Thursday, May 28, 2009

ESPN's PR department wins the 1st Professor Irwin Corey Award this week

When David Meerman Scott so succinctly broke open the stats on what he called "gobbledygook" -- the nonsensical overused phrases used in press releases -- you knew it was just a matter of time before you could play a game of "Can You Top This?"

With the economy crashing down, large corporations were coming up with some pretty impressive ways to describe their layoffs. BusinessWeek compiled some of these beauties last winter, such as "offboarding" and "rationalizing."

Periodically, I will be awarding my Professor Irwin Corey Award, named after the brilliant comedian who pioneered "doublespeak" comedy, making up serious-sounding but fictional phrases that ended up meaning absolutely nothing, twisting his creations with authentic words until you didn't know if he was real himself or not. He was always known as "The World's Foremost Authority."

ESPN inaugurates my Professor Irwin Corey Award, manufacturing a personnel statement of such mind-boggling runaround jargon today, that it should trigger a violent reaction in every PR professional with some kind of high standards.

It's layoff statements like this which make journalists want to strangle PR people (italics are mine):

"Most of the jobs are being repurposed in support of initiatives which will more effectively grow our company, and our headcount number, ultimately, will remain consistent with current levels.”

According to, "repurposing" is "To use or convert for use in another format or product: repurposed the book as a compact disk."

The word "repurposed" is not even being used accurately in this ludicrous statement, as these employees are being laid off, not converted into other jobs.

Did somebody repurpose the dictionary at ESPN?

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