Guest post: Corp speak down under

Brits, if you thought laid-back Aussies would be immune to biz babble, how wrong you were. In this wonderful guest post, Teresa North, an ex-pat communicator, reports back on the verbiage that’s doing the rounds down under.

When I first started work for a big blue UK bank, I had never heard the phrase heads up and I hadn’t a clue what starter for ten meant. I was amazed and appalled at the world of corporate speak which, for seven years in business, I’d somehow managed to avoid.

When I couldn’t face explaining one more time that going forward is a completely useless phrase, I left for Australia. Having moved half way round the world and from finance to technology, I now have a new world of corporate jargon to oppose.

The first thing I noticed, and this is not limited to the workplace, is that Australians start all sentences with either Look or So. So is the default unless you’re trying to say something slightly contentious or maybe explaining why something has gone wrong.

“So, are you free for drinks tonight?”
“So, could I have a meeting with the MD?”
“So, I said to him, then she said to me etc etc”.

But

“Look, we’re over budget”.
“Look, it’s a great idea, but…”

Look takes the edge off and lets us all continue with our happy working lives.

My first corporate speak moment was on the first day of my new job. It was caused by the abuse of the word across. In Australia, to know something you’ve got to be across it.

“I can’t book you a meeting with the MD because I’m not across her diary”.

We’re across facts, people, places, objects, recipes, wine. You name it, we’re across it.

Then came lock it in. The Aussies have thrown away their pencils and are locking in meetings left, right and centre. Odd for a country so keen to move on from its days as… well… a jail.

Of course, there’s the famous Aussie habit of shortening all words and ending them in O, but it left me speechless the first time I heard abbrevo. Yes, you guessed it, the abbreviation for abbreviation; abbrevo. All was well though as, in my time of need, someone reached out to me. Once they’d done that, I was able to reach out to someone else, who reached out to someone else and then we were all across it.

It’s not all different though. In Australia, we’re reaching out but it’s still to give someone a heads up so they can lock those meetings in going forward.

We’re using currently because the present tense just isn’t good enough and we’re capitalising anything that moves.

But I’m not holding it against these fun-loving nice guys. Corporate jargon drives me mad, but when the sun is shining and you can tackle a hideous piece of communication with a polite: Look, about this email…, it’s not all bad.

Uptalking, on the other hand. Don’t get me started.

3 Responses to “Guest post: Corp speak down under”

  1. Where did this ‘across’ business come from? I’ve noticed that even the BBC promise to be across the latest news which sounds to me as if their reporters are physically shielding us from the sight of a distressing event.

  2. Bill Harper says:

    As someone who’s lived in Australia his entire life, all I can say is “guilty as charged”. (Figured I could bring up the whole jail thing again.)

    We’re also into “detraining” instead of just getting off the train.

    But the one that’s doing my head in at the moment is “unpack”, as in “Let’s unpack that idea”. Puleez.

  3. Look, worse still, is their annoying intonation. You know, that habit of ending every sentence with a tone that suggests a question is being asked even when a fact is being stated. You know? Basically, these things become infectious. You know, I can’t think of any at examples at the moment but you know what I mean. You know?
    Basically, the entire western world is now doing it and I blame the soaps.
    Even they begin with ‘so’.
    Basically, they border on invidious but really get my goat when they mutate to insidious. You know?
    Look, I suppose ‘so’ would be basically worse if the sentence began and ended with that one word.
    How dismissive would that be?

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