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The Rise of the 'Micro-Yes' and Other Marketing Babble

23/05/2013 15:22 BST | Updated 22/07/2013 10:12 BST
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"It's all about the micro-yes," said the earnest fellow staring at me intently in the late afternoon light. Nobody else in the meeting room stirred. I wasn't sure I'd heard him right.

"I'm sorry... It's all about the what?"

"The micro-yes," he repeated. "It's an American term. It means nodding."

How to respond to this? As a copy editor who works in the brave new world of content, I face this dilemma on a daily basis. Marketing meetings are a regular and guaranteed way of offending my delicate sensibilities, but for the most part I can just about rise above it. On occasion, though - and this was one such occasion - I feel it necessary to stand my ground and defend the proud language that is being defiled before me.

I could feel the vein pulsing in my temple. "If you're not American, and micro-yessing means nodding, then why not just say nodding?"

"Because," he insisted, his voice faltering only slightly, "because micro-yessing is what our audience does nowadays."

At this point, I had to wonder if he knew his audience at all. One thing I could be pretty sure of was that they weren't American. The 'micro-yes' actually exists (describing a series of positive reactions to a piece of content that will hopefully result in a 'macro-yes', or 'conversion'), but having since tested it on some of my Stateside friends and colleagues - hip young things involved in marketing, some of them - the response was a unanimous shaking of the head. Micro-yessing has yet to have any real impact on their nation's nodders.

Which prompts the following questions. Why is American marketing speak considered to be so much more grown up than ours, and why are we so intent on attributing half-baked phrases to a language that seems embarrassed about laying claims to them in the first place?

It's not just the 'micro-yes', of course. Other pet hates (the list is large) include 'moving forward' and 'mission critical'. I ask you, are these really the height of linguistic sophistication? More importantly, why are people who can't be trusted with the word 'nod' being allowed anywhere near the word 'silo'?

The problem seems to be that these buzzwords are created (whether in America or in your head) to replace commonplace words that, for some reason, are no longer deemed adequate. Granted, I can see that 'deck' can be used more quickly and less clumsily than 'slideshow presentation', but what happens when 'deck' stops having the desired effect? And why hasn't that time arrived already? If micro-yessing is thought to be more sophisticated than nodding, then surely 'deck' needs another biannual probationary meeting with the keepers of best practice.

One thing is for sure: as media continues to become part and parcel of everyday life, everyday people (the kind that don't have the misfortune of having to deal with media types) will become more openly exposed to the pap that these people spout. My hope is that they'll call a halt to this mindless assault on our language with a resounding "no!" Otherwise, our world is lost to the micro-yessers. Moving forward, I can think of few things worse.