Downtown Working

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October 6, 2003 // UPDATED 11:05 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

Bullfighter takes the bull out of business-speak

"It's like getting a gentle shock treatment every time I use it," explained Pat Bechdol, managing director of the Minneapolis office of Deloitte Consulting, located in One Financial Center at 120 S. 6th St. Bechdol was referring to Bullfighter -- Deloitte's new, free, downloadable software now available to anyone and everyone in Corporate America.

What does Bullfighter do? It takes the bull out of business communications.

That's right. With bullfighter installed, your proposals, press releases and Power Point presentations will be devoid of such overused phrases as "paradigm shift," "empowerment," "extensible" and "value-added."

Funny thing is, this program was developed by the very people who made an art out of metamorphosing business communications into completely anfractuous and obfuscatious jabber.

Translation: Bullfighter is brought to you by the people who built careers writing unnecessarily convoluted and confusing business-speak.

And, no, there's no such word as "obfuscatious." However, using nonexistent words based on real words is a key characteristic of business jargon. (For those who care, my imaginary adjectival concoction, "obfuscatious," is based on a real verb: obfuscate. Since creating it, I must admit I've become rather fond of it.)

It's somewhat regrettable that Bullfighter might put an end to this practice. I appreciate the creative spirit of these suits who ignore everything their English teachers tried to pound into their heads as they make up words to suit their situation. Chances are most people get the gist of these faux terms. Plus, for some of us, it's fun to turn verbs into adjectives and nouns into verbs.

Nevertheless, Bullfighter is an extremely useful tool -- and smart marketing by Deloitte. As a member of an industry not currently held in the highest esteem, being a straight-talker allows Deloitte to distinguish itself in a tainted communications market.

"Business communications are full of bull," Deloitte Consulting's Global Director of Public Relations Shelley Ping explained.

Added Bechdohl, "Bullfighter allows us to poke some fun at ourselves, and at the same time it reinforces our message that we are straight talkers."

Regardless of Deloitte's reason for creating the software, it's really well done. Once installed, you'll have a new toolbar on your Microsoft Word and PowerPoint applications. It's like spellcheck, just click on bullfighter and it processes your bull.

In this article, Bullfighter highlighted "paradigm" and offered the following commentary: "Congratulations, you sound very expensive." For "value-added" Bullfighter said, "A good word to forget, unless you enjoy sounding like a used car salesman talking about floor mats." "Extensible" got a "You don't really know what this means. We don't really either."

In addition to the commentary, it provides alternatives. Bullfighter recommended replacing "value-added" with "beneficial" and "empower" with "enable." Bullfighter suggests replacing Ping's "Global Director" title " Worldwide Director." "Global," said the program, is "Overused. Globally."

When the program was released in June, Deloitte invited people to submit their own bull words. Thus far, over 10,000 bull dictionary entries have been suggested. Users can also add their own bull words to the software, creating a personalized bull directory.

Bechdol said Deloitte itself encourages but does not require use of the program. To prove his point, he opened a report he recently wrote that he didn't take through Bullfighter. There it was on page 10: "Finally, in today's market reality of commoditized process technologies . . . " "Commoditized isn't really a word," explained an amused Bechdol.

No bull. You can download your own version of Bullfighter

If you have a good workplace dilemma or just a good story to tell, please contact Elana Centor atecentor@mn.rr. com, or leave her a message at 825-9205 (then hit 102 for her voicemail). You can remain confidential, as can your company.