A BRIC to the head
There are certain terms in use in the English language that cannot help but reveal the person uttering them to be guilty of lazy thinking at the very least, and perhaps even an outright idiot.
If such words were merely flags for dullness, I’d almost look kindly upon their use, because this would perform a useful hygienic function – you’d simply discount, forever after, the opinions of a known user. Habitual offenders could be ignored entirely, with profit.
But it’s worse than that. These words are antimatter to clarity of insight, or more accurately, some malignant linguistic equivalent of ice-nine: to drop one of them into a sentence is not merely to cast doubt on the acuity of one’s own mental processes, it’s to poison the entire discussion that follows and therefore includes the term by reference.
Contemporary business culture has, of course, given rise to a great many such terms and expressions (“net-net,” “rightshoring” and “-sizing,” and most especially “out of the box”), and while I know I should probably be more generous and tolerant, let’s be honest: I tend to flip the bozo bit, more or less permanently, on anyone who lets one of these slip in my presence.
Yeah, I do tend to find “drink[ing] the Kool-Aid” inherently and offensively trivializing. And don’t get me started about “learnings.” But the one that really sticks in my craw of late is a term of art so insultingly reductionist, so collapsingly awful, that it seems only a matter of time until it’s enshrined in the official name of a strategy document or (better yet) department.
This term is “the BRIC countries,” “BRIC” being a handy, one-syllable acronym used to refer to the two point eight billion citizens of Brazil, Russia, India and the People’s Republic of China, and strongly implying that usefully robust commonalities of market conditions, sociometrics or (!) user behavior can be observed among and between them. (Usage: “How are we going to sell this in the BRICs?”)
Remember: the complaint is not just that that using “BRIC” makes you sound like a tool, although that is certainly the case. And it’s not even that, unless you happen to be participating in a discussion of projective macroeconomics, the abbreviation actually and measurably makes you dumber for using it. It’s that the term kills thought dead in everything it touches.
In the contexts in which I tend to encounter it, “BRIC” amounts to a not particularly timid suggestion that the behaviors, horizons and ambitions of a street kid in Kolkata, a EVP for Sales in São Paulo, a nursing student in Chengdu and a taxi driver in Vladivostok are more or less interchangeable. While I know full well that you’d never even want to imply that, why be a party to discussions that do?
Look, I’m not gonna get all “Politics and the English Language” on you – ‘twould be a tad hypocritical – but let us at least agree that this nasty little word is quite literally stupefying. If you just happen to work for, say, the World Bank, and the moment demands of you some handy rubric under which to gather these four specific economies – in this case, and this case alone, you can be forgiven. Otherwise…you know what to do.