Sir Humphrey is privatized

In the 1980s, two young writers created the one of the great comedy characters of all time, Sir Humphrey Appleby. Sir Humphrey was the archetypical scheming bureaucrat who manipulated the system for the benefit of the Civil Service rather than civilians they ostensibly served. Viewers of the series Yes, Minister remember him for his long, erudite and completely opaque speeches

Notwithstanding the fact that your proposal could conceivably encompass certain concomitant benefits of a marginal and peripheral relevance, there is a countervailing consideration of infinitely superior magnitude involving your personal complicity and corroborative malfeasance, with a consequence that the taint and stigma of your former associations and diversions could irredeemably and irretrievably invalidate your position and culminate in public revelations and recriminations of a profoundly embarrassing and ultimately indefensible character.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

As the creators Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay phrased it, language became not so much a window to the mind but a curtain to be drawn over it.


Nigel Hawthorne playing Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes,Minister

Sir Humphrey was a caricature, but reality has caught up with fiction and not in the Oxford dominated Civil Service, but in the equally opaque jargon ridden corporatese. This week, the Marketing Chief of the MNC Mondelez (which own the Oreos brand) quit. While announcing their plan to hire a successor, their Chief Growth Officer (what is that?) produced the following gem.

“Dana has been a creative and change catalyst for our company, and we’re deeply appreciative of her many contributions,” said Tim Cofer, chief growth officer.  “Our search for a successor will focus on finding a digital-first, disruptive and innovative leader who can build on Dana’s legacy and mobilize breakthrough marketing in a rapidly changing global consumer landscape.

Can anyone explain to me how someone can be disruptive while building on a legacy? What does any of that actually mean? At least with Sir Humphrey, the individual words made sense if you had a dictionary.





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