Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What the Hell Are You Talking About?

Just read this hilarious, insightful piece on the Harvard Business Review (why do you look so surprised that I read HBR? I read it SO MUCH, in fact, that I have an acronym for it, something which the author makes fun of in this very same article.And by the way, I'm screwing with you. I try to steer clear of publications with the words "Harvard" or "Business' in them in general.):

I Don't Understand What Anyone is Saying Anymore

Reminds me of being in grad school getting my masters in English Lit. I used to keep track of all the meaningless words volleyed about incessantly during seminars, in the back of my notebook. They were so meaningless I don't recall any of them, except for one: slippage. This was a big hit in my seminar on James Joyce. It was "slippage" this and "slippage" that, and I'd nod my head in agreement, like, "Oh yes, now THAT'S an instance of slippage you just couldn't possible argue with, right there," but I basically had no freaking idea what they were talking about. Of course, I'd never let anyone in on that because I assumed everyone else understood perfectly well what that meant. Then, one momentous day, my friend Lena, who'd been an actress with me in LA and had also moved back to to NY to get her Masters in English, did something UNTHINKABLE. Seriously, it was so ballsy that I think I gasped audibly.

In the middle of a very intense conversation about "slippage" in Finnegan's Wake, she said, "Excuse me. Maybe this will sound really dumb, but what does that word mean?"

Everyone sat, speechless for a few seconds. And then I realized that NO ONE knew what "slippage" meant, probably because its some piece of theory mumbo jumbo that was invented to give you a headache.

The girl who spelled her very ordinary name in a very unusual way and always dominated discussions, piped up finally and offered some ridiculous definition which made no sense, like, "When we say, 'slippage' we are referring to the way in which the words slip in meaning, that is to say, the space, however large or small that may be in any particular instance, between the word and its meaning."

Gotcha. Totally. Loud and Clear.

I'm still proud of Lena for that 'fuck you' to academic nonsense speak. So follow her lead, shared by this business mastermind Dan Pallotta, and don't be afraid to say: "I've got no flipping idea what you just said, man. Was that English?"