Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Some people eschew jargon but if you’re going to use it, make sure you have the latest. Here are some suggestions for words to bandy about, plus a few to drop.


Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2017, defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’. I’d got by without it. Clearly I’m not part of the youthquake, but it’s not too late to pretend. Join me.


We can’t rant about FAMGA since Google messed it up by changing its name to Alphabet. In any case, it sounds perverse to complain about a monopoly that, far from using its dominance as a seller to push up prices, is a free service to its users. Instead, point out the damage done by a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down. Amazon retails almost half of all new books in the USA, often at attractive discounts, amid concerns about loss of income for writers and publishers, loss of diversity and choice in book publishing and retailing, and loss of tax revenues.


Everyone is talking about it. Amaze your friends by knowing what it is. This explainer is good, and also gave me an Aha moment about what the heck “mining Bitcoin” means.

Augmented Reality

A blend of reality with graphics. Pokémon Go came and went, but AR will stick around. When the replay of a tennis shot or a goal in football shows the trajectory of the ball, that’s AR. Expect more games, and many useful applications. Imagine a surgeon looking at a patient’s leg with a “map” of what’s inside projected onto the leg. Or a soldier surveying the road ahead through goggles that overlay a map showing features not yet visible.

Machine Learning

A computer system can “learn” to spot patterns or sort applications or select and label inputs. Over time, it can become more independent and more useful. This is not the same as being objective or unbiased. In some cases, the machine learns what humans teach it through the inputs used to train the system. For example, if images for “nurse” mostly show a woman, that becomes the rule by which the system will recognise a nurse.


Make room for your new jargon by giving up a few tired, over-used words. Here are the ones I can live without.


Possibly the most disingenuous word in the workplace. I’ve run my own business for some years but still my stomach churns when someone tells me they have feedback for me. I’ve done it to other people, too. We know all the tricks, and all the rules – give 3 positive pieces of feedback for every negative one, cite specifics, describe observable behaviour, not imagined intentions – but still it feels like, as Ned Stark would have said, Everything that comes before the ‘but’ is a lie. Let’s be kind and helpful instead.


Only if the NY Honours list is renamed the NY humiliation list can people be humbled by appearing on it. Until then it’s intended as an elevating thing not a demeaning one. I know when people say this they mean they consider themselves unworthy. But please, humble as you are, remember Uriah Heap and give it a break. No one can be “honoured and humbled” simultaneously. If someone tries to reward or honour you, embrace it with a good grace, like an unsolicited gift. There’s no shame in feeling proud.

Big Data

It’s time to move on.


An idea? A tip? A piece of insider knowledge? A workshop? They’re all so much more helpful to the reader. I blame Silicon Valley and its spawn for this one. Worst of all are “life hacks”. So vague yet so self-important. The proliferation of “hacks” as click-bait should soon make them a liability, such that writers of good content will not want to be associated with them. Maybe.


Some things are impressive. Some are surprising. Many are very, or extremely. Few are incredible. I can easily believe people are lonely, or hard-working, or successful. Places can be remote, or busy, or hot. Nothing incredible about it. Hemingway scorned adverbs. I’d like to say he scorned this one particularly.

Thought leadership | January 2018