At the End of the Day

George Carlin pointed out sixteen years ago that the way a culture uses words tells you a lot about it. As always, the Greatest 20th Century American was on the money.

In that context, very little explains just how arse about face American English is in 2015 than a new word I discovered today, the Nowcast.

A Nowcast, it seems, is an estimate you put out when a government or central bank forecast is late…or in the eurozone, has disappeared because Mario Dragula doesn’t like the look of it. It’s actually a form of commentary on current affairs, or more narrowly an estimate. But you know, hey – an estimate sounds like, maybe, it could be wrong. So it’s a nowcast now.

It can only be a matter of time before the construction industry starts issuing nowcasts for work it’s about to do. Later – as the price doubles two weeks into the project – it will issue another nowcast, and presumably at that point the former nowcast will become a thencast. So when after two years the price of a hospital has gone from £30m in the first nowcast to £270m on the actual bill, the contractors can say, “Listen, don’t whinge….look back over our thencasts, and you’ll see that our ability to predict the past is second to none”.

For newer readers, I should explain that The Slog was originally an abbreviation of the term bollockslog – that is, a non-stop audit of the unfeasibly infinite amount of bollocks we all have to sit and listen to on an everyday basis. Later my chum and occasional scribbling/jamming partner Jon Allen came up with the site’s war-cry, “IABATO!” – It’s all bollocks and that’s official. It has grown increasingly, clinically correct as the years have passed.

An early symptom was the word ‘space’. Today, it is rapidly replacing sector, niche, market or business as a term. Sadly, this means there is now an advertising space: this can get confusing because advertising media executives sell space and take space. So they’re selling and buying space in the media space within the advertising space, unless of course the media space has been hijacked by the editorial space, in which case they run out of space and the action moves into the auction space, because two client spaces won’t fit into one in the supply-and-demand space, in which case one client loses, goes ballistic, and presumably launches himself into outer space.

But before even this, there was the transmutation of road haulage into ‘logistics’. I have always found the human capacity for pretentious self-inflation hysterically funny, but I think this one still beats most bollocks hands-down. Leaping from the image of half-shaven Scottish blokes – eating deep-fried Mars bars and Yorkies as they thunder lethally from Bearsden to Puerto Banus – into another scenario where ancient Greeks are discussing the relationship between beauty and reality is quite something. But like it or not, back at the end of the last century, some self-important consultant found the North-West passage between physical transport and sublime transportation to come up with ‘logistics’, and the name has stuck.

It suggests, I think, that before KPMG or Deloitte or whoever took out their little kit of slide rules, concentric circles and arrows to come up with Ultimate Truth, all delivery from A to B using trains, planes and automobiles was an anarchy of disastrous mistakes. Bananas destined for Hull went instead to Washington, and coal mined with the Falklands in mind ended up in Newcastle. And this too, of course, is complete bollocks.

Some would say this is merely ‘jargon’, but it isn’t: jargon is stuff that professions use when talking within their space sorry, business. In advertising, we used to have Cost per Thousand (a shorthand for TV ratings delivered by a campaign). In the cotton business, ‘selvidge’ is the border on a roll of cloth. Further upmarket, the legal profession uses sub judice, caveat emptor and inter alia in a vaguely pompous manner. But at no point in this use of jargon is there an attempt to suggest that tying one’s shoelaces is equivalent to the discovery of Einstein’s electromagnetic rope offering instantaneous travel to spinning electrons in Alpha Centauri.

No, this stuff is bollocks: the invention of a word to justify a premium price which is, by and large, unjustifiable.

Those who quantitatively ease do not lighten the burden on the backs of the citizens. Others who suggest bail in as the answer to a bank failure are in no way suggesting they might pitch in and contribute. Bankers insisting on leverage are offering to lend, but not to cough up when it all goes tits-up. British Tory politicians with ‘a long term economic plan’ are doing nothing more than justifying tooth-fairy logic with occasional misinterpreted and/or contrarian data that comes to light from Think Tanks.

Think Tanks: there’s another one. In 2015, you can only think in a tank. If you don’t have a tank in which to think, then you’re out of favour. But on the other hand, somehow you can only think outside the box if you’re in a tank. Sorry, but being in a jeep just doesn’t cut it: jeepers creepers, that ain’t how you get peepers.

It doesn’t matter if the fuel tank is empty: the only things required for the Big Idea are a tank space in which to think, and a box inside that space you can use purely for the purpose of rejecting any and all ideas that emanate from it. Yes, the only ideas worth a dime are those that exist in the space between the box and the tank. If you stick to that, what could possibly go wrong? Sooner rather than later, the breakthrough idea will materialise.

Um, perhaps the fact that ‘breakthrough’ itself means nothing until you have the idea? I once worked for a US Chicago-based agency (I was unwillingly merged into it) that sold itself to clients as offering breakthrough creative. The lack of pronouns there is something to do, I suspect, with the inhuman way in which corporate America thinks. What it really meant was ‘well-branded and engaging advertising ideas the agency’s creative people come up with’. As the agency’s creative department only rarely came up with anything like that, the lachrymose shit they sold to clients was rebranded as breakthrough creative…or BTC

During a seminar to explore the BTC concept, an account director called Mike who shared my compulsion to deconstruct bollocks presented an alternative strategy: the BTL. With a straight face, he presented to the agency’s senior management something which (he claimed) was not to be confused with the BLT – the bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich. The BTL, he insisted, was the Break Through Lunch.

Mike’s BTL was a strategy whereby you took the client to any restaurant with two Michelin stars, filled him up to the brim with fine wine, and then sold him a crock-of-shit commercial. This (Mike argued) was far cheaper than having a creative department full of BTCs whose work the thick-necked client would never buy anyway.

The thin veil Mike had wrapped around his irony just about saved his job, after which he then went on to much greater things. I always looked forward to trips with Mike, because like me he was seditious, and saw the funny side of all things human 24/7. If there are any former BMP/DDB folks reading this post, I’d love to know what happened to him.

Either way, this is the point of tonight’s ramble: those who can, do – and those who can’t talk about doing in a strangulated way that is never going to achieve anything creative, engaging or effective.

People who tell original jokes are funny. Those who explain why they’re funny rarely add to the sum of human understanding. And above all, the invention of new words for old wheels is never inventive.

21 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Yes very good Mr Ward . Even I as a dour East Germsn scientist was tempted ( temporarily) into the eccentricities of British humour . We Germans are not humorous so you will appreciate that the effort I have made speaks volumes for the consistency of my open mind — as I keep telling Mr Tsipras after every 50 lashes of my bullwhip.
    Certainly the reference to think tank was paricularly amusing . I may even try to convince Wolfgang to see its levity but somehow I do not think he will be sympathetic..
    Indeed I hesitate because any mention of “tank” in the current climate will possibly trigger his desire to de – mothball his veteran Panzer and proceed to destroy the port of Piraeus singlehandedly once he has exited from the landing craft .

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  2. TSIPRAS IN BERLIN
    Alexis and Angie are meeting
    It should be an interesting greeting
    A leaf from a fig?
    Or a seat with a pig?
    Content to continue the beating
    The Limerick King

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  3. Ah yes – the cost of building hospitals- well it doesn’t matter because there this “thing ” called PFI where you sort of hànd it all over to someone else to worry about and they somehow make very affordable .Brilliant.

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  4. Got to disagree severely, I’m afraid, JW.
    Greatest 20th century American has simply got to have been Robert A. Heinlein.
    I rate him better than George Orwell, much more readable.

    Carlin’s reading of our twisted society was brilliant, but Heinlein wasn’t just assessing, he was proposing superior alternatives, superior futures. In the 80s he was writing about technological advances that would make brain transplants a reality & the advance of corporate power that may lead to corporation V country wars.

    His novel Stranger in a Strange Land is an unrivaled critique of our more than strange earthly western society.

    Carlin good, Heinlein better. :)

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  5. “But like it or not, back at the end of the last century, some self-important consultant found the North-West passage between physical transport and sublime transportation to come up with ‘logistics’, and the name has stuck.”

    Well before the end, old chap. Back in the early 70’s, whilst still in the Army, I did a 2 year sandwich course for an HNC in Business Studies, where, amongst others, the ramifications of this new-fangled word ‘marketing’ were imparted. No one at that time seemed to be quite sure, but the basic meaning of ‘marketing’ was deemed to be “Having the right goods in the right place at the right time and at the right price”. Some 40+ years later that might have changed a bit.

    Anyway, a couple of years later – a briefing in the garrison theatre at HQ BAOR for a forthcoming exercise. The presenting Major opened with, more or less, the phrase, “This is a pure logistics exercise”. He took a brief look at his audience and suddenly realised that the majority didn’t know what he was talking about. He then continued “Logistics is the art of having the required stores and equipment in the required place at the required time so the troops can fight.”

    Well, the Japs do (or did?) maintain that ‘Business is War”.

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  6. First of all John i LIKED the Keebler Elves so Leo Burnett wasn’t that all bad….. but you were on a roll tonight and I enjoyed every word.

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  7. Hey John, Another good Slog Blog – Thank you
    Have you seen this chaps (Roger Hicks) two videos about Civilization reaching a cul-de-sac? I thought although a bit rough in their production they just might ring with your views on the world?

    I would be interested to know your thoughts, or maybe he would be a good person to add to your network?

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  8. JW,

    Great blog, thoroughly enjoyable.

    In one of my extremely rare BTC moments I thought if it all went pear shaped I could hustle for money by selling ‘a word for the day’ by delving into the wonderful Oxford dictionary.

    With your gift as a wordsmith I would hazard a guess that as a regular feature to The Slog an amusing yet telling paragraph of the morphing of the English language into American meaningless slogans would be welcome.

    A couple of my pet hates currently are, why do MP’s say ‘stepping up to the plate’ as though it is a relevant expression for Brits, how many of us play Baseball? another horror IMO is ‘back in the day’ when they just mean ‘in the past’ do they think they or their audience are Appalachian Hill Billies?

    As to ad types from the 70’s I wonder if you ever knew Jenny Stewart at JWT, she went to work for them in New York where I last met her in the late 70’s having worked with her at LPE, then you may have bumped into Kim Muhkerjee who produced an award winning series for us, he then went bust and I met him in Ausralia where he restarted another ad firm called if I remember correctly Brand something.

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  9. He’s a nice chap, Richard, who does not seem to have cottoned on to the fact that government has always been both parasitic & predatory, & that nothing has changed. He hearkens back wistfully to a non-existent tribal & national idyll.

    Our Lords & Masters are no different now. Looking at the politicons, they are troughing away merrily, expenses claims are now greater than before the huge scandal. So that proves to have been an exercise in reminding our poxy muppett pols who is really in charge: those in charge of our corporate/bankster controlled media.

    An exact parallel is the Charlie Hebdo episode. Francois Hollande wanted to recognise the Palestinian State & that would have allowed them to bring a case in the court of human rights against the now-Nazi Jews for their extermination policies in Gaza. Hollandes’s ratings in the press/media were abysmal. Hey Presto! Je suis false flag Charlie “happens”, Hollande is seen as pro-Jewish, & his ratings go through the roof. Thus are pols & public controlled.

    The present policies of mass immigration & multiculturalism are aimed at homogenising & impoverishing the populace.
    Far from strengthening our nation, our pols are bent on subsuming us into the terminally corrupt & undemocratic EU.
    This they see as a stepping stone to a Totalitarian One World Govt. They do not govern for the common good.
    Ask your MPs about the all party committee on Global Governance.

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  10. Impact…as in he made a major impact on the business. Did he fall from a great height or did he run into the walls all day?

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  11. For a long, long time, I pondered Rothschild’s remark: “If I control the money supply, I care not who writes the laws.”

    The first & easy conclusion is that he was focused on wealth, not power. Not so. With control of money supply & media, the banksters/corporates have effective control of our “democracies”

    The pols mostly all want well paid sinecures as non-executive directors or suchlike in the corporate world,
    after their stints as walking gobs, & go along to get along. Look at John Major, safely ensconsed in the Carlyle group, after handing billions of this county’s money to Rothschild capo, George Soros.

    John Doran.

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  12. Bearsden to Puerto Banus ????
    You didn’t say if it was real Bearsden, in which case it would be Hillfoot or Kessington, then again it could have been Westerton ( which is in Bearsden but thinks it isn’t). Alternatively it could have been Lower Bearsden , which is what the locals call Drumchapel ( which isn’t in Bearsden at all).

    I used to be a planner in the railway (on the works side). I ran a construction plan called the Construction Resource Action Plan – CRAP for short. In the meetings do you know that the guys sitting opposite used to sit there biting their lower lip whilst looking at the flooor for the duration of me explaining the plan to the Construction Manager. ( he never twigged)

    Have a nice day

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  13. Pingback: John Ward – Crash2 – A Global Summary : #1 The United States – 25 March 2015 | Lucas 2012 Infos

  14. Small correction John no one in Bearsden would ever ever eat a deep fried Mars bar, one of the poshest suburbs in North Glasgow if you want a terrible Glasgow location try Blackhill or Possil. As a one time resident and native of Edinburgh I always felt Glasgow had one of the widest wealth bands in the country, from the very rich to the absolute poor, with a 30 year difference in life expectancy.
    One of our domestics in the hospital even told me of a tale where people used to take the bath out of the house to stable the horse, an often repeated legend.

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  15. Human Resources…hate that term it sounds like human remains… also ‘facilities dept’ cleaners and porters: no job to be ashamed of…

    The social work love the word ‘worker’ so when they took over the NHS (‘ integration’ ) They scrubbed the word’ Medical secretary’ and ‘Personal assistant’ and replaced it with ‘Business support worker’….. YEAH! Social work apparently run business called the NHS. Who’d a thunk it eh?

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