I’m a corporatespeak snob

I really wanted to like this Huff Post Business profile of Catherine Courage at Citrix. Alas, I couldn’t get past this sentence without going all Judgy McJudgerton:

Her determination and passion to grow design as a core differentiator led to the competency becoming a company-wide initiative and to the elevation of her role to senior vice president of customer experience.

What the heck does that even mean? It sounds like it was created with a keyword generator.

(See also: “Their mission is to partner with functions across the company to deliver an outstanding experience for both customers and employees.” Huh?? How does one “partner” with a “function”?)

I loathe whatever forces of evil compel people to compete at bastardizing English into an alien landscape of jargon.

. . . says the person who happily adopts Twitterisms . . .

Ahem. Yeah, well . . .

Maybe my frustration has to do with the fact that I don’t tend to use LOLspeak in a professional context, but corporatespeak is supposed to be the epitome of professionalism.

Or maybe because I read in the use of these self-important-sounding words a neediness on the part of the writer to make themselves sound important. Nobody likes a braggart.

Or perhaps I distrust the coinage of grandiose words that I suspect could be an attempt to veil true meaning.

Or I could just be a style snob who prefers plainer language.

How might I rewrite that stumbling-block sentence above (using context from the article)?

Her determination and passion to make her company stand out through its focus on consumer-oriented design led to company-wide adoption of her strategy and to her promotion to senior vice president of customer experience.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but not all of those ways are equally elegant, and some are downright grotesque.

Such is the challenge of wordsmithing.


Simple pleasures, experienced June 1

An “I enjoy your work” comment on a blog post, from a faraway stranger.

The successful mend of a tear in a favorite shirt. (With thread! Not duct tape!)

A two-hour lunch with a Friend Who Understands.

Laughing out loud at a precious, goofy text message.

A storm with enough oopmh to water the garden and scare the cat, but not the energy to produce hail larger than a generous pea.

A piece of mail that was neither an advertisement nor a bill.

The wonder of seeing hints of my brother’s face in a photo of my nephew.

The effervescent fizz of a freshly-opened jar of kimchi.

Good beer, a cool breeze, and a box of colored pencils.

A view into the future, and the past

A fellow traveler, a novice flier bound for her brother’s college graduation ceremony, meant well when she asked about my travel plans.

My vague reply, after a moment’s hesitation: “I’m going to see family in South Carolina.”

She must have seen something in my expression, as she promptly changed the topic.

I was relieved.

Despite the number of these kinds of cross-country trips I’ve made in recent years, I’ve yet to perfect an elegant deflection. No one really wants to hear that I’m traveling to help care for my dad, whose numerous health problems are dissolving him, rendering him increasingly dependent.

Witnessing my dad’s illness has caused me to shift focus in my own life, to leave a demanding job to explore independent creative work. I can all too easily imagine a future in which I, too, am stalked by debility. I fear losing the ability to function, fear leaving important things undone.

In dealing with the present crisis – in helping to pack up my dad’s apartment and downsize his belongings to move him to an assisted living facility – I discovered a piece of my past that reinforces the path I’m charting to my future, to my true self.

My dad is a bit of a hoarder. He saves collections of paperwork and assorted electronics parts, just in case they may some day be needed. As a result of several hasty relocations and the ravages of disease on cognitive function, these collections became hopelessly jumbled.

In one folder, sandwiched between legal papers from a late-90s car accident and junk mail from the AARP, I found a yellowing booklet bound with white yarn, its cover illustrated with strawberries and rainbows. It was a project I had done in fourth grade – an assignment to write a series of essays about myself.

Amid boxes of my dad’s belongings sorted into “keep” and “store/sell” piles, I paused to reconnect with my self of thirty years ago. I laughed at childish descriptions of sibling rivalry in “About My Family” and smiled at awkward use of simile in “What I’m Like.”

The final essay in the booklet was entitled “What I’ve Always Wanted.”

My desires at the time included a bay horse and a room of my own. Career ambitions were included in this section, too, though I’m not sure whether that was through proclivity or prompting.

In 1984, I wanted to be: an Olympic medalist (sport unspecified), a wildlife photographer, an artist, and . . . an author.

I was struck by how much my current inner dialogue is reflected in the ambition and self-criticism of fourth-grade me:fourth grade essay

Sometimes I sit and dream what fun it would be to be an author but when I sit down and write a story (like now) I think to myself “Yuck!”

Thirty years ago, I wanted to be a writer, but doubted I could write well enough to pull it off. Now, I’ve left a respectable job and taken a leap of faith that the words I put out there into the world will somehow have an impact and lead to new opportunities.

But I still struggle with that same self-doubt.

The difference now is that a fear of death drives me forward, over those speed bumps my inner critic keeps throwing up.

My dad’s illness ignited a spark, a nagging feeling that I need to chase that long-buried desire of my fourth-grade self, before it’s too late to become an author.

Me, then and now. We both want to be writers, we're both plagued by self-doubt, but the Now Me knows how short her one and precious life can be.

Me, then and now. We both want to be writers, we’re both plagued by self-doubt, but the Now Me knows how short her one and precious life can be.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw


Age a required course, old an elective

I love this essay in The Washington Post by Susan Bonifant: “Our college son invited us to a beer pong party. Here’s why I accepted.

Some tidbits:

Old is taking part in something that might be fun only if it’s easy.

Young is taking part in something that will probably be fun even if it’s hard.

Old is looking back on everything that’s already happened as better.

Young is looking forward to what will be even better

Another point in the book vs. e-reader debate

Great piece by Nick Bilton in the New York Times: In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print.

. . . that doesn’t mean I want my mother’s old Kindle to remember her by. And I certainly wouldn’t get much from her Audible collection.

Instead, I want her physical books. I want to be able to smell the paper, to see her handwriting inside, to know that she flipped those pages and that a piece of her lives on through them.

Books are a 500-year-old technology, but they are, perhaps, a more human technology.


A young writer on HONY

A gem from a young man on the Humans of New York blog:

“When you’re writing a book, you’ve really got to open your imagination. Your book can’t just be about a mean person who eats a banana and learns a lesson, because that’s boring. There needs to be a lot of different parts. There needs to be a protagonist, an antagonist, and some people that you’re not really sure about because that adds mystery.”

See the full post here.

A Bertrand Russell quote for Mother’s Day

One’s friends like one for one’s merits, one’s lovers for one’s charms; if the merits or the charms diminish, friends and lovers may vanish. But it is in times of misfortune that parents are most to be relied upon, in illness, and even in disgrace if the parents are of the right sort. We all feel pleasure when we are admired for our merits, but most of us are sufficiently modest at heart to feel that such admiration is precarious. Out parents love us because we are their children and this is an unalterable fact, so that we feel more safe with them than with any one else. In times of success this may seem unimportant, but in times of failure it affords a consolation and a security not to be found elsewhere.

Bertrand Russell from “The Conquest of Happiness”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Thanks for being there for me, through spilled milk and all.

Yes, my mother did comfort me when I literally cried over spilled milk.