#MondayMotivation: We Had the Right Vocabulary All Along

Looking for a little #MondayMotivation? We’re pulling out past stories that are still just as relevant today. Here’s a pearl from Jim: Don’t Say “Guest” When You Don’t Mean Guest.

For some reason, businesspeople tend to drift toward gibberish in their speech. (And you’re all businesspeople, by the way, even those of you who believe that “businesses” do something different from what nonprofits do.)

In the search for something interesting, different and effective to say, people try a lot of things. Many of those things are nonsensical. Some of the nonsensical things sound good, and sometimes when they sound good people start copying that nice-sounding bit of nonsense. Eventually, people take it seriously, even though it’s nonsense. Don’t worry, though, because eventually when this happens, the original word or phrase becomes so common that it stops meaning anything at all. “Guilt-free” as a way of describing a menu item is an example of pure gibberish that eventually just faded into meaninglessness.

And other times, someone says something that’s not entirely gibberish. It might even be pretty smart, but because it’s smart and makes sense, it keeps getting used until it becomes, you guessed it, gibberish.

For example, 20 or 30 years ago, IBM realized that their future success would come not from mostly selling computers, but from selling the consulting services to help their big customers get the most out of all that equipment they were buying from Big Blue. Though they may not have been the first to say this, they popularized the saying, “We don’t sell products. We sell solutions.” The point was to say that it’s not the product that’s important; it’s the fact that we solve a problem you have.

Flash forward 10 or 15 years from that, and everyone, everyone, everyone in the commercial software business was selling “solutions.” But they didn’t quite mean it the way IBM did. “Solution” had simply become a synonym for “product.” You would hear people say things like, “Our solution is superior to our competitors’ solutions because it has 10 times the processor speed of theirs.”

The original idea behind using the word “solution” completely fell away, and it became gibberish. But here’s the one that I want to mention to you today: guest. …

Read the rest of Jim’s post: Don’t Say “Guest” When You Don’t Mean Guest.

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