The immersive, ultra-hooey, gibberish-forward experience

Lucy Kellaway is my hero.

Kellaway recently wrote a column for the Financial Times that is the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

Before I stumbled over this piece via Twitter, I had never heard of Lucy Kellaway. Nor, I’m sure, has she ever heard of me. Sadly, it’s a valedictory column of a sort, in which she sums up her long and futile campaign against corporate codswallop.

“For nearly a quarter of a century,” she writes,* “I have been writing columns telling business people to stop talking rot. For the same amount of time they have been taking no notice.”

When she began, she believed corporate jargon had become so ridiculous that people would soon come to their senses and begin using plain English again. No such luck.

“Over the past two decades, two things have happened. Business bullshit has got a million per cent more bullshitty, and I’ve stopped predicting a correction in the marketplace.”

Corporate bafflegab works, which is why it has swollen into the ugly, brainless blight that afflicts us daily. Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz has become ludicrously rich by claiming to offer customers “an immersive, ultra-premium, coffee-forward experience.”

The triumph of this bafflegab-forward experience hasn’t left Kellaway downhearted, for the simple and excellent reason that “the few people who don’t talk rot get vast pleasure in mocking those who do.”

I love that attitude.

The column refers to the “first principle” of journalism: “simplify, then exaggerate.” Again, this was a new one on me. Turns out it was the motto of former Economist editor Geoffrey Crowther.

I can’t think of a more succinct formula for success in the news business. Most wonderfully, Crowther’s dictum both simplifies and exaggerates. The only line I can think of to rival it is Nicholas Tomalin’s observation that “the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner, and a little literary ability.”

I mentioned that Kellaway’s piece was a sort of farewell. Turns out she is quitting her weekly column, although she will continue to write for the FT.

In her new full-time job, she’ll be teaching math in an inner-city London secondary school. And she’s helped set up an organization called Now Teach that helps mid-career professionals make the same jump.

Lucy Kellaway is my hero.

* You might hit a pay wall when you click this link. Try your luck.

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