Hung, unhinged, and hanged…

Civilised people abolished capital punishment long ago, so let’s put the black cap aside for the moment. Words themselves are not guilty. That opprobrium belongs to the perpetrators who misuse and abuse them to string together offences such as ‘going forward’.

‘Going’ by itself is perfectly innocuous, a useful and vigorous verb that more than earns its keep. The same applies to ‘forward’ – especially when clad in a Scotland jersey and touching down between the posts at Twickenham.

Staying with rugby, that’s probably the only context where ‘Going forward’ is unobjectionable.  Fans will remember Sid Going, the New Zealand scrum-half who played 29 Tests, for the All Blacks between 1967 and 1977.

Although technically speaking Going was a back, he was not shy of heading forward – over the halfway line, into the opponents’ 25, and across the goal-line – scoring 10 tries in test matches and a total of 44 points with his kicking added.

This implication of progressive and successful advancement is a likely explanation of the fondness for ‘going forward’ as a corporate buzz-phrase, to be tagged on at the end of any discourse on business prospects. ‘In future’ is not enough, nor ‘looking ahead’. No, we’re going forward to the sunlit uplands, where higher profits and shareholder dividends will await us for the taking.

That was probably after a ‘challenging’ period, which no longer means receipt of a thrown gauntlet or a choose-your-weapons duel. (Handbags at dawn with Maggie Thatcher, anyone?)

Again, no such luck. ‘Challenging’ has become the catch-all for troublesome business conditions, whether routine difficulties with customer complaints about high prices and poor service, or genuine havoc caused by the C-19 pandemic.

push the envelope, cartoon
I don’t think the envelope jumped… I think he was pushed

Perhaps the environment was so challenging it forced us to ‘push the envelope’ to make elbow room for innovative thinking and additional space to enable more ‘going forward. A decent metaphor when first used (assuming I’ve understood it correctly) but now a tired cliché, without the excuse of being emotional as well.

Or did it mean a Postman Pat fantasy? Pushing an envelope that contained a letter bomb through countless domestic letterboxes and watching the trail of destruction left behind as he continued his round, relieving the tedium of repressive socio-dialectic materialism that exploits the masses in our post-modern age of austerity laced with state handouts, even if the beneficiaries do tend to be reciprocal by way of donor status and magnitude of generosity.

Phew! That was a long sentence without drawing breath. Those who managed it will qualify to make a ‘deep dive’. (Don’t get too excited. That’s not an invitation for a basement club in Glasgow – just management speak for ‘detailed investigation’ or ‘comprehensive analysis’.)

Put away the Jules Verne bathyscaphe and the 20,000 league plunge. Go back to that envelope and don’t just push it. Rip it apart and chuck it on Postman Pat’s bonfire of the platitudes. Pretend you’re the proprietor of the Daily Mail and the envelope contains a tax demand. Tax? Pah! People like us don’t pay tax, that’s why we pay the Big Four so much, besides their ability to parrot impressive-sounding but meaningless buzz-phrases. And by the way – whatever happened to capital punishment?