Hey, let's just bat this around awhile

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The Independent Online

Synergy: A big firm swallows a small one. To save the victim's blushes, the new boss presents the deal as a willing collaboration of equals that benefits both - "synergy". Hard to avoid in the mouths of predatory suits but, oddly, it has the longest history of any boardroom term of art. The 16th-century Protestant reformer Melanchthon used it for the doctrine of human will acting in tandem with the Holy Spirit to achieve redemption. So Synergy, Mr CEO, not only boosts the bottom line; it can also send you straight up that stairway to heaven.

Synergy: A big firm swallows a small one. To save the victim's blushes, the new boss presents the deal as a willing collaboration of equals that benefits both - "synergy". Hard to avoid in the mouths of predatory suits but, oddly, it has the longest history of any boardroom term of art. The 16th-century Protestant reformer Melanchthon used it for the doctrine of human will acting in tandem with the Holy Spirit to achieve redemption. So Synergy, Mr CEO, not only boosts the bottom line; it can also send you straight up that stairway to heaven.

Client-focused: Once upon a time, only hookers, lawyers and the like had clients. Then, in the touchy-feely age of welfare cuts and soothing bromides to disguise them, everyone at the sharp end of officialdom turned into one. Benefit claimants, addicts in rehab, ex-cons on probation: all suddenly became clients. Agencies could happily "focus" on their "needs" even if they had no staff to deliver proper services. The stitched-up kids who go to their judicial deaths in America's South haven't yet become "clients" of the electric chair, but it can only be a matter of time.

BENCHMARK: A classic case of a chunk of corporate-speak that once referred to actual skills. Surveyors used the "benchmark" on a stone post, or other fixed feature, as a guide for making their measurements. Later, systems analysts gave it another concrete application: a standard program that allowed comparison between the performance of one computer and another. Now execs who don't reach the right benchmark may find themselves stranded - well, on the bench.

Fast track: Watch out for this one: it conjures up the sleek, streamlined world of athletics or motor-racing, with the speedy élite purring ahead of the also-rans. In fact, the phrase first alluded to a more horizontal form of locomotion. US prostitutes once worked on certain streets in town: the "fast track" (where the fast ladies hung out, one assumes). Come to think of it, maybe the original meaning fits the life of company high-flyers more neatly than they might imagine.

HARDBALL: What is it with baseball? Hardball; touching base; a ballpark figure - it must be the ultimate triumph of American capitalism that a sport no one else plays (except, weirdly, for the Cubans and Japanese) should have dumped its arcane argot all over the commercial globe. From Manchester to Melbourne, wised-up young exces will rabbit on in meetings as if the Yankees or Red Sox were playing just down the road. So let's bat this around; let's have some business nonsense that reflects our native pastimes. It's time to kick this baseball jargon into touch.

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