English as a Foreign Language - A Cautionary Tale
Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out — Samuel Johnson
Monday, November 17, 2008 8:00 AM
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Maxine Perkins and for the next six weeks, I will be either your best friend or your worst enemy.
Most of you are probably wondering “Why am I here? What have I done? Are these restraints really necessary?”
The answer is quite simple. As you might recall, two weeks before the presidential
election, in an attempt to
distract the populace put the minds of the voting
public at ease, President Bush issued an executive order making English the official
language of the United States. Originally titled the “Speak American Act” but now
popularly known as the
Law, it insures that attempts by foreign terrorists to corrupt our voting process will
be nipped in the bud. 2008 marks the year that we made sure election fraud will only be
committed by decent American citizens.
Unfortunately for those of you in this room, a detailed analysis of Worldwide Technical Farceware’s internal email revealed the disturbing fact that virtually every employee at director level and above has lost the ability to form simple declarative sentences in English. Thus, Homeland Security issued mandatory invitations for all of you to join me in this reeducation camp.
Monday, November 17, 2008 8:15 AM
I apologize for the brief interruption people. As you probably now realize, your Blackberries won’t work in the newly repurposed Gitmo Training Facility. This apparently proved to be too much for Senior VP Prattle, but the EMTs tell me his seizures should be under control soon.
Anyway, the sooner we start the sooner you will be back at your desks at WTF, so let’s get underway. I’ll begin with an example. Let’s see — you in the back. Director Drizzle I believe? If you don’t mind, could you come up to the front? Chairperson Spooner is no doubt fascinated with the demonstration of your new putter grip, but she will have to wait to discuss it until after this exercise is complete.
Mr. Drizzle, let’s say for the sake of argument that you’ve just complete a corporate coup and managed to consume a new engineering department. What’s the first thing you will do?
Oh that’s easy, I’ll send out a congratulatory email to group.drizzle so everyone is brought up to speed on our innovative new organization.
Okay, and how about doing some ad hoc composition of that email for us?
Hmm I think it would go something like this.”I take great pleasure in announcing the merger of the Defenseless and Vulnerable Business Unit into my organization. This will allow us to leverage our synergies…”
Stop right there Director, and thanks, you may sit down.
But I was just getting warmed up!
Yes, and it is important that I stop you before too much damage is done.
For starters, I’d like all of you to look up the word leverage in the dictionaries you received in your welcome packet. You’ll note the presence of the designation noun next to the word. Yet Mr. Drizzle clearly thinks it is appropriate to use it as a different part of speech.
Yes Mr. Obfuscator? No, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. We don’t actually have a formal process for “verbing nouns”. Yes, I know he did, but I knew James Joyce, and you, Mr. Obfuscator, are no James Joyce.
Moving on, let’s talk about the word synergy. Is the CTO here? Mr Bunk, what happens to engineering projects when a group doubles in size? That’s right, doubling the number of programmers moves the end date out by 50% and reduces the chance of success by a factor of two.
This is not normally what we mean by synergy. While it is okay to use words in a contradictory matter for a humorous effect, it is probably not the best approach for your business communications.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:30 PM
Welcome back from lunch everyone. Our week of buzzword elimination is now in its second day, and I’m happy to say that you are all doing really well. Let’s continue building our debuzzification dictionary on the board. You all have copies of the sample email announcing the addition of a 47th VP to the Development Management Council. CFO Twaddle, could you please start reading me some of the buzzwords from that email?
What’s that? Oh yes, the Taser rule is suspended for this exercise, you won’t get jolted for using the word in this context. Proceed:
Umm… go-to-market approaches?
Good one Rudy! Yes, let’s translate that as “selling stuff”. Next phrase please.
Lets see… this is a little long, but how about “address market needs with innovative solutions?”
Okay, that sounds like a synonym, we’ll use “selling stuff” for that as well.
Ooh I found a good one: “managing complex portfolio evolution.”
Well done Mr. Twaddle. I’ll write that one up as “scrapping products that suck.”
Thursday,December 25, 2008 3:30 PM
Okay people, I know you’re excited because we’re cutting our class schedule back by 30 minutes today — it is Christmas after all — but we need to keep working. Final exams are tomorrow, and I want to see 100% of you on the repatriation flights back to your homes in the U.S. Your relatives are no doubt wondering where you are by now — what’s that Ms. Bloviate?
Ah, I understand your concern. Yes, it’s true that WTF has been without executive leadership for six weeks, and you might think the company would be floundering. But my contacts in middle management tell me that productivity measures are up across the board. Apparently the decrease in corporate announcements, mass emails, and mandatory all-hands meetings have given each employee four or five hours a week to actually do work.
If I may continue with you, Ms. Bloviate, as corporate communications officer, let’s see if you were able to put your training to work in your sample press release. I believe our premise for the exercise was the departure of the long-tenured, beloved head of development, Fred “Greener Pastures” Mumbles. Please read us your work.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Worldwide Technical Farceware wishes to announce that our head of development, Frederick Mumbles, quit yesterday. We will pretend to still like him, and he will pretend to still like us, but in truth we hope we never see the ungrateful bozo again. Please direct inquiries to I. Bloviate, WTF.
Excellent work Iris. Every sentence is recognizable English, you make your points clearly — wait, are you crying?
No dear, you really have to stop thinking that people judge your writing based on the length of the press release. Honestly, the readers will actually appreciate it. Consider yourself validated. Have a tissue.
Friday, December 26, 2008 Noon
Congratulations class! Your 100% graduation rate is a tribute to the quality of the people that work at Worldwide! Remember that we offer on-line refresher classes if you feel yourself losing your grasp on English. But don’t worry; with the new Homeland Security Auto-CC function installed in your corporate Exchange servers, we’ll be on top of any slips before you even have time to notice.
Good luck, and go forth and leverage — hee hee, just some English teacher humor — and use your new skills to work together, build stuff, and sell it.