Interview with a cliché king

Edition: November 2002 - Vol 10 Number 11
Article#: 1340
Author: Repertoire

The following appears on “Joel Orr’s World of Technology” ( It was sent in by a manufacturer reader along with this note: “I just spent two days with hospital materials managers talking about their "spend." When did it become a NOUN. Isn't it “spending?” And "metrics" - when did it take over for “measurements”)

Frank Lingua, president and CEO of Dissembling Associates, is the nation's leading purveyor of buzzwords, catch phrases and cliches for people too busy to speak in plain English. Business Finance contributing editor Dan Danbom interviewed Lingua in his New York City office.

Danbom: Is being a cliche expert a full-time job?

Lingua: Bottom line is, I have a full plate 24/7.

Is it hard to keep up with the seemingly endless supply of cliches that spew from business?

Some days, I don't have the bandwidth. It's like drinking from a fire hydrant.

So it's difficult?

Harder than nailing Jell-O to the wall.

Where do most cliches come from?

Stakeholders push the envelope until it's outside the box.

How do you track them once they've been coined?

It's like herding cats.

Can you predict whether a phrase is going to become a cliche?

Yes. I skate to where the puck's going to be. Because if you aren't the lead dog, you're not providing a customer-centric, proactive solution.

Give us a new buzzword that we'll be hearing ad nauseam.

"Enronitis" could be a next-generation player.

Do people understand your role as a cliche expert?

No, they can't get their arms around that. But they aren't incented to.

How do people know you're a cliche expert?

I walk the walk and talk the talk.

Did incomprehensibility come naturally to you?

I wasn't wired that way, but it became mission-critical as I strategically focused on my go-forward plan.

What did you do to develop this talent?

It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. When you drill down to the granular level, it's just basic blocking and tackling.

How do you know if you're successful in your work?

At the end of the day, it's all about robust, world-class language solutions.

How do you stay ahead of others in the buzzword industry?

Net-net, my value proposition is based on maximizing synergies and being first to market with a leveraged, value-added deliverable. That's the opportunity space on a level playing field.

Does everyone in business eventually devolve into the sort of mindless drivel you spout?

If you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, you're a duck. They all drink the Kool-Aid