Monday, September 27, 2010

Paco’s Diary

The SVP of a new group that has been organized within our agency – a fellow who has spent the better part of the last twenty years of his adult life in community organizing - recently prepared a short paper outlining his business strategy. It is a marvelous mish-mash of irrelevant truisms, obvious falsehoods and inscrutable boilerplate. A colleague asked what I thought of it. I told him it read like a report that had been prepared by an undergraduate student who possessed no familiarity with the subject matter and who had slapped it together the night before it was due after an evening spent in the consumption of a massive quantity of beer. He said, “Good. I was afraid I might be the only one who thought it was pure BS.”

* * * * * *

My prospective publisher will be glad to know that I have started five new Che stories in the last six weeks, and have finished four of them, so this project continues to lumber toward completion. Here’s a teaser from one of the stories:
I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years, and I would have given much to have been spared an encounter now. He had been hard of hearing as far back as I could remember, yet his natural garrulousness always led him to horn into every family conversation. This tendency of his made our chats twice as long as they needed to be because he was forever shouting “What? What?” and so we wound up repeating ourselves endlessly. We had even devised a nickname for him based on his constant flow of interrogatives (one which, oddly, he had eagerly embraced). My heart sank as I faced the inescapable reality: the deaf old man approaching me with arms extended was none other than my uncle, Qué Guevara.

* * * * * *

No doubt these were interesting, useful expressions when they were first coined, but through overexposure they now clang on my eardrums whenever I hear them: “not a happy camper” (makes me want to disembowel the speaker with a tent-peg); “sounds like a plan” (sounds like a tiresome cliché to me); “paradigm shifter” (is that on the floor or on the column, and can I get it factory-installed?); “granularity” (much used by various people in my agency, and intended to convey the notion of a greater-than-average amount of detail; reminds me of sandpaper, and I can easily visualize myself applying it to the speaker’s lips with an electric sander).

Malapropisms, on the other hand, are a different matter altogether, and I can listen to them all day long. For example, my boss continues to use the word “crackpot” when he means to say “crack” (i.e., expert or possessing superior excellence, as in “crack troops”). There is, frankly, nothing that gives me greater pleasure than to be introduced as a member of his “crackpot” staff: the nervous laughter that dies away quickly as people realize he wasn’t making a joke, the suppression of renewed laughter when they suddenly understand that he has used not only the wrong word, but one with a ludicrously inappropriate connotation; the intense investigation I make of my shoes in order to avoid making eye contact and experiencing my own spasm of uncontrollable laughter. Really spices up an otherwise dull day (and no, he doesn’t actually mean “crackpot” in its correct sense, although I would find that equally amusing - and, depending on the context, quite possibly more accurate). And lest you think, “Ah, Paco, how cruel! Why don’t you enlighten him?” I should point out that I did try to correct him once, but it didn’t take, so he’s now on his own.


Anonymous said...

Lovely Daughter was a mere 22 years old when she came to me and asked, "Mom, [insert authority figure here] has a degree in (whatever). He's 5 or 10 years older than me. And I just know I'm not only cuter than he is, I also know the work better AND I'm generally smarter and better with people. What gives?"

Promoted far beyond their intelligence (another clanger?). Our 'betters' are seldom better, it seems.

bruce said...

“Good. I was afraid I might be the only one who thought it was pure BS.”

How many out there feel the same? Not enough to vote against the no-clothes empire unfortunately.

Paco said...

Bruce: Maybe not yet, but we're getting closer (by the way my community organizer was not Obama; it was a far lesser mortal).

Michael Lonie said...

"Que Guevara?" Ay, caramba! I salute you, Agent Paco, for devising the most horrible pun I have read in years.

You have no doubt eaten, at some time in your childhood, Crackerjacks. The word comes from an old Navy term of approbation, common in WWII. An admiral, for example, might refer to a captain as a "crackerjack carrier skipper," meaning he was a great skipper. Maybe you can get your boss to use that term instead of "crackpot."

JeffS said...

Paco, it's truly scary how many incompetents rise to the top of federal service. Of any bureaucracy, I suppose, but that's where my experience lies.

One "manager" in my office wrote a 7 page report that "justified" spending nearly $60 million on a project that would result in minimal benefits....if it was run by a genius with a knack for performing miracles. Needless to say, said "manager" was angling for that project, thereby insuring a dismal failure. I wanted to use that report, rolled into a thin tube, as an instrument of mayhem on that "manager".

(That particular project died on the vine. So far anywho, knock on wood, but my agency is the epitome of zombie projects.)

And I'm with you about expressions. My pet peeve is the use of expressions and jargon by people who have no idea what they are saying.....and know it, and really don't care. Or use a phrase that utterly baffles most folks.

My agency has some military connections, so the executives like to borrow from the military to impress the officers. The first time I heard a senior employee (who has ZERO military background) say "We need to cover on down" during a conference, I nearly had to leave the room. Luckily, I contained the explosion of laughter, but I had to explain to a bunch of people afterwards that he really meant "get things lined up". Hilarity ensued, but in private.

And so on. Just don't get me started on "Are there any alibis?"

Minicapt said...

1. You left out the "delta".
2. More Che, moneda más español


Merilyn said...

JeffS....."is the use of expressions and jargon by people who have no idea, what they are saying....." you have been reading Big Ted's posts, over at Blair's right?

Minicapt said...


JeffS said...

Heh! Not often, Merilyn -- I encounter that particular species every day at the office. Why read more of their drivel?

But I must admit have read a few posts by Big Ted, drawn by the sheer amount of responses from Blairites tromping trolls, and am hugely unimpressed by his, ummmmm, "intellect". HUGELY. The dude needs a time out to retake grade school.

richard mcenroe said...

My boss, affectionately referred to as 'the two-bit, schmatte-dealing gonif" in the secret language of the VRWC, likes to change one word in a cliché and flop it out as though he's done something clever, a la "money is the base of all evil."

thefrollickingmole said...

My missus has one I always crack up at, instead of "it gets my goat!" its "It gets up my goat", funny how one misplaced word can alter the whole thrust of a sentence.

Ive actually put myself up for promotion once just to block a bloke who I thought would be incompitent in the job, not because I wanted it.