4 Of Our Least Favorite Buzzwords

Buzzwords are great, but there’s a few we’re tired of hearing about.

It’s fair to say that the official currency of the tech world is “buzz”. If people are talking about your new startup, idea, app, or investment round, that’s a promising sign that you’re poised to be the next big thing, which is the course the goal of every founder, venture capitalist, marketer and developer.

It only goes to follow, then, that “buzzwords” are the official language of this subculture. Anyone who has spent considerable time observing or reading about Silicon Valley will inevitably recognise that a similar set of words is used over and over. These can be words that mean something entirely different outside the tech context, but to anyone privy to Silicon Valley norms, these words comprise a language unto themselves. Urban Dictionary, the most culturally relevant source of modern language, defines a “buzzword” as such:

(n.) Ambiguous word (often hyphenated) that is repeated over and over to win support for a cause. use of buzzwords is not exclusive to any side of the political spectrum, or any particular opinion on any matter.

A word’s ambiguity usually stems from many different people using it in many different ways. When a buzzword becomes popular in tech parlance, there are many who use it while not even knowing what it means. Rather, they want to appear “in the know” and “part of the tribe” so they use these words to signify that. It’s as if these words are acting as a cultural marker that a person is relevant and tech-minded.

However, just like any trend that gets overblown and overused, we quickly tire of buzzwords. It seems that just as they become popular and commonly used in the everyday lexicon, another set of people begin to mock them—as well as the speakers who use them—as vacuous types who are simply trying to fit in and sound clever.

While this reaction maybe be a little extreme, there certainly are some Silicon Valley buzzwords that have had their day. Here are a look at some words it’s time to retire:

“Disrupt”: When an existing industry has a few problems that a startup founder thinks they could fix with a new idea, they are said to be “disrupting” an industry. Uber disrupted taxis, Airbnbs did so to hotels, and Seamless for food delivery. The problem is that every single app and new idea can’t necessarily be disruptive, even though founders would like to insist their idea is. It’s time to retire disruption in favor of something a little less hyperbolic.

“Ideate”: Ideate is not a word that exists in the English dictionary, but in Silicon Valley it is used in place of a more simple verb: to think. It’s more than a little pretentious to use made-up words for a simple brain function, and thus this word needs to go.

“Thought leader”: Anyone who doesn’t have technical skills in The Valley can only hope to be viewed as a thought leader. This roughly translates as a speaker, expert, writer or thinker that has a unique perspective on a given topic. If someone has interesting ideas to share, why don’t we just refer to them as as such, rather than attaching a lofty title that no longer means much anyway.

“Hack”: The origins of this word come from MIT where a group of clever students would play pranks on the student body using nerdy tricks. Fast forward to today, where literally anything can be “hacked”, or made better or easier by rejigging or rethinking a process all together. While words do change in meaning, this word has become so overused in its current iteration that it is starting to lose its meaning completely. When you can “hack” something as banal as lunch or an evening commute, it’s time to move on.

Are there any particular buzzwords you’re sick of hearing? Let us know over on Twitter @VPSNET.

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