist handing over a bag of fingers.
19. “Future-proof?” Who are we fooling? Nothing is built to last more than two years.
20. There was probably a time in history when the phrase “eye candy” sounded vaguely edgy, maybe back when Miami Vice regularly featured nose candy busts. As for “ear candy“–yuck!
21. Not sure whether someone is sold on your business idea? Just insist that it will “monetize,” and your funding is in the bag. Better yet, use “monetization” to “incent” your audience to recognize the lurking “value proposition.” Or be like the little red hen and “productize” your idea with a little “architecting” of your own.
22. Acts of nature–such as an earthquake or a visit from an in-law–are “disruptive.” Calling a new technology “disruptive” gives it far too much credit.
23. “Synergy” describes the combined action of two elements working together in a mutually beneficial way. We just think it’s one of those feel-good things CEOs like to say to draw your attention away from what’s going on behind the scenes.
Have your own nominations for our list of the most annoying tech terms and phrases? Add them in the comments area.
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