Buzzword Bingo

Buzzword Bingo

Investopedia / Zoe Hansen

What Is Buzzword Bingo?

Buzzword bingo is a game in which audience members for a speech at a business or professional conference hold cards listing numerous examples of business jargon, and check off the appropriate phrase when the speaker utters it. A player wins upon checking off a full line of spaces on the bingo card.

Needless to say, the game is usually played without the speaker's knowledge.

Key Takeaways

  • At best, a buzzword can be a quick and pithy way to convey a complex idea.
  • At worst, it conveys a reliance on cliches to disguise a lack of knowledge or new ideas.
  • Buzzword bingo was created to lampoon this lazy use of language.

Understanding Buzzword Bingo

Buzzword bingo implies that the speaker is sure to rely on trendy jargon or industry lingo to mask a lack of knowledge or new ideas.

The game is sometimes lighthearted, with bingo cards that contain words that are not pretentious, just inevitable. For example, a buzzword bingo card for a presentation at a tech company may include relevant words like processor or memory.

The use of the term buzzword bingo has expanded into slang to describe any memo, document, or presentation that relies on tiresome business cliches.

The History of Buzzwords

The culture of business buzzwords evolved after World War II as the modern corporate environment became entrenched. The growth of business schools and the popularity of self-help manuals for business success helped spread many of the terms we use today. We create synergy, unpack a complex issue, and drill down to the details.

Every profession has its own buzzwords. In the internet industry, content is king, disruption is the goal, and you have to think outside the box. Technology professionals have practically created their own private language, with a growing vocabulary of buzzwords. As of 2021, Datapine reports, the latest lingo includes "multi-experience", "extended reality", and "as-a-service".

Corporate culture places a premium on new ideas. When people are out of new ideas, new buzzwords can be the next best thing.

Old and New Buzzwords

Though some buzzwords, such as "influencer" and "garbatrage", are recent coinages, many old words have found new purposes in a business or financial context. The frequent and imprecise use of formerly straightforward terms such as "leverage", "holistic", and "engagement", for example, turned them into meaningless buzzwords. More importantly, some buzzwords, like "open kimono", are racist, sexist, or both.

The existence of the game of buzzword bingo proves how irritating buzzwords can be. But there's a reason that the use of buzzwords continues.

For example, buzzwords are practically mandatory in resumes, since they can convey real information in a form brief enough to be noticed, or to be picked up by the automated keyword search functions now used by many companies to screen applicants.

Resume buzzwords are action-packed verbs. The writer didn't just "do" something, they executed, inspired, spearheaded, or overhauled it.

There are, of course, variations for every profession. Writers of engineering resumes are advised to include a whole laundry list of buzzwords, from business process re-engineering to lean manufacturing to mathematics.

The Downside of Buzzwords

Overuse of buzzwords, especially in presentations, can hurt the speaker’s credibility and reflect poorly on the ideas the speaker presents.

The most offensive and grating buzzwords recast pedestrian concepts as new and exciting or attempt to patch over gaps in the speaker’s knowledge.

Article Sources
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  1. Datapine. "Top 10 IT and Technology Buzzwords You Won't Be Able to Avoid in 2021." Accessed Aug. 8, 2021.

  2. Hiration. "Resume Action Words & Power Verbs." Accessed Aug. 8, 2021.

  3. Free Resume Builder. "25+ Engineering Resume Keywords and Buzzwords." Accessed Aug. 8, 2021.

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