15 August 2011

Flowery Prose

My ideal job would involve working side-by-side with robots, possibly on some kind of battle-robot assembly line. Robots, from what I understand, do not employ subtlety or nuance and can only communicate in pure truth and logic. That kind of work environment would result in a job where misunderstandings and discomfort arising from such misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.

If a robot says that his job is killing him, he's probably being crushed to death by a giant cog when he says it.

Likewise if a robot announces that he could just kill you right now, you're probably about to have your windpipe crushed by cold, metallic claws.

Currently, I do not work with robots.

Without any robots to work with I find myself talking to people - often on a daily basis. I've come to terms with that.

As a result of working with and sometimes talking to people I understand that they use figures of speech. Figures of speech make words fun and let people create all kinds of clever turns of phrase. They can talk about golden parachutes and low hanging fruit and getting down in the weeds and no one has to leave the crushing claustrophobia of their cubicle to picture being on some kind of airborne fruit-gathering parachute safari.

Having said that, sometimes I think people forget how this whole thing works.

If someone's totally swamped, I can imagine them being mired in a swamp of paperwork and e-mail (in my imagination the e-mail has also been printed out [which is incidentally a waste of paper]) and as a result of being mired in this swamp, they're quite busy. It makes sense. If you weren't familiar with business metaphors you would still understand the concept of being swamped.

Unfortunately when you start playing hard and fast with your metaphors, people get hurt. When someone apologizes for sending a document back with two dozen inconsequential edits, they may explain it away because they're so anal. As in, anal retentive. This disturbs me because I usually only hear the word "anal" in very specific, non work-related contexts.

Depending on what you do for a living you may hear it exclusively in work-related contexts.

What they mean is "I'm often very picky about things" but instead of saying that they're picky, they're going out of their way to make an allusion to Freud's concept of the anal stage of child development. That is, they're displaying traits associated with control of the bowels. Like being really fucking picky about punctuation,

I take umbrage with this because rather than just saying that they're picky, or saying that they have minor OCD (probably also not true) they have to trot out that word. And since "Anal retentive" is too long, they shorten it. And then they totally lose my attention because I'm thinking of something else besides comma-splices and, run-on sentences.

Of course, there's an even less appropriate office metaphor that sees use.

When someone walks out of a meeting and says "Man, that meeting was a total cluster," they're speaking metaphorically. They're saying that the meeting was such a mess and so convoluted, it was very similar (metaphorically) to a clusterfuck.

They have to be making figurative comparisons because otherwise they're saying that the meeting was an actual clusterfuck. I'm trying not to internet this too hard so I have to imagine that means the meeting was like an orgy, but very poorly organized. This is difficult for me to believe because if an orgy, no matter how poorly organized, was going on anywhere in the office (or in the alley behind the office) I would have certainly heard of it.

Consequently if they really had come from an actual clusterfuck it would be appropriate for me to say,  "That explains why you're so sore."

Or, "That sounds terrible. Where is this clusterfuck, again?"

Am I being picky? Is there any other word that could serve as a high-impact metaphor for a sloppy meeting? How about, "It was a shambles!" A shambles is a total mess - but it also used to be an open-air slaughterhouse! Now you don't have to sex up the workplace in a wholly inappropriate manner but you can still make your point.

What if you said the meeting was bedlam? That means it was a crazy meeting but it's also:

"a popular name for the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, which served as a lunatic asylum from circa 1400 [...]"

That sounds like a great metaphor for a terrible meeting! Good for you! 

Would you perhaps say instead that meeting was pandemonium? That's great too, and you get extra points for making an allusion to Paradise Lost. If you weren't aware of the allusion, you lose no points for creeping me out! 

My favorite way to describe a bad meeting?

"A mess."

Maybe all the meetings I go to all happen after the clusterfuck.

All I'm saying is that if I told someone that my next meeting was going to be a total DP, they'd probably look at me funny. 

Then they'd google it and I'd get fired. 

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