3,700 elephants found in offices last year (along with other meaningless jargon)

THE phrase "elephant in the room" is now the biggest cliché in the world of meaningless jargon after researchers found 3,700 examples of it being used last year.

The saying – which means a problem so big it is impossible to ignore – is now a phrase that is impossible to avoid it seems.

Meanwhile, anyone without a job but too ashamed to admit it need not despair, they can simply describe themselves as an "experience architect" when applying for new job.

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These now rank alongside other established examples of business nonsense such as "pushing the envelope" and "going the extra mile" according to a look back at corporate clichs of 2009.

A look through business journals and other financial publications recorded 3,700 uses of the elephant clich in 2009 compared to just 175 a decade ago, showing how it has grown in use. But it is not the only example of high-flying business executives, official spokespeople and PRs mangling the English language in the corporate world, said the study.

From "paradigm shifting" to "best in class", not even the recession can halt the march of the meaningless jargon, added the report by the Financial Times.

It revealed examples of completely made up phrases, including the description of a company being able to "gap away from competitors" from oil analyst Neil McMahon, quoted in one publication. An unnamed PR, asking for a meeting, wanted to "circle up", an addition to other phrases like "head up" or "flag up".

Air New Zealand managed to find yet another new way to fire employees by announcing it would "disestablish up to 100 long-haul cabin crew positions".

Meanwhile, those already out of work but not wanting to say so are describing themselves as, for instance, a "life explorer", "multi-media storyteller" and "experience architect" instead.

And a spokesman for an anonymous pharmaceutical firm who was stumped for the answer to a question said: "I don't have a good optic on that at the moment."

Top bosses get caught up too, said the research, after seeing Andrew Liveris, chief executive of Dow Chemical, talking about choices but babbling "we have significant optionality" instead.

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And Sebastian Coe, the former gold medal athlete turned politician and leader of London's Olympic bid for 2012, was trapped not just by a double metaphor but a triple one.

In perhaps the year's most clich-rich single sentence, he said: "There are times when there is a need to dig deep and find another gear while never losing sight of the bigger picture."

Worst corporate messaging of the year goes to phone giant Nokia for this notice at a staff car park in Peru: "It is me who arrives here early in the morning hoping to change the world."

While the FT said the most irritating new way to sign off an e-mail was no longer "rgds" but "HTH" which stands for Hope That Helps. The FT said: "Even in bad times, it seems, some managers can still push the envelope and go the extra mile.

"The award for the year's top clich goes to 'the elephant in the room'. In the last year there has scarcely been a meeting room anywhere in which an elephant has not pitched up at some point.

"In leading newspapers and journals alone, last year 3,700 elephants were reported as being in rooms, while in 2000 the number was only 175. If one had to sum up 2009 in one sentence, it was the year in which elephants bred like rabbits."