We are inundated with Buzzwords.  Having a tendency to be behind the curve, buzzwords are something I have only recently become acquainted with.  I’m still not entirely sure what buzzwords are…

BUZZWORD:  a word or phrase, new or already existing, that becomes very popular for a period of time.

Goodness!  According to Hallgren & Weiss – no, I haven’t a clue who they were or are either – but according to them, buzzwords have been around since 1946.  

What became known as buzzwords, were ways of collating language to help business students at Harvard gain better results.

Sounds to me not so distant a relative of the Mnemonic. 

MNEMONICa system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations, which assists in remembering something.

You know, ‘The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog’ 

Oh no!  That’s a Pangram!

PANGRAMa sentence containing every letter of the alphabet.

‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ – that’s a Mnemonic.

There’s the difference, I reckon:  a Buzzword is temporary, a Mnemonic is forever. 

I remember reciting Every Good Boy Deserves Favour when I was at Primary school.

The current popular buzzword is ‘Moonshot’ and is credited to our esteemed Prime Minister.  Having already confessed to being behind the buzzword curve, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

MOONSHOT:  an ambitious, exploratory and groundbreaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit.   The term also refers to a project that does not fully investigate the potential risks and benefits.

Hmm…that sounds about right for Boris.  He does come out with some cracking stuff though, doesn’t he!

“A Stitch In Time Saves Nine!” Churchilled Boris on national television, as he announced his plastering over the cracks changes to lockdown.

“A Stitch In Time Saves Nine”? 

Goodness, how the PM’s speechwriters must have laboured long into the night to come up with persuasive nuggets like that.

‘A Stitch In Time Saves Nine’   ‘A Drowning Man Will Clutch At Straws’ ‘Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth’.  ‘Many Hands Make Light Work’ (which somehow negates the Too Many Cooks proverb) ‘A Bad Workman Always Blames His Tools’

Could it be that proverbs are an early form of buzzword?

PROVERBa simple, concrete, traditional saying that expresses a perceived truth based on common sense or experience.

If buzzword is a popular ‘word or phrase’, then I would argue that proverbs fit very neatly into the buzzword category.  It makes me ponder if the word ‘buzzword’ is a buzzword?

It was during the Brexit campaign that I became aware of buzzwords, the buzzword then being ‘binary’.

How many times through that interminable Vote Leave/Vote Remain period, did we have to hear the word ‘binary’?  

And from the start of this Covid 19 pandemic, what was the mandatory buzzword that emanated from every politician and talking head’s lips? 


‘The situation is unprecedented’.  ‘We are living in unprecedented times’.  ‘This is an unprecedented virus’.

They aren’t wrong, this pandemic is unprecedented – listen to me, now I’m saying it!

Why not an unheard of situation?  An unparalleled situation?  A singular or novel situation?

No, unprecedented is the pandemic buzzword, just as binary was the Brexit buzzword.  Am I alone in finding it lazy and tiresome?

We have of course F.O.B.O. and F.O.M.O., buzzwords so fashionable they need no explanation.  Sorry?  Very well, for the behind the curvers like myself:

F.O.B.O. (1)fear of being offline. 

If this means fear of your Wi-Fi going down, then nobody suffers more from this than I.  That’s a bloody inconvenience not a fear.

For me – and possibly this is the moment when I should state that opinions expressed here are purely my own – for me, fear of being offline refers to those people who are constantly checking their twitter feed, emails, text messages, Instagram, news flashes, YouTube, etc.  They are never without a device in their hands, making conversation or a meal together impossible.

F.O.B.O. (2)fear of better options.

I know people like this.  Having accepted an invitation, if something more appealing comes along that clashes, they make their excuses in order to accept the better offer.  Not an attractive trait.  

Not to be confused with:

F.O.M.O.fear of missing out.

F.O.M.O. tends to have a derogatory association.  An anxiety stemmed from the belief that others might be having fun whilst you’re not. 

Possibly with some people, but I don’t think this is always the case.

We have a friend who might be described as suffering from F.O.M.O. but I would contend that her form of F.O.M.O. shows an admirable zest for life.

With indefatigable energy, she is up for anything and everything.  The newest, fashionable restaurant, the latest ‘hot’ play, the recommended boutique hotel abroad, the latest Hockney/Lucien Freud/ Tate Modern exhibition – our wonderful friend has to eat it, see it, travel to it and experience it with unflagging vitality.  She is fantastic!  

If that’s F.O.M.O, I would love some of it!  I simply don’t have the energy or the organisational skill. 

You have to be on the ball to book theatre tickets ahead, risking that the play might be a turkey.  You have to surf the Internet for bargain flights and offers at that boutique hotel.  You must use your best telephone schmoozing skills to get the choicest table at the newest trendy restaurant.   Our friend is a life force and we love her for it!

It has not been without casualties.  Some years ago our friend’s radar alerted her to an exclusive designer sale.

Girlfriends were notified, Moya included, and with the precision of a military operation, the mission was planned.  

The Eaglets had to land at the doors of the designer company warehouse no later than 06.45 in order to be at the head of the queue for the 8am sale. 

Alarm clocks were set, early cups of tea were gulped, make-up was applied and Operation Designer Sale was under way, with their leader, Major FOMO, at the wheel.

Everything went brilliantly.  The convoy arrived ahead of the ETA.  They would be at the head of the queue.  Spirits were high.  The efforts of these dedicated designer sale foot soldiers were to be rewarded.

Sadly not.  No queue materialized.  Despite meticulous planning, Operation Designer Sale had made one fatal error – they had come a day early.

Their dear leader simply could not accept this.  She was convinced that the clothing company, not she, had got the day wrong, her logic being:

‘It can’t be tomorrow – I’m not free!!’

One wonders where proverbs, sayings, buzzwords originate.  F.O.M.O. it seems was coined in 2004 by Patrick McGinnis when he was at Harvard Business School.   To be credited with creating an expression that becomes part of our language, that is something.

Like: ‘The Neighbour from Hell’.  ‘The Ex-wife from Hell’.  ‘The Prime Minister from Hell’‘The Anything from Hell’. 

I would have loved to have been the creator of an expression like that.  So would others.

Richard Lewis, the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ actor and Larry David friend, claims it came out of his comedic head.  Try as he may, research shows that it was around a long time before he came on the scene.  

In the First World War, German troops nicknamed Scottish soldiers in kilts ‘The Ladies from Hell’.

Sorry Richard, but if it’s any consolation, I do think you’re very funny in ‘Curb’.

I am now going to claim credit for something that I came up with. 

Not a buzzword, not a catchy phrase or saying.  More, a lifestyle change that has since been adopted by many, many people.

Way back, years ago, Moya and I were dining out with friends at a rather smart restaurant.  A very smart restaurant.  The waiter asked whether we’d like ‘Still or Sparkling’ as he handed round the menus. 

Back in the day, diners sometimes weren’t even asked.  A bottle of each would be plonked on the table and duly charged for.

As I remember, Badoit was the ‘in’ mineral water in those days, which to my taste was a blend of still and sparkling.

‘Still or sparkling?’ the waiter asked again, trying to attract the attention of the table.

A mini conference ensued.  As one person asked for sparkling and others chose still, I heard myself saying:

‘London tap water for me, please…’

From the moment the waiter retreated, the evening went downhill.

‘That was so embarrassing, George…’

‘You can’t ask for tap water in a restaurant…’

‘Especially this restaurant, we’ll never get a table here again…’

‘Did you see the waiter’s face, he was mortified…’

‘I’m not hungry anymore, I feel like going home…’

All this was punctuated with a steely stare from Moya.


‘Still, Sparkling or Tap?’ is the question asked nationwide in restaurants today. 

And I truly believe it was down to me.  I solely changed the habits of people dining out. 

There should be a word for it.


When buzz-habit becomes part of our language, remember where you read it first…