One of the stranger things about growing old while having your faculties predominately intact is that you can actually notice the linguistic and semantic shifts in language as they happen.
In the hallways where I toil, I bumped into the agency’s best writer yesterday. He happens to be something of an age-peer and someone whose work I’ve admired for nearly 30 years.
I said something dumb—about a mindless meeting, a briefless assignment or a minuscule budget. Such things are the lingua franca of agency denizens who actually still remember how work should be. He shot back a sentence that put it all into context.
“You’re not being very agile, George,” he said.
I laughed of course and said, “I’m not being agile, and I’m not about to start.”
Then we were off and running.
“You know,” he said, “I was in this business for 30 years before I heard the word agile not in relation to a Romanian gymnast.”
“And robust. And Ideate. And exploratory.”
“Exploratory,” he scoffed. “Is that better than saying, ‘we have a meeting on Monday and need 11 ideas?’”
“The word that gets me,” I said “is transparency. Because so many people—not just in agencies—use it.”
“Transparency used to be about cellophane.”
“Here’s the thing. I think you can be transparent and not be honest. You can be transparent and be a liar. Honest is an absolute. It’s binary. You can’t be a little honest or very honest. It’s like unique. You either are or aren’t. It can’t be modified.”
He started backing away. A lot of people do as I propel myself over the precipice of a tirade.
“Companies are ‘transparent’ while they steal your data. Politicians are ‘transparent’ while they give you only the information that supports their stance. Agencies are ‘transparent’ in giving you only the details they want to, that bolster their claims of transparency. 'There are no raises' they'll tell you as they themselves get raises.”
My friend was fully walking away now and, leaving, he gave me a look that recalled to my mind this scene from “Annie Hall.”
At least he was honest.