Why a punch in the face* is the appropriate response to use of the phrase “business model”

Seiken by Kurmis / CC BY

The utterer of “business model” has attempted to raise their status with a superfluous word and has only confused whatever the issue at hand. The utterer is probably among the confused. The listener obtains only entropy and lower relative status. A punch serves to equalize the situation.

In inappropriate conveyance of status, “business model” bears likeness to beginning a statement with “So, ”:

Starting a sentence with “so” uses the whiff of logic to relay authority.

Ugly stuff.

Vivek Wadhwa, my favorite TechCrunch writer, seeks to educate the confused (strikethrough added):

Developing the right product is hard. But what is harder is building a good business model.

However, this and other uses throughout the article only demonstrate the superfluousness of “model”.

with scare quotes, or snarky tone, is ok; beware of inadvertent homage

12 Responses

  1. Andy Brooks says:

    I think a choke slam is also appropriate in such circumstances.

  2. I’m also not a fan of “value proposition,” as in, “What is your value proposition?” instead of, “What do you do?”

  3. John Harvey says:

    Yes, “business model” is usually a useless vanity. Wadhwa’s piece does at least attempt to give it meaning, though, rather than to use it as a vanity.

    The same can’t be said, however, for your own use of “However” as a replacement for “But”, which looks unfortunately like pomposity.

    Incidentally, you seem to have overlooked that the possessive adjective “their” and the verb “demonstrates” both imply number. “Their” is plural, not singular, and so cannot refer to “the utterer”; and “demonstrates” is singular, not plural, and so cannot refer to “this and other uses”.

    I enjoyed the tone of your comment and in general agree with you. But people in glass houses, as you know, throw stones at their peril.

    Let me declare an interest, as someone who gave pre-publication feedback on Wadhwa’s piece.

  4. Andy,

    Heh, good to hear from you.


    Value proposition does annoy, but I don’t hear it often, thankfully.


    Wadhwa’s piece is good, as usual for him. I’d rather use an overall good link as a jumping off point for peevishness than give a link to a worthless page.

    I don’t start sentences with “but” as I’ve always understood the practice to be incorrect — http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/but#Usage_notes — or maybe it just sounds strange to me.

    I intentionally abuse “their” — I believe it preferable to “his” or “her” or worse, “his or her”. “Hir” would be ok with me, but is glaringly unfamiliar.

    You’re entirely right about “demonstrate”. Oops, corrected.

    I welcome shattering of glass houses, including mine. Thanks for the comment!


  5. John Harvey says:

    Hi, Andy —

    Yes, I thought you were picking on his piece as being a lesser transgressor. No, I don’t hear “value proposition” much either.

    You’re unlikely to encounter somebody fussier than I am about the function of words being to convey meaning rather than to require the reader to interpret and reinterpret; but the stricture on using coordinating conjunctions as conjuncts between sentences seems to me fussy in a way that doesn’t help the reader one whit.

    Amusingly, the advice offered on the Wiktionary link you gave does itself contain a usage error: use of “however” as the final word in a sample sentence (it’s really a contraction of a longer phrase such as “however much that may be so” whose subject is best kept near it, and therefore is properly used parenthetically rather than as an opening or closing to a sentence). And it offers completely erroneous “classical grammarian” advice concerning a comma before “but”.

    I’ve encountered this comma myth before, particularly in relation to “and” — both the before-and version and the after-and version. It always seem to arise from somebody’s primary-school teacher or early-high-school English teacher. And (there, you see, I did it again!) it’s completely misleading. What any two grammarians will agree on is that the conjunction between two independent clauses, such as in the examples Wiktionary gives (“I was very tired, but I decided to continue” and “It was a lovely day, but rain looked likely”), must be preceded by punctuation: usually with a comma, though in certain sentences, a semicolon or even an em-dash will serve well. A comma will always serve. Failure to punctuate there won’t.

    The use of “their” as a singular possessive seems to have become a convenience akin to not washing hands between playing with the pets and preparing food for eating: it saves work, but it’s not necessarily going to lead to a good outcome. Often enough, I’ve found sentences in which it’s caused unnecessary confusion by appearing to refer to some plural noun in that or the previous sentence. So it’s not entirely arbitrary as a writerly choice, as is, say, whether to use capitals on (non-clause) items in a list. But a reader may be able to appreciate that only once he’s been inconvenienced by it, just as some people only learn hygiene after a course of some toxic drug to kill off parasites. :-)

  6. John Harvey says:

    Aagh! Sorry, Mike; I meant “Mike”!

  7. John, I appreciate the lesson. I tweaked the wiktionary entry, perhaps not enough https://secure.wikimedia.org/wiktionary/en/w/index.php?title=but&action=historysubmit&diff=11331117&oldid=11321007

    I suppose I’ll stick to “her or his” from now on. I find that really dissatisfying.

  8. If someone wants to stick to their guns and remedy the lack of a neuter, they can use the 3rd person plural.

    Human languages are adapted by the people who use them. They are not like programming languages, mechanically interpreted, and necessarily regulated by standards – despite French inclinations otherwise.

    Ambiguities can be disambiguated where necessary.

  9. Crosbie, thanks for providing two fine examples in your first sentence. I tend to agree, but am obviously not decisive about the matter.

  10. […] Also see TooMuchAbstraction and Why a punch in the face* is the appropriate response to use of the phrase “business model”†. […]

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