Word Salad

word salad500

Question: What do you do when management asks you direct questions in meetings, in front of everybody, and giving any sort of answer will likely get you fired?

I would try speaking in tongues, or use “lorem ipsum” gibberish with the occasional English language phrase thrown in.

A while ago, my dad shared with me a story from his days in Big Pharma. Names altered, of course.

“Our head of research at BS, Yellowhead, did not deserve his position because he was not equal to the task. He was sensitive about it, too. His principal office was in another city, so we didn’t see much of him.

“A VP in our local office made the mistake of saying that morale was poor. This was not true: it was much worse than poor. Yellowhead was so offended that he called a meeting of all the VPs and Directors, of which I was one. There were about 15 people.

“At the meeting, Yellowhead asked us, one at a time – fortunately for me, I happened to be one of the last in line – whether the VP was right. It was clear that the “right” answer was no… The VP had to begin by reiterating his statement in front of all of us, which he did, speaking very nervously while compulsively fiddling with a small booklet. Someone whispered to me “what’s that book?” and I whispered back, ‘it’s his bankbook’.

One by one, each person had to stand up and lie, if they knew what was good for them, and the contorted speeches would have been funny if the occasion were not so dangerous. The one I remember best was one vacuum-brain who spoke quickly and so incomprehensibly that word salad was the only way to describe it.

When my turn came, I had already (in my mind) consulted my bankbook, and took a different tack. I said to Yellowhead that the VP was actually correct, but for reasons that I would like to discuss with him privately. Yellowhead accepted this, and said he’d listen to me tete-a-tete.

On that later occasion, I told him that the problem was not him, but another individual named Shithead, who had the day-to-day command of all research in both our office and in Yellowhead’s own. Shithead had come into the picture via a recent merger and fully lived up to its name.

“I didn’t actually come out and say that [ Shithead was a demonic Lovecraftian spirit from the infernal depths ]. Instead, I told Yellowhead that we wanted to have a different local boss who came from our side. I also kissed his ass – so don’t admire my courage – by saying that he ought to spend much more of his time in Wallingford, because we felt neglected. This latter, I am sorry to say, was a lie.”

Online Nonsense Text Generators

If you’re feeling tongue-tied and can’t come up with glib non-statements under pressure, try using one of these online text generators.

Postmodern Criticism: Generates a new parody of postmodern criticism every time the page is loaded. Advantage is, it sounds almost like English. If you speak rapidly with the occasional verb thrown in, you can probably get away with something from this page, which you can load on your phone.

Lorem Ipsum Variant: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Blind Text Generator: This one has some alternates, including a fairy tale that begins with “Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean.” This may not work in a high-stakes meeting unless you’ve REALLY checked your bankbook first.

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