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Is there a word or phrase for saying something in an intentional manner to use such generic language as to avoid including any useful details? Example:

We have pivoted to align our business strategy with the prevailing market dynamics. This will capture value to our shareholders through targeted initiatives that promote change to enhance our leadership position.

This says nothing concrete.

It's not exactly obfuscation, which hides details somehow.

It's not exactly bloviation, which implies making an excessively long speech, because it's short.

It's not exactly empty rhetoric (oddly enough I can't find a good definition) as it is not really trying to persuade or argue anything. (although the emptiness is certainly there)

How would you describe this communication technique?

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  • 1
    There are a few similar questions here already if you can find them. For example speaking purely for the sake of saying something, formal alternative to bullshit.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 22, 2022 at 9:05
  • Doesn't Weird Al have a song about this?
    – Marthaª
    Dec 22, 2022 at 15:48
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    It's a "political speech".
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 22, 2022 at 19:35
  • 'Equivocate' and 'prevaricate' are suggested (the nouns follow). Dec 22, 2022 at 20:03
  • If a reader/listener doesn't understand the terms being used then it's effectively unintelligible from their perspective. However to someone who understands 'business strategy', 'targetted initiatives' etc.... it does say something, sure it's generic by one measure, and doesn't say how these things have been or will be achieved but it does state an action undertaken from a high level perspective and what the goal of that action is and expresses a belief that the desired goal will be reached. This is a form of jargon-speak in this case unique to a certain level of business management.
    – Charemer
    Dec 22, 2022 at 20:20

6 Answers 6

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This is gobbledygook. From Vocabulary.com:

Gobbledygook is unintelligible nonsense, often a bunch of big words that you can't comprehend. [...] What distinguishes gobbledygook is that it includes technical terms or overblown, complicated words that aren't necessary.

It is in everyday use in British English.

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  • I'm going with gobbledygook; it has an interesting bureaucrat-speak origin which comes close to what I was looking for. politicaldictionary.com/words/gobbledygook
    – Jason S
    Dec 22, 2022 at 16:52
  • see also: sanantonioreport.org/…
    – Jason S
    Dec 22, 2022 at 16:53
  • I am amused by the ambiguity in "It is in everyday use in British English." Dec 22, 2022 at 20:19
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    @WayneConrad: Yes, the word and the practice! (But the practice is, I would say, found in every language.)
    – TonyK
    Dec 22, 2022 at 21:42
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In undergrad philosophy we used to say that statements like this were nonampliative, but I don't know how common that word is.

Merriam-Webster gives for ampliative a fairly technical definition:

adding in the predicate something not contained in the meaning of the subject term

so it's possible it was just trendy at the time to extend the word into other contexts.

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  • +1 just for teaching me a new word.
    – Jason S
    Dec 22, 2022 at 6:10
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Blathering:

engaging in or characterized by foolish or nonsensical talk or writing

... which (IMO/E) carries at least a mildly derisive connotation. Interestingly for all the Duck Tales fans out there, a person who blathers a lot is a blatherskite.

Somewhat less negative, consider babble:

to talk enthusiastically or excessively

or

to utter in an incoherently or meaninglessly repetitious manner

And, to be even more corporately acceptable: consider a phrase based on buzzwords:

1: an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen 2: a voguish word or phrase

I've heard "buzzword bingo" fairly often in side-channel chats during corporate presentations.

And, of course, combinations of the above should be readily understandable: "babbling/blathering in buzzwords" are the most obvious to me, but "buzzword blatherskite" has a nice ring to it (while being fairly dismissive of the speaker).

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Such an author can be said to be using "weasel words". From M-W:

a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position

Another option is "hot air":

empty talk

In your particular example, it also sounds as if the author is using a lot of "buzz words":

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

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  • yeah, "buzzword" was on my list also; but somehow I thought it was more on the word choice level and I'm looking for something that describes things at a sentence/paragraph level.
    – Jason S
    Dec 22, 2022 at 6:09
  • These two suggestions are very different. 'hot air' is a really good answer to the OP, but 'weasel word' is not. I don't know how to vote.
    – Mitch
    Dec 24, 2022 at 18:08
  • @Mitch Yes, OP's comment on this answer makes clear that "hot air" is a better fit than "weasel words" or "buzz words", but that wasn't really clear from the original question. I'd perhaps edit my answer, but I see little harm in letting all three suggestions remain, especially if the original question remains unchanged. Dec 24, 2022 at 18:12
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There are lots of words that sort of encapsulate the idea of complicating a simple idea- pleonasm, circumlocution- but they fail to convey that there is no real substance in the word (the implication of these words is that there is, in fact, a message/information in there; you just need to break it down and parse it out).

There are also lots of terms that capture the idea of using buzz words-psychobabble, bafflegab- but these don't quite fit your request either.

The word that best fits, in my opinion, would be palaver

palaver, noun: talk that does not have any meaning (Oxford)

palaver, verb: [to] talk unproductively and at length (Oxford Languages)

Palaver has other meanings, too, and it's not a particularly common word, but I think that it does well to describe your passage, in a sentence such as the writer of this passage is simply palavering and offers no concrete message. Note that it can function as both a verb or a noun.

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  • In the US, palaver usually refers to a fairly serious set of talks, so it has a different alignment than what you indicate. Admittedly, the expectations for such confabs are often not very great. The definitions you list are listed as archaic in Britain, and are not the top definitions in any reference I checked.
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 22, 2022 at 13:03
  • As it historically related to conferences among African tribes and also European trade expeditions in Africa, it isn't too surprising that it took on a disparaging sense during colonial times. Palaver has do do with a process of consensus building, not a result. It is a process that is at odds with Western legal traditions
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 22, 2022 at 13:03
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Equivocation is a useful term for a particular kind of this behaviour.

: deliberate evasiveness in wording : the use of ambiguous or equivocal language

: an ambiguous or deliberately evasive statement

Equivocal statements abound, although maybe not always.

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