A few days ago, I began to ruminate about the terms buzzwords and memes. Was there any relationship? Could a buzzword become a meme or vice versa? These thoughts were probably inflicted upon me by the languor induced by our coronavirus lockdown.
The dictionary meaning of buzzword is “a word drawn or imitative of technical jargon and often rendered meaningless and fashionable through abuse by non-technical persons in a seeming show of familiarity with the subject.” Now that seems a bit harsh after reviewing lists of buzzwords of which I have perused finding only a few I didn’t understand. Most people own computers or smartphones in this day and age, and can readily Google the meaning of any word or phrase, including buzzwords and buzz phrases. The lexicographer in this case must have forgotten this fact and makes derogatory assumptions.
The following examples are highly technical terms which are deemed to be the essential buzzwords for 2020: Computer vision, artificial intelligence (AI), connected retail, internet of things, hyperautomation, blockchain, quantum computing and mobile first. Now anyone with a brain in their head and a smartphone can easily access the meanings of all these buzzwords, with the exception of the term blockchain where a degree in economics might come in handy to grasp the full meaning.
Buzzwords and phrases are often used in business meetings by bosses or guest speakers to inspire the workers and also stroke their egos. Some examples of corporate buzzwords or “management speak” are “motivated, passionate, creative, driven, responsible, strategic, and organizational.” It is when the buzzword becomes hackneyed or when so many different buzzwords are poured into a speech that the audience members may become contemptuous.
Overly callous and cynical employees have been known to play a game called “Buzzword Bingo” where “bingo cards” are created with a number of buzzwords and phrases printed onto them trying to anticipate the buzzwords that will be used by the speaker at a business meeting. If the employees participating are so seemingly scornful to want to play games during business hours, it is probably time for them to find another job or line of work. But Buzzword Bingo can also be played while listening to a political speech. Now we’re talking! I know in my calloused political heart that this would be oodles of fun, as I sat ticking off a list of words and phrases like big society, fit for purpose, political capital, stakeholder, streamline, synergy.
Not all buzzwords are born from technological nomenclature, as examples I will list the Top 10 buzzwords of the last decade according Red & Black writer Emma Robinson.
— Tea: gossip, especially about a celebrity.
— Ghosting: ending a relationship, suddenly, without any further communication.
— Lit: something that is amazing or exciting. It also refers to being drunk.
— Bae: a romantic partner, or baby of which it is also an abbreviation.
— Shook: as in shook up from overexcitement or fear.
— Woke: being fully aware of societal changes and political issues.
— Adulting: doing chores or paperwork responsibly in an adult manner. Adulting results when a person acts like an adult less than fifty percent of the time and then decides to man up for a bit.
— Shade: an insult or judgement delivered in a subtle manner.
— Thirsty: to act desperate or too eager.
— Flex: to show off or to brag about accomplishments or material possessions.
The simplest definition that I could find for meme was to capture the concept of cultural transmission of ideas. An internet meme is an idea or phenomena that is sent through the ethernet to others repeatedly.
So, as I understand it a buzzword can become a meme, but when it’s oversaturated our collective consciousness, becoming trite, the meme then becomes a buzzword again when folks begin to shudder at its redundant utterance.
And finally, we come to the concept of a fuzzword. No, it’s not the particular jargon used over a police radio. A fuzzword is a buzzword that is hazy in its meaning.
We can probably thank the politicians for this one as the use fuzzy, meaning buzzwords, along with their fuzzy mathematical computations to lure us into voting for them, as they prattle on about “feasibility studies” or spout forth “economic projections.” I deem the words billions and trillions to be fuzzwords due to their sheer incomprehensible sums.