November 25th 2005
Every now and then a book falls into your lap that's so good you feel like punching the air. Graham Edmonds' "Bullshit Bingo" (Southbank Publishing, £6.99) is one of those books.
As the title suggests, it's not an entirely serious read. In fact there are times when it's a damned silly read, but if you don't recognise an awful lot of it then you've been in better calibre meetings than most.
Edmonds has essentially rounded up a load of business terms - the cover has a set of 16 of them on a grid ("ramp up", "move the goalposts", "core business" and the like) and put them into a sort of bingo game.
The game is of course an excuse to make the book look a little less like a list of bad jargon, and it works well enough; the real pleasure in this volume, though, is in diving into it and finding, David Brent-like, that you've been using (or in my case writing) a whole load of clunky jargon under the impression that it was comprehensible English.
Edmonds offers an actual definition of the phrase and then a preferred definition that an office bullshitter might use. For example in a section on marketing and advertising he defines "connect" as "to talk, make contact", and the bullshit definition is "... generally used by people who have no idea how to communicate properly and are usually mystified by the fact that others don't agree with their point of view. Using the word in conversation signifies the most desperate and least socially adjusted of your colleagues. They are to be avoided, disconnected in fact."
There are a lot of examples like this that will be familiar to anyone who's ever read or written a report. Read the book and enjoy it, and be prepared to wince a little as you realise just how much of this guff you've assimilated and use in your working day.
Reviewer: Guy Clapperton
They are the nonsense phrases that drive office workers up the wall.
Such managerial jargon as: 'think outside the box', 'go the extra mile' and 'out of the loop' has long been the subject of derision for bored employees forced to sit through mindless meetings.
Now spotting the meaningless slogans has become a new sport called Bulls**t Bingo.
In a scene which could have come straight from TV satire The Office, workers play secretly at their desks and every time their boss or the office sycophant makes a ridiculous remark, they cross it off their game card.
When someone in the office gets a line of stupid phrases, they call out 'Bingo!'
Phrases on a typical managerial game card include 'run it up the flagpole' 'cooking with gas' and 'move the goalposts'.
Graham Edmonds has spent years collating phrases and has published them in a new book called Bulls**t Bingo.
He told the Sunday Express: 'I originally played the game in the mid-Eighties, when these kind of phrases first originated. It started with the Gordon Gekko character in the movie Wall Street talking about 'lunch being for wimps'.
'I was a buyer at WH Smith and a colleague and I would sit in meetings writing down all the silly phrases our sycophantic managers were coming out with to impress the boss.'
'Over the years I've had to listen to a fair share of it and several of us got together to collate it all. When you listen to people talking like that, trying to look clever and impress, it's hard not to take the mickey.'
Graham's book not only includes cut-out-and-keep game cards to use in meetings but also boasts a glossary of more than 500 words and phrases.
There are also some fun cards clichés from Match Of The Day and Jeremy Paxman' s interviews
'It's not meant to be a serious book but there is a serious undercurrent,' said Graham, 47, from Cirencester, Gloucs.
'Many of us can't help using this language because it is ingrained in our culture,' he said.
'It seems to have got worse under Labour but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes in corporate life it acts as a way of avoiding conflict.
'I was quite naive about some of the meanings of these phrases so I have given some explanations in the book too. The book sort of acts as a survival guide for the corporate world.'
Graham, who is also the author of the successful Good Website Guide, plans to release more Bulls**t Bingo books in due course, including Love and World Cup editions.
'We expect the World Cup edition to do well,' he said. 'Think of all the phrases football pundits come out with.'
Reviewer: Camilla Tominey