Cascading jargon

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In a recent Guardian article, Steven Poole had an enjoyable dig at office jargon. Among other things, he suggested that asking for something by “end of play” might be “trying to hypnotise you into thinking you are having fun”. I am similarly suspicious of the corporate fondness for prettifying everyday tasks and functions, the word “cascade” being one of the most preposterous examples.

“Please cascade this email to your direct reports,” ran a sentence in an email I was sent the other day in preparation for a workshop. I challenged my clients to find an alternative way of expressing this request, and was delighted when they came up with: “Please share this message with your team.” I was even more delighted that they unanimously preferred their revised version.

In this instance, replacing the words “direct reports” with “your team” was probably just as important in conveying the everyday human warmth so lacking in the original. But the word “cascade” retains a grim fascination for me.

Not only is the introduction of a waterfall metaphor unnecessary and distracting. It also suggests an old-fashioned top-down management style. What about the poor soaked and huddled masses underneath?

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