Thursday, August 28, 2008


Had an interesting bout with payroll the other day, which leads me to toady's word. A dictionary definition of bafflegab clarifies the word as, "incomprehensible jargon" and compares it to "gobbledegook". This definition is vastly insufficient.

Let's begin our discussion with an excerpt for an actual notification from a government contractor "suggesting" its workers take annual leave during building maintenance:

[Maintenance] has announced that electrical power to [our building] will be shut down beginning Friday. We understand that routine functions will cease at that time and non-emergency personnel will not be permitted in [our building] during the power outage.

Employees who are not able to work during the power outage may, with supervisory concurrence, adjust their work schedule for the [pay period before the outage] to complete 40 work hours prior to [Friday]. Alternatively, employees may elect to take Annual Leave for the work hours missed due to the power outage.

Not one worker in my office fully understood the message. Vaguely some realized that a choice was being given, but none understood what the choices were. The notification gamely suggested it was addressed to employees not able to work during the power outage, but since all employees were not be permitted in the building, it wasn't clear that the message was addressed to EVERYONE.

That's because it was written ambiguously, using jargon and conflicting modifiers with the explicit intent to cover [management's ass] by deliberately clouding the message's real intent (we are forcing you to work overtime or take annual leave). This message was written in bafflegab.

Milton A. Smith, the assistant general counsel for the US Chamber of Commerce, coined the word in 1952 after a maddening day trying to explain a written order to a colleague. He decided a special word was needed to describe his office's special blend of “incomprehensibility, ambiguity, verbosity and complexity” in its bureaucratic language.

At the presentation of an award from the Washington Report, Milton Smith was asked to briefly define his word. He described it as:

“multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies.”

Expect to see that on your next annual review.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

John Derian for Target

I've fallen in love with John Derian's morbidly anatomical prints and whimsical sense of humor too many times to count. I even made a special pilgrimage to his store/studio in New York last week in the hopes of spending (no more than $50) on one of his gorgeous and subtly twisted objects of useful art. But drat the hated price tags! Sixty dollars for a paperweight the size of my thumb? In this economy? Really Mr. Derian? I was so furious, I wandered around the shop vaguely imagining running into the artist himself furiously covering hand-blown glasses with layers of antique script. (Of course he wasn't there. I'm sure he was of enjoying martinis on his yacht made of gold bricks. Or perhaps relaxing with a scotch in soda in his shadowy, well-appointed mansion sitting on top of a dark, lonely hill) May I remind you that, decoupage is a Victorian pastime disguised as pseudo art originally meant to occupy women? Curse you and your lovely antique star-maps pasted to the inside of pencil trays!!

Of course, I took it all back as soon as I opened the first page of the Domino magazine that came in my mail yesterday. I squeezed the first page with all the shock of reunited lover. John Derian's designs are to enter Target stores on September 7th with a lower priced line of stationary and home decor. Do you see these tears? They're tears of overbrimming happiness.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Conspicious Presence

The Italian issue of Vogue is reacting to the reluctance of the fashion industry to hire black models, by using only models of color in their July issue. The New York Times has applauded their slap in fashion's face by calling the industry lazy, paranoid and pedantic in their article, "Conspicious by Their Presence".

After scouring newstands and bookstores that carry foreign issues and being dissapointed (this issue sold out almost immediately and finding a copy in DC proved impossible), I turned to for a reliable round up. You can catch other smoking hot photo shoots with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Sessilee Lopez, Tyra Banks, and Toccarra Jones (woo, plus size!) like the one above in their article, "Italian Vogue's "All Black Issue": A Guided Tour".