I have recently joined a company. Said company is based in the US, and about as corporate as you can imagine. Someone told me the other day that the expression ‘working for The Man’ derived from this company. I find that hard to believe and conjecture it is even harder to trace for sure, but you get the point… So for the sake of anonymity, people’s feelings and, frankly, being sued, I shall refer to my company as ‘The Man’.
So I have been working for The Man for just over six weeks now. Now I am not the least patient person alive, but not far off. Nevertheless, I was resolute that I would not bring this to bear on my work, at least until I was a crucial cog and therefore they had to just put up with me… This is proving harder than I thought. It is harder for many reasons, some of which I may write about, but the thing that really winds me up at the moment is, what some refer to as ‘business speak’, but I refer to simply as poor grammar.
I attended a conference the other day hosted by The Man. One of the keynote speakers at the event was an American gentleman. He was impressive, had done some weird and wonderful things and was actually rather funny. However, while he had me listening, I picked up on this phrase: ‘I was predicting into the future’… Now let us break this down. Quite aside from the minor peculiarity of him discussing the future in the past, the sentence is horrible. First of all, you do not predict into the future. The future is not a box into which one projects one’s thoughts! But more importantly, the tautology is absurd. Prediction does not need to be qualified – you cannot predict the past, thus a prediction is something that always lends itself to the progression of time. However the guy was American, and we throw in with him what are dubbed Americanisms: ‘z’ replaces ’s’ and they spend their whole time “reaching out” to one another. No, what I am talking about is people who are speaking English.
Now this could be true just of The Man, or, more likely, it stretched into all business (perhaps all of life). People are trying to make themselves look more intelligent than they really are. It is as if everyone is ruffling their feathers, or spanning them like a peacock to make themselves seem more menacing. I feel it most acutely I believe, because this arena of bullshitting peacocks are all patronising me, some even patronizing me. However, and now we get to the crux of my grievance, they cannot speak properly. Someone wrote an email to me using the well known phrase ‘non-existent’ spelt ‘none existant’. Another one: ‘Do you want to come for a drink with me and Steve?’ – well not if you are going to speak like that all night thank you; as you can imagine I am making friends well!
But the ubiquitous misuse of yourself, yourselves and myself, I am finding it a struggle to handle at the moment. “Myself and Charlie will handle it”… No we will not: Charlie and I will handle it. And judging by your grammatical inability, ‘I will handle that myself’. But the worse was yet to come… I was in a meeting the other day when someone genuinely said to a client “I will be reaching out to yourselves at a later date”. I did not know what to do, I nearly spat coffee over a rather portly gentleman who was sitting opposite me. Not only is that woefully grammatically wrong, not only does it make little sense, but he could have just said “I will call you later”, of if he wanted to ruffle his feathers, “I will make sure someone gets in touch with you”. The idiocy of it I do not even find comical, it makes me angry! Meanwhile I have been told ‘I can learn a lot from these sorts of people’…
I am not totally sure what catharsis this lends itself to. But the rule to live by: if you can use ‘me’ or ‘you’, it is the word to use… Perhaps the end of it will be if and or when this is read by one of the involved parties; many apologies Simon – at least you shall now be remembered in prose.