I’ll have an… erm… oh sod you Starbucks.

Americano isn’t really a thing, but there’s no other way of asking for a straightforward coffee any more.

Filter coffee? No, that’s definitely not what you want.

Black coffee? Nope, you want milk in it. And black coffee with milk isn’t black coffee any more.

So you revert to saying “just a normal coffee please,” and then you’re asked if it’s an Americano you want. There is no escape from the made-up coffee term.

Proper Italian coffee shops don’t have anything called Americano, and they’d sneer at you for requesting one. Which must tell you something.

Of course, having identified the style of coffee you’d like, you are then invited to identify a vessel size using an approximation of Italian. Then you’ve got to tell them your name, so they can write it on your cup and shout it out in order to “personalise the experience” in an otherwise empty coffee shop.

Even tea has become “chai”. They are messing with our heads.

See also: flat white


The art of the possible

20140522-193935-70775299.jpgUsually, no actual art involved.

“Can we explore the art of the possible?”

Ah, there goes the cry. Making unremarkable things sound like there may be genuine artistry involved is a new business skill.

Exploring the art of the possible requires no more than a discussion of what’s easy. It lends a futuristic, blue-sky*, out-of-box* dimension to a process of doing exactly the same thing and hoping it looks different.

In that sense, asking “what is the art of the possible?” is the same as asking “what’s possible?”, or “what do we normally do?” Questions so unworthy of being asked that you may as well just not ask them. Presumably the reason you’re sitting in a meeting in the first place is because there are things you can do, as opposed to things you can’t or won’t. They simply don’t need an artifice of artistry.

It’s also the same as saying, “I am a moronic airhead who has adopted yet more meaningless meeting-filling vocal clutter as a radical alternative to having any actual ideas, borne of existing in a curious corporate bubble for so long that everything I say and do and indeed my entire existence is entirely bereft of any meaning”. That’s a bit of a mouthful though.

And no, to complete the picture, you are not trying to “boil the ocean*”. We know this too.




Why say a short word correctly when you can get a long one wrong?

“We are going to have to discuss your renumeration”.

“Yes, but first of all let’s invent an entirely new concept that sounds like it might be an imagined branch of mathematics; a bit of maths that sounds like it might have something to do with money but in fact doesn’t exist in the slightest.”

Renumeration: not a thing.

Creative juices


Thinking caps on: it’s time to get those creative juices flowing.

With their slightly icky undertones, creative juices are the distinctly uncreative way of establishing a need for everyone to have a really brilliant idea.

It’s entry-level corporate-branding-internal-comms hell for anyone who has brilliant ideas all the time and doesn’t want to have to sit in a meeting room all day affixing those thoughts to the wall via the medium of post it notes.

No-one ever adequately explained what a creative juice might be, nor why it might flow. With the current trend for novelty juices and smoothies based on superfoods, you’d think there’d be a more ‘now’ way of expressing this. I’d like to think that creative juices would involve a clever blend of something classically juicy, like blueberry, along with a more off the wall choice such as beetroot, spinach or kale.

But perhaps creative juices are nothing more than just the ink in marker pens.

And so to a meeting room, flip charts ahoy, trying to come up with a zingy, dynamic name for the brilliant (not that brilliant), futuristic (generally not that amazing) new product or software that has been created either from scratch, or more likely on the back of a 20-year-old version of the same thing, built in some clunky hell of a technology that nobody supports any more. It’s an invoicing system, so that’s boring. But it’s online! It does stuff with customer records! It has an app, so it probably needs an i-prefix! It does one new thing to justify the price tag! Oh and social! Does it “do social”?

Emerging three hours later with a product name: i-Customer Referral Application, it turns out that the creative juice was a disappointingly business-as-usual apple or orange.

Within weeks the business is logging in to i-CRAP and your work here is done, the system in question bucking the usual trend of being made up of three letters, the last of which is always an S.

The optics of this


Yeah, I really think we need to consider the optics of this.

Just when you think that the world’s supplies of workplace bullshit must be fundamentally exhaustible, along comes another obfuscatory belch of inane drivel to prove you completely wrong.

‘Consider the optics’ is sadly not a challenge to guzzle one’s way through every spirit in the bar. Rather disappointingly it’s an invitation to say whether something looks ok.

In normal parlance, you might say, “how would this look?”, or perhaps “what would people think of this?”

But now we revert to the use of optics, which is essentially the study of how light behaves, to describe some entirely tedious workplace decision. It’s a bit like describing canteen food in relation to thermodynamics.

Optics. Coming soon to an annoying business meeting near you.

Peri peri


Anything mildly spicy is now reclassified peri peri, or piri piri, apparently.

At least Nando’s have the Portuguese sauce thing approximately right. But now everything in a supermarket with a bit of a kick, from novelty houmous to Linda McCartney burgers and from salt to an inauthentic spicy mayonnaise, gets the peri peri label as a lazy shorthand for ‘moderately spiced’.

Piri piri, or whatever it is actually supposed to be, becomes the latest catch-all, like “barbecue”, or “Italian”.

It’s worse in the downmarket pub sector, where the meals-on-wheels approximation of things you might buy in a take-away is the bedrock of the menu. Here Peri-peri sits alongside Cajun and Jerk and any other kind of shakeable, generic, factory sauce, cynically tipped onto whichever bit of protein is the appropriate culinary victim. “Curry”.

Clearly, Piri piri, Jerk and Cajun are things. Except when they’re describing novelty dishes that shouldn’t really exist.

Antibacterial laundry cleanser


Oh now what?

As if I wasn’t being invited to waste my money on enough things, along comes the company behind the Dettol brand with the invasion of yet another invented need.

Having responded to persuasive ecological forces by washing my clothes in progressively colder water, I’m now expected to believe that doing so leaves my washing a breeding ground for bacteria; bacteria which requires a special bacteria-destroying antibacterial treament. Otherwise I will probably be killed by my own washing machine. Revenge, presumably, for the fact that I had to disable the stupid jingle it used to play every time the washing cycle stopped. Bloody thing.

So that’s a third preposterous thing to put in my washing machine, along with a fabric conditioner which reportedly contains “black diamond and lotus flower” (yes of course it does) and a range of washing powders, capsules, liquids and tablets whose special cleansing properties and formulations fluctuate almost as much as their Brand Match-enhancing price tags.

Dettol indeed. Next they’ll be advising me to add TCP to the wash in order to fend off a sore throat.