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A failure to predict the past

In his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language George Orwell wrote that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.

Business language is hardly any better, sometimes it is worse.

I think that in many cases this is by accident, not design.

The business hacks and flaks that are supposed to guide businesses to clear communications just don’t challenge jargon often enough.

We’re writing or speaking for and to people in a club. So we assume everyone knows what like-for-like sales are, how leverage works.

These phrases don’t mean very much outside business.

My favourite lately is the (intentional?) confusion between prices falling and yields rising.

Sometimes we get this right. When supermarkets cut the price of sausages, we just say that.

We don’t say: “Sausage yields rose after supermarkets reacted to the easing of supply constraints in the collagen and sawdust markets.”

In other contexts, we do seem to allow phrases like that.

There was a cracker the other day in a note on a property business which read:

“Declines were driven by valuer yield expansion across the portfolio”.

I think this means: “Agents overvalued the portfolio and we have had to make substantial write downs.”So many businesses seem to do this, saying that “yields rose” when what they are really telling us is that prices fell.

The bullshit detector needs powering up.

Press release of the day

Data from the ONS today reveals that there were over 1.8 million work-related ill health cases (new or longstanding) in 2021/22, with 30.8 million working days lost in 2021/22.

The primary causes of ill-health were work-related stress, depression or anxiety followed by musculoskeletal disorders.

David Pye, director at independent consultancy Broadstone, says:

 “Today’s figures lay bare the immense economic and productivity damage that ill-health in the workforce inflicts on businesses in all sectors. Economic inactivity is soaring and workers are struggling to access the mental or physical healthcare that they need to get on with their day-to-day working lives.”

Stories that will keep rolling

1) How is Jet2 doing compared to Ryanair and easyJet?

2) Who will win the race to buy Man United?

3) Is the stock market way too optimistic about 2023?

4) Is Dr Martens recession proof?


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