AskDefine | Define buzzword

Dictionary Definition

buzzword n : stock phrases that have become nonsense through endless repetition [syn: cant]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Alternative spellings

Etymology

U.S. 1970s from buzz + word

Pronunciation

Noun

  1. A word drawn from or imitative of technical jargon, and often rendered meaningless and fashionable through abuse by non-technical persons in a seeming show of familiarity with the subject.
    Their salespeople know all the right buzzwords, but they can’t really help you solve your problems.

Translations

Translations to be checked

Estonian: kantseliit

Extensive Definition

A buzzword (also known as a fashion word or vogue word) is a vague idiom, or a neologism, that is commonly used in managerial, technical, administrative, and sometimes political environments. Although buzzwords can impress one's audience with the pretense of knowledge, they typically make sentences difficult to dispute, on account of their cloudy meaning. According to George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," people use buzzwords because they are convenient. It is much easier to copy the words and phrases that someone invented than it is to come up with one's own.
Buzzwords differ from jargon in that they have the function of impressing or of obscuring meaning, while jargon (ideally) has a well-defined technical meaning, if only to specialists. However, the hype surrounding new technologies often turns technical terms into buzzwords (see Buzzword compliant).
A buzzword may or may not appear in a dictionary, and if it does, its meaning as a buzzword may not match the conventional definition, because it is often used outside of it.

Reasons for using buzzwords

  • With any stipulative neologism, such as "quark," to describe new concepts, without the danger of over-simplification and confusion that can arise from using words and phrases with previously established, commonplace meanings.
  • To control thought by being intentionally vague. In management, stating organizational goals by using words with unclear meanings but positive connotations prevents anybody from questioning the directions and intentions of these decisions, especially if many such words are used.
  • In 1950, the year he won the Nobel Prize for literature, Bertrand Russell wryly observed, "It is not difficult to learn the correct use of such words as 'complex,' 'sadism,' Oedipus,' 'bourgeois,' 'deviation,' 'left,' and nothing more is needed to make a brilliant writer or talker."
  • In some cases, knowing buzzwords may be a sign that is part of a certain community. For example, law students often speak of using buzzwords in order to get full credit on essay questions and bar examinations. For example, on a torts question concerning a case of negligence, saying the defendant's conduct was close enough in time and place to be deemed the legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries may be literally correct but lose points, since the buzzword, "proximate cause," was omitted. The omission sends a signal to the professor or grader that the student has not read the cases carefully and not gained the proper legal vocabulary. Thus, the student's desire to employ the words that create a special effect, or buzz, in another's mind. This kind of grading teaches students to use buzzwords. In this case, the buzzword is a sign that one is familiar with the language that lawyers normally use.

Individual examples

Below are a few examples of common buzzwords. For a more complete list, see list of buzzwords.

See also

Footnotes

buzzword in Danish: Modeord
buzzword in German: Schlagwort (Sprachwissenschaft)
buzzword in French: Buzzword
buzzword in Hebrew: באזוורד
buzzword in Georgian: მოდური სიტყვები
buzzword in Dutch: Buzzwoord
buzzword in Japanese: バズワード
buzzword in Polish: Buzzword
buzzword in Russian: Модные слова
buzzword in Swedish: Modeord
buzzword in Ukrainian: Модне слово
buzzword in Chinese: 潮詞
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