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I cannot find a good translation in English of the French word "pipotron". Could you help me?

In French, it refers originally to an automated process to randomly generate sentences. Now it is a pejorative word describing a text mostly void of content (filler text) that looks like it was generated by a bot. This kind of text can mostly be found in marketing material, with lots of fashionable words (like "cloud computing", "innovation" or "disruptive"). I'm looking for this second meaning of the word "pipotron".

From "pipeau" (noun) and "pipoter" (verb): to say a lot of random, meaningless, misleading or hard to follow statements, in order to confuse or deceive the listeners. Commonly used by salesmen and politicians. It's pejorative. And from "-tron", same meaning as in English, to indicate that is an automated process.

The closest I can find is "bullshit (material)", but it is vulgar while "pipotron" is not.

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15 Answers 15

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A key word for meaningless text is gibberish, which literally refers to utterances that don't make sense. Merriam-Webster gives these meanings:

: unintelligible or meaningless language:

a : a technical or esoteric (see esoteric sense 1) language // The doctors spoke to one another in their medical gibberish that I was unable to follow.

b : pretentious or needlessly obscure language // The substance of the philosopher's work is buried in polysyllabic gibberish.

The second meaning is more pertinent here. There is often something needlessly convoluted about gibberish, as if it has been written without any attempt to communicate meaningfully with an audience. Calling speech gibberish is often an insult or pejorative, whether written by humans or computers:

The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is [cloud computing]? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop? (Larry Ellison, "Oracle's Ellison nails cloud computing," CNET, 26 Sept. 2008, via Wikiquote)

Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers. Conference proceedings removed from subscription databases after scientist reveals that they were computer-generated. (Nature, 24 February 2014).

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    A good choice; like bafflegab and doublespeak, though, I think it de-emphasizes the use of the "fashion words". – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 11:12
  • Similar words according to wikipedia: jibber-jabber or gobbledygook. I remember seeing someone use "gobbledygook" specifically for speaking about using a jargon that doesn't make any sense out of context for a common clerk. – Clockwork May 28 at 13:26
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One possibility is word salad. While it originally referred specifically to confused language indicative of mental illness, it’s now pretty widely used to any speech or writing that is incoherent to the point of meaninglessness. This blog post at Merriam-Webster has a discussion and some examples.

If you are looking to describe drivel in general, such as a politician or salesperson would use, then technobabble does not fit, as it is specifically restricted to drivel that uses tech buzzwords. Word salad is more general and refers to drivel in any context, including tech.

Of course drivel itself might meet your needs too.

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Given your description of the second meaning of pipotron, it would seem to be a nearly exact match for technobabble.

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    more like a technobabble generator aka "corporate bs generator" – PatrickT May 28 at 6:32
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    Technobabble is close but unlike with pipotron there is no implication of our being machine generated. On the contrary, I'd generally understand it as a human product (through creativity or, indeed, ignorance). – Konrad Rudolph May 28 at 8:05
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    @OwenReynolds Maybe if you specified it as e.g.: corporate technobabble it would be more appropriate. Just straight up "technobabble", agreed, sounds like something you expect to hear on your average Star Trek episode. Add "corporate" (or "political" or "marketing") and it maybe gets the point across a bit better. – Darrel Hoffman May 28 at 13:45
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    “Technobabble” would be an incorrect translation as it is too narrow. Pipotron in the sense described need not contain any technical terms; here’s an example generated by Le Pipotron: “Regarding the situation of recent times, we must not neglect to understand all the emblematic alternatives, as a matter of urgency. ” – peak May 28 at 16:29
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    technobabble is perhaps a small subset of pipotron text, which is not limited to technology. – Bohemian May 28 at 18:21
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I think the English word that fits here might be:

Bafflegab: Incomprehensible or pretentious language, especially bureaucratic jargon.

Or, as originally defined: "Multiloquence characterised by a consummate interfusion of circumlocution and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilised for promulgations implementing procrustean determinations by governmental bodies."

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    This isn't a bad choice; I see it as de-emphasizing the aspect of containing the "technical fashion words", though - in a sense, bafflegab is timeless; technobabble can become dated, and changes as the current buzzwords (suggested as another answer) do. – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 10:50
  • "Bafflegab" connotes the type of "multiloquence" generated by bureaucrats or technocrats rather than connoting the type of language generated by (fairly but not very) sophisticated machines. "Robo-bafflegab" would convey the meaning of "pipotron" to anyone familiar with both the terms "robocall" and "bafflegab", but that might be far fewer than those familiar with both "robocall" and other appropriate words such as "twaddle". 'Tis a pity that "robospeak" has already acquired a different meaning, and that "robo-gobbledygook" is too much like gobbledygook to serve the intended purpose. – peak May 30 at 6:14
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The term I usually hear used for this is marketing copy (as in, ‘this sounds like marketing copy’).

This uses a slightly less well known meaning of the noun ‘copy’ (not even found in some dictionaries) which is roughly synonymous with ‘published text’. The term as a whole formally refers to the written materials used by the marketing department of a large corporation (as distinguished from things like technical documentation), and has come in some places to be used in a pejorative sense to refer to text that has a similar writing style to what is stereotypically associated with such material (that is, generally focused solely on sounding impressive without actually saying anything useful, and possibly only accurate in certain contexts).

A lot of the stuff posted online by people trying to convince the world to use blockchain technology to solve everything is an example of the type of writing, often using an absurd number of words to try and convey the argument that ‘it’s cool so you should use it’.

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  • (for those that don't know: a copywriter writes copy, hence this meaning of the word copy) – Aaron F May 28 at 9:34
  • This is a pretty good choice, if the pipotron in question is for marketing. However, except possibly during campaigning, a politician's output isn't "marketing copy"; it might be "technobabble", or it might just be "bafflegab" or just plain "bullshit". – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 11:07
  • @JeffZeitlin I’ve actually heard ‘marketing copy’ used to describe that type of political speech as well. In a way it often is, in fact, marketing, they’re just marketing themself as the correct choice of candidate instead of trying to sell a product. – Austin Hemmelgarn May 28 at 13:41
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    Well, yes... during campaigning. But I wouldn't characterise the normal political blather outside of a campaign as "marketing copy". (Oooh, there's another good word for it: "blather"!) – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 13:52
  • Marketing copy doesn't have to be anywhere near incomprehensible; it can simply be various levels of puffery in (relatively) legitimate and serious marketing. That use would simply diss the words as being whatever level of dishonest, not nonsensical. – obscurans May 29 at 2:57
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Sounds like a buzzword:

an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen — MW

There is no automatically generated aspect to this, but the term Markov Chain may be of interest as it is a way to generate something that almost sounds like something a person would say. (Though I doubt many people will be familiar with the term.) See for example these quotes:

Reads like a markov-chain- generated series of buzzwords. — lukaseder on Reddit

LinkedIn is basically a Markov chain generated from a Google search for “buzzword”. — I am Developer on Twitter

This is a business buzzword (or buzz-phrase) generator based on Markov chains. — Hodapp87 on GitHub

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    I would distinguish buzzwords from technobabble (or from the relevant meaning of pipotron) by pointing out that technobabble often contains buzzwords - that is, "cloud computing", "business intelligence", and "leveraging" are, considered in isolation, buzzwords; a paragraph of text that uses them to obfuscate the facts or confuse the reader is technobabble. – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 10:57
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    I don't understand how this has any upvotes at all. The meaning of buzzword has little if any relation to meaningless randomly generated sentences. A buzzword is (a) a word, or phrase, not a sentence and (b) has a specific meaning that is in fashion at the time. – GreenAsJade May 29 at 23:58
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I vote for the noun "waffle", derived from the verb "to waffle", as in when one "continues to waffle on" about a topic.

From Wiktionary:

  • (verb) to speak or write evasively or vaguely.
  • (noun) (Often lengthy) speech or writing that is evasive or vague, or pretentious. — "This interesting point seems to get lost a little within a lot of self-important waffle."

Merriam–Webster offers the definition:

(noun) empty or pretentious words; tripe.

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  • I'll concede that it's probably used as a noun in this sense more often than I would have thought, since MW has accepted it as a word, but I will note that I don't recall ever hearing it used as a noun to refer to anything other than the food. The verb usage is solid, though. – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 11:10
  • @JeffZeitlin Seems fairly common in the UK. My first exposures to the word were a few occasions when teachers in secondary school said that my answers to certain long-form exam questions were "full of waffle". – Jivan Pal May 28 at 12:20
  • That may account for part of the difference; it may well be more commonly used in BrE than in AmE (I'm in NYC). – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 12:21
  • The only time I've ever heard Waffle used like this (i.e., not a food stuff) is as a verb, but not in the way the OP asks. For example, "When the PM/President was asked directly whether the government was committed to policy XYZ, he (/she) waffled, neither committing to the policy nor rejecting it". My background: 30+ years in Canada, the last 30+ years in the US. – Flydog57 May 28 at 22:03
  • @Flydog57, that is definitely another sense in which both the verb and noun are used, as in "meandering/misguiding/evasive speech", and I was on the fence about posting this answer in light of that. However, the dictionary definitions' use of "pretentious" seems to support my intuition, and many contexts in which I've heard it used concern misappropriation of technical lingo/concepts, so here we are. – Jivan Pal May 28 at 22:16
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Randomly constructed text typically used for design mockups is Lorem Ipsum, though this specifically refers to pseudo-latin text starting with "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet...". This seems similar in use to your French pipotron based on your explanation.

see: https://www.lipsum.com/

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  • See my comment regarding lorem in FraserOrr's answer. – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 11:00
  • “Lorem ipsum” text looks like it might be meaningful, but only to someone who only knows enough Latin to recognize it as Latin-like, but “pipitron” text is more carefully crafted (whether by human directly or by human via choice of algorithm), like Lewis Carrol’s Hunting of the Snark, so that is both grammatical and seemingly sensible. – peak May 28 at 16:44
  • also known ag greeking, even though it's actually latin. – Jasen May 29 at 12:56
  • @peak - attention ! There is, I am fairly sure, a difference between pipitron and pipotron. – Michael Harvey May 30 at 13:58
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    Comment joue-t-on à touche-pipo ? – Michael Harvey May 30 at 20:19
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A couple of other words you might consider, though not necessarily related to technobabble (which is probably what I would use) are:

yada yada: Boring or empty talk.

Spiel: To talk voluably or extravagantly.

I'll also mention for fun:

Lorem Ipsum: pseudo-Latin text used in printing and website design in order to emphasise design elements over content.

This one doesn't exactly match what you want, but it is frequently used in a technical setting as meaningless text. However, it is deliberately meaningless, your pipotron sounds to me to be accidentally meaningless.

So this isn't a perfect answer to your question - I'd go with technobabble - but some fun words for you to think about.

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    Lorem Ipsum, often shortened to lorem, is text for appearances - that is, you use lorem to fill the text space but avoid distracting the person looking at the document from concentrating on the layout. It used to be described in the publishing industry as greeking. As you say, it's not really a match for the meaning of pipotron-as-text. – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 10:53
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This isn't an acknowledged English word, but to address the important aspect in the question about the text needing to be, or appear, automatically-generated, how about using the prefix "robo"?

So one might feel inclined to say something like "robobabble".

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    Or perhaps “robo-twaddle”. – peak May 28 at 16:50
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    In most use cases, the meaning would be self-evident with only a tiny bit of context (like that it's some piece of text that was part of some page or site you're talking about). So +1, useful neologism. – Peter Cordes May 29 at 5:11
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The padding would apply,

unnecessary words or information added to a speech or piece of writing

  • It could have been an interesting essay, but there was too much padding.

I've used it many times in relation to the content of technical reports or corporate documents.

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Sounds like gobbledygook to me

Language or jargon, especially in bureaucratic or official contexts, which is pretentious, long-winded, or specialized to the point of being unintelligible to the general public; nonsense, gibberish (OED).

1944 M. Maverick in N.Y. Times Mag. 21 May 11/1
Just before Pearl Harbor, I..got my baptism under ‘gobbledygook’..its definition: talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words.

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I use and have often seen the word blurb used in this context. Marketing Blurb is basically decorative text with a technical ambience thrown up onto webpages. It is often completely devoid of informative content and more about giving extra marketing substance and context to the main features, images and links.

This is specifically in the context of marketing text. Your later paragraph on deceptive political bamboozlement is something else

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  • Blurbs also tend to be relatively short; the sense I get from my research into pipotron suggests that the text can be much longer than I would consider applying blurb to. – Jeff Zeitlin May 28 at 11:03
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    Blurb is more or less low quality marketing info, but is neither non-sensical nor appears to have been generated. – Bohemian May 28 at 18:18
  • @bohemain - How about "roboblurb" or "e-blurb"? – peak May 30 at 6:18
  • @Bohemian That is not what the OP is asking for. He is specifically asking for this "This kind of text can mostly be found in marketing material, with lots of fashionable words (like "cloud computing", "innovation" or "disruptive"). I'm looking for this second meaning of the word "pipotron"." The question is slightly misleading because he is not actually looking for anything automatically generated, just some technobabble marketing blurb. In my experience blurb is in fact precisely what he is looking for. – Frank May 30 at 10:47
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A fluff piece. Typically a humorous report aimed at a humorous break of pace, after a succession of serious pieces.

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There is the word doublespeak, which Lexico gives as

doublespeak
NOUN

Deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language.

The art of political doublespeak
We need candidates armed with insight, not condescending doublespeak
That guy has doublespeak down to an art form, like really good poetry

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    The only reason I didn't consider it for my answer to the question is that doublespeak doesn't generally imply the inclusion of the "technical fashion words". – Jeff Zeitlin May 27 at 17:28
  • @JeffZeitlin to you and the downvoter, that applied the first part of the post, which led to the second part, the actual question. This fits "a lot of random, meaningless, misleading or hard to follow statements, in order to confuse or deceive the listeners. Commonly used by salesmen and politicians" as asked. Because of that, my answer to the first part was only a comment. – Weather Vane May 27 at 17:49
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    Doublespeak is not random or meaningless. It is carefully chosen to mislead. – The Photon May 27 at 19:57
  • @ThePhoton there is a preposition in there: or. "random, meaningless, misleading or hard to follow". – Weather Vane May 27 at 20:12
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    Yes, but it isn't a correct definition of doublespeak to say it consists of "random, meaningless, misleading or hard to follow" words, because doublespeak doesn't use random or meaningless words. – The Photon May 27 at 21:48

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