I. What is a Buzzword?
When speaking of public speakers or politicians, we often accuse them of using “buzzwords” rather than digging deeper into an issue. A buzzword is a word or phrase that has little meaning but becomes popular during a specific time.
I would ignore his comment on the political candidate. He’s been drinking the Kool-Aid.
The buzzword “drinking the Kool-Aid” was used to quick disregarding what a person says, as the buzzword means someone is too trusting or gullible on a certain subject.
II. Examples of Buzzword
Buzzwords are frequently used in popular culture.
Think outside the box
Think outside of the box is a common buzzword in the education field. Although its meaning is simple—to be creative—it has become quite the buzzword.
It’s gotta be healthy—it’s fat-free!
In marketing, buzzwords like “fat-free” appeal to those looking to lose weight, even though many fat-free products are naturally so: an apple is always, by definition, fat-free.
III. Importance of Buzzwords
Buzzwords are easy and simple ways to impress those who are easily impressed. As long as a buzzword is fresh and popular, it is powerful. Eventually, though, many buzzwords become overused and lose their original power. Buzzwords are popular in areas in which flair and rhetoric matter more than truth and substance. For this reason, it is important to be aware of when someone is using buzzwords rather than logic in an argument or advertisement in order to be a knowledgeable listener and consumer.
IV. Examples of Buzzwords in Literature
Literature, like real life, can have buzzwords used by various characters in numerous situations. Buzzwords can also have their origins in literature.
A common buzzword, “catch-22” has its origin in Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22:
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.
“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.”
For a second example, consider B.F. Skinner’s novel Walden Two which shows a behaviorist’s utopia while exploring issues in the real world. This quote calls out certain buzzwords used in everyday politics:
In the world at large we seldom vote for a principle or a given state of affairs. We vote for a man who pretends to believe in that principle or promises to achieve that state. We don’t want a man, we want a condition of peace and plenty— or, it may be, war and want-- but we must vote for a man.
Politicians use buzzwords like “peace and plenty” in order to gain voters. As the narrator argues, these promises are in truth unreal and untrustworthy.
V. Examples of Buzzwords in Pop Culture
House of Cards is a show about Washington and politics. For this reason, buzzwords run everywhere. Here are a few examples from the trailer:
- Location, location, location
- Trickle-down diplomacy
- Circumstances have changed
- Take a step back, look at the bigger picture
In the movie “Pay it Forward”, the teacher uses a variety of buzzwords to gain the attention of his class. Here are a few examples:
- global thinkers
- the realm of possibility
- It’s up to you
- Change the world
Buzzwords can be inspiring, interesting, and attention-grabbing. Just as they gain audience’s attention in real life, they do so in movies and television as well.
VI. Related Terms
Buzzwords are not the only popular and overused phrases used in rhetoric. Here are a few devices similar to buzzwords:
Similar to buzzwords, catchphrases are repeated and spread within a culture. The difference between buzzwords and catchphrases is the specific usage. Whereas buzzwords can be used by many people in a variety of situations, catchphrases are usually designated to a specific product, character, or person. They are linked with that product or person in the minds of audiences as they are repeated and coined as catchphrases.
Here are a few examples of catchphrases:
- “Is that your final answer?” from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
- “May the force be with you” from Star Wars
- “I’m ready!” from Spongebob Squarepants
Although clichés and buzzwords have different definitions, they overlap. Clichés are overused phrases or ideas which have lost their original power and meaning. Buzzwords, after they lose their popularity or become apparent in their lack of depth, oftentimes become clichés.
Here are a few examples of clichés and clichéd buzzwords:
- Absence makes the heart grow fonder
- Slow and steady wins the race
- To get a taste of your own medicine
- Between a rock and a hard place
- Within a reasonable timeframe
Like catchphrases, buzzwords are popular in the minds of the public, but if they are overused, they may become clichés.
VII. In Closing
Buzzwords range from the political to the inspirational to strict business. When used carefully, they can compel and convince audiences to buy a product, listen carefully, or take action.