Jewish World Review June 24, 2003 / 24 Sivan, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Brother, can you paradigm? | Bravely initiating a battle that it has no chance of winning, a New York-based company has produced a software program intended to wean corporate America off jargon and put it on a solid-food diet of clear language.

(One of the company's first tasks might be to give a clearer definition of the word "software," perhaps something along the lines of "a mysteriously named thing that is neither soft nor hard in any sense of the words but is intended to make your computer do things that you want it to but ultimately doesn't.")

The program, created by Deloitte Consulting, is called "Bullfighter" for reasons that I probably don't need to spell out. It is intended to steer writers of business documents away from confusing words like "synergy" (which I believe means that people have more energy for things that involve sin than for things that do not), "extensible repository," which I think is a place where your extensibles go to repose when they are tired, and "paradigm," which possibly means that you are walking around with an amount of change that totals slightly less than a quarter.

"We've had it with repurposeable, value-added knowledge capital and robust, leveragable mindshare," Deloitte consulting partner Brian Fugere told Reuters before pushing his teeth back into place.

Interestingly, corporate jargon becomes more obtuse as the financial condition of a company becomes shakier. After testing language used by now-bankrupt energy trader Enron from 1999 through 2001, "Bullfighter" discovered that the company's documents became progressively more indecipherable as it slid deeper and deeper into trouble.

Whether or not Bullfighter will help corporate America regain the trust of small investors like myself who are now looking forward to spending our retirement years living in a refrigerator carton under an overpass remains to be seen. Still, I think it is a worthwhile cause especially if it can at least partially straighten out the computer industry, deemed by Deloitte to be the foggiest of all.

Here are some of the murkier computer-related terms and what they seem to mean to idiots like myself: Bandwidth: The combined pant size of a band that eats too much junk food; an unflattering term.

Computer: A beige box designed to drive you insane; a thing that becomes obsolete a year after you buy it and is good only as a boat anchor.

Default directory: A parallel universe to which your most necessary and valuable documents are sent, never to be seen again.

File name: A thing that you instantly forget, dooming your document to a default directory. (See above.) Error message: What appears on your computer screen when you try to do something; message can sometimes be made to disappear by employing a bigger hammer.

Help: A user-assistance feature that only succeeds in making you more confused than you were in the first place.

Memory: A thing that your computer does not have enough of to do the things you want it to do; a brain function that deteriorates quickly through prolonged computer use.

Printer: That rectangular thing next to your computer that helpfully blinks a red light to alert you to the fact that it has successfully jammed itself with another piece of paper.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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