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Nick Booth remembered: Mothers get a jargon upgrade. Now they are In-house Multipurpose Executive Service Managers


This is the second in our series of articles by the much-loved TCW writer Nick Booth, who died in September. It was first published on December 18, 2015. You can read Kathy’s introduction here. 

PLEASE don’t punch me, but I’m going to offer you some unsolicited advice on motherhood. Yes, I know. I’m fully aware of my complete lack of knowledge and experience and XY chromosomal shortcomings, but when did that ever stop anybody? Besides, I’m not holding myself up as an expert but your nemesis in the gender civil war, the career women.

This may sound a teeny bit patronising, but I’m going to have to say it, because all parents eventually end up sounding like this. So here goes. You know what you need to do, don’t you? You want to be like those corporate career women. They’re brilliant at putting their own case. Shall I tell you what their secret sauce is? Corporate jargon. You want your own motherhood jargon to raise your profile.

When it comes to creating corporate jargon women are at least on an equal footing with men. Which logically means they must be twice as good at it, just to be get the same recognition. For example, when Ed Miliband talked of ‘weaponising the NHS’, everyone laughed. But he nicked the idea off Erin McKean, who gives corporate presentations with titles like ‘Weaponise Nice’. And she goes down a storm!

Perhaps, if you mothers did a little less nurturing, a bit less school running and a bit more power networking and brainstorming, you could weaponise your wombs. No, make that ‘Weaponise your Wombplaces’. You need to facilitate some holistic motherhood jargon solutions in real time.

As background you might want to read Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World. Disappointingly, though, he doesn’t give any practical advice on creating your own jargon.

There are important ground rules for mumbo jumbo. It can both over-complicate and over-simplify things. You should be aware that jargon can be used to talk things down as well as up. The simple elongation of words – transportation instead of transport and methodologies rather than methods – can make you sound more important. Try it yourself: stop using simple terms like ‘toilet training’ and start describing the process as ‘Next Generation Post Nappy Migration to an Ongoing Potty Platform’. That sounds much more important, I’m sure you will agree.

Jargon can be used to diminish your targets too. There’s a perfect example of this in another civil war, the class struggle between advertisers and creatives in the publishing industry. In publishing, the word ‘content’ has been used by the advertising people to diminish the creatives. Plays, prose, poetry, films and music are all just ‘content’ to many publishers now. Yet they have a seemingly endless lexicon for the different types of advert. Freelance writing rates for every newspaper, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, have plummeted at the same time as this work became regarded as mere ‘content’ because it isn’t considered valuable. Doesn’t that suggest something about the diminishing power of jargon?

Let’s give it a go. Men? Ha! They are mere ‘Fertility Solutions Providers’. If your children are being a bit challenging, you could say they are really ‘Getting on my Child-Mother Interface’ today.

Children’s books, I was disappointed to discover, are far and away the best systems for child development. (I was disappointed because I was researching an article on how toys can help stimulate young minds. Sadly, all the claims for ‘developing your child’s motor skills’ and ‘hand-eye co-ordination’ that manufacturers put on the boxes turned out to be utter nonsense, so that was the end of that article. But weirdly, everyone believes the manufacturers because they shout louder and use scientific sounding mumbo jumbo.)

Reading to a child between the ages of nought and five is one of the best things you can do for a child. They somehow assimilate language skills, listening to your words, looking at the shapes on the page, enjoying the resonance of your voice as they sit on your knee, learning to turn the pages. It doesn’t cost much to provide, which is probably why nobody takes it as seriously as they should. (Arguably there should be government programmes to promote this. It’d be cheap to run too!)

Reading to children is possibly something a mother would be more motivated to do, rather than an au pair or nanny. However, they do sound important, these ‘Outsourced Motherhood Service Providers’.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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