Earlier this week I was talking to some colleagues of mine about “corporate speak”. You know what I’m talking about…all of those made up words (a.k.a. generic jargon, buzzwords, etc.) that aspiring young professionals in big companies use to try to sound smarter. Surely you’ve seen resumes, proposals, or other business documents that were littered with nonsensical words, most of them of many syllables and tenuous definition.
Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a diatribe about using big words and good grammar. This is about playing a little game we used to call “Bullshit Bingo”. If you’re not familiar with the game (and surely many of you are), it was an old joke where you could put a list of these made up words on a Bingo playing card and cross off each of them as some pompous “know-it-all-wanna-be” started littering their “thoughtful” comments with them during a meeting or presentation. I know the game helped me make it through many an aimless meeting in my previous corporate life.
Here’s a little video I found on SPIKE.com that elaborates on the idea behind this whole concept.
Funny you say? Yes, but unfortunately, this video only exists because this actually happens in real companies today.
Well, I’m taking it upon myself to call Bullshit on Bullshit Bingo.
I want to start by calling out a grammatical error which is so common that it has been included on some BS Bingo boards (at least I know it makes it onto mine, because it’s a near certainty that someone in the room will do it). It’s not a made-up word, but it has been so bastardized that this has become one of my biggest personal pet peeves. I’ve even seen it used incorrectly on blogs and social media, which is less offensive than in a face-to-face business meeting, but still a huge issue if you are using those media for personal branding or conducting business.
BS Bingo No More: Learn how to use the word “myself” properly!
The biggest offense I’ve seen here is the use of myself as the subject of a sentence, as in “Bill, Tom, Jane, and myself will be organizing the event.” [ACK! Even writing that is like nails on a chalkboard for me.]
How should the word actually be used by literate adults? It’s reflective people!
What does that mean? Unless you’ve already used the word “I” in a sentence, the only other potentially acceptable way to use it is as the subject of a preposition. And never, ever, ever use it as a direct replacement for the word “me”, even in a preposition. Confused? Perhaps some examples will help.
- I myself will be giving the presentation.
- I really created a bad situation for myself.
- I somehow injured myself.
See what I mean? That could have been pulled straight from classic literature. Or a really well written journal.
Let’s look at some misuses in more detail now.
- The team in attendance will include myself, Marie, and Barb.
- For this project, all requests should be sent to myself.
- To drive this project, myself will need a bigger budget.
That last one kind’a bothered you didn’t it? I had to include it. You see, the most frequent misuses of this word in my experience are in badly structured passive tense sentences (which should never be used in business writing; save it for the freeform poetry) and in serial lists. You can find passive tense by using your “Yoda” voice to test it…if it sounds like Yoda, it’s probably passive tense. Serial lists are like “myself, Marie, and Barb” above, where you list out multiple people. I guess it’s easier to get lazy with grammar when the sentence is already convoluted or you can bury it in a list of names.
Either way, myself is reflective. It’s a simple word and a simple concept. And it doesn’t make you sound smarter to misuse it. It has the opposite effect, at least on those of us who know better. Now we all do!
Now go out and help spread the word. If you hear someone use Myself wrong, call them out. They may not thank you for it, but they’ll owe you one for helping them appear less ignorant to the rest of us.
Now enough ranting; I’m going enjoy some SXSW fun!
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