Has workplace language really changed in the downturn? Of course, new words have entered our vocabularies. Some have a sort of grim humour, and presumably aim to cheer up miserable workers. Take words such as the “brokefast” – ie, not having breakfast. Or the renaming of the American 401(k) pension plan scheme as the 201(k), a reference to the fact that it has halved in value.Euphemisms such as “stimulus plan”, (ie, printing money) are also perilously close to being hilarious.
But language has changed in another way, too. In some areas of office life there has been a move towards formality – in clothes, for example, where three-piece suits and ties have replaced open collars. In language, however, the opposite seems to have happened.
A survey of company directors that came out last week showed that bad language has become more common at work. The research, which was carried out by a consultancy called the Aziz Corporation, claimed that swearing has become more acceptable. When it carried out the same survey a decade ago, it found that even “mild” swear words were considered unacceptable in internal meetings by all respondents. These days, a half of respondents said that they have no problem with mild swearing. Almost 20 per cent said that they found even “strong swearing” was acceptable in the office.
Why is this happening? Perhaps it is a desire for plain-speaking. Tolerance for the management and business guff that we have had to listen to for years is at an all-time low. What’s the best way to burst a jargon-filled bubble? With a short, sharp expletive, of course. Telling it how it is, is back in fashion.