Every brand needs its voice—amplified by using the right words to convey a distinct personality, intrigue, tone, and energy that evoke an engaging connection and engenders a sale.
Language provides the artful notes through which a brand’s song is sung. In PR and marketing the authors of websites to news releases spend hours to nail the elements of engaging narrative to elicit the desire action in response. Every client seems to need to be explained that just because a document is considered short, that doesn’t mean it was easier to write. Just ask a slogan copywriter.
Generational divides are revealed by the choice of words. How many us have parents who told us not to disrespect another person (yes, def: informal verb: to show a lack of respect for)? The ‘app’ is now universally accepted lexicon (catch up online Scrabble). Professions take license or create new ownership of definitions, such as ‘derivative,’ the speculative investment product assailed as a contributing force of Wall Street’s collapse. In my work universe we ‘incentivize’ consumers, work to generate ‘buzz,’ ‘leverage’ our experience or ‘dialog’ with our clients. A colleague recently asked me to ‘bulletize’ my contribution to a joint document. Hmmm…
So when sitting at a board meeting recently and a person of an even lower hip quotient than I used a word that popped, I found myself asking: am I colossally behind the power curve of au courant lingo or is this another new colloquialism? And more to the point, what does it mean, what does it say and how is it properly used?
Such was the case for ‘administravia.’ Kapow! That word held my attention and compelled curiosity. In its context—a board meeting discussion about a nonprofit’s office operations—it didn’t need explanation, but in its delivery, complete with the flowing gesticulating hands of the speaker, it commanded consideration. It is symphonic, interesting and compelled some in this assembled group to pick up iPhones and Blackberrys to source online etymology and dictionary sites for edification. So as not to disturb the discussion or reveal naiveté, we briskly exchanged texts for having found a new word, not with the authority of Miriam-Webster mind you, but on UrbanDictionary.com and FreeDictionary.com.
Eureka! Like app and buzz before it, it will only be a matter of time before it is elevated to official American English.
And here’s what most amusing: its definition is not exactly a captivating destiny. One usage describes: “mindless bureaucratic tasks imposed on workers in order to crush the soul and prevent one from achieving anything useful or fulfilling.” The second is a little less stinging: “the tiresome but essential details that must be taken care of and tasks that must be performed in running an organization.”
Yuck. The less familiar version was a tad more appealing. Even if the age-old reference to administration and this newfound, more scintillating version end up being on the same longitude and latitude of an organization, the deliberate choice of the distinctively artful word succeeded in piquing the interest of the audience. And that’s what language in an era of 140-character tweets, competitive brand slogans, and pithy pitch letters to editors and employer prospects must do.
It’s hard not to be ‘mad’ for administravia. And now it’s in my working vocabulary. Look for it in a future document or discussion.
Do you have a favorite new word, updated usage for a word, or an accepted definition you’d like to see go away? On that list my first choice is the slang connotation for: ‘spin.’