Parlez-Vous Dotcom?

By Morrish, John | New Statesman (1996), January 22, 2001 | Go to article overview

Parlez-Vous Dotcom?


Morrish, John, New Statesman (1996)


John Morrish introduces us to the curious world of internet jargon

If language is a system for transferring ideas from one mind to another, many of today's e-commerce and internet technology organisations speak no language at all. Consider these thoughts, from a recent press release:

"Vectus CRM software harnesses relevant data and knowledge about a customer to drive tailored interactions. Its open, flexible architecture combined with an easy-to-use business rules engine allows implementations to achieve real business benefits quickly. Together with its Alliance Partners, London Bridge provides complementary products and services to address critical elements of the overall solution and optimise the value to clients. Vectus and its alliance partner IDM will be involved in joint marketing and sales efforts to bring added value to the customer base of both companies."

And so it goes on, for another 500 words apparently selected and assembled at random. There are even quotes: "Being able to use IDM's marketing analytics directly with the Vectus CRM solution greatly enhances the total value to the end customer," says Frank Patchel, the senior vice-president of the Vectus CRM Division. Now there's a man you'd want at a dinner party.

The truth is that language is used not only to communicate, but also to bind together insiders, repel outsiders and to conceal. Those who gain any useful information from such prose also get the reassurance that they are "within the loop". In other words, if you want staff, suppliers and customers to "sing from the same hymn sheet", print it in code.

There is nothing new in jargon. I have an "Instant Buzzword Generator" printed in the 1960s. Take one word from each of its three columns and you can create a slogan to enhance your corporate standing: "parallel logic capability", say, or "responsive management concept". Swap the paper columns for "Javascript-driven active functionality", and you will find it on the web today.

But the dotcom language is not just technological jargon. Rather, it is a collision between two distinct occupational dialects: the language of the pizza-eaters who created the internet, and the language of the MBAs who have done their best to take it away from them. …

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