Going forward, let's say something else

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2011, 12:00am

Some annoying words and phrases that serve no purpose often slip into a language and gain wide currency. They are like irritating bugs that get into your system and stay there forever without doing tremendous harm.

A recent example is the phrase 'going forward'. Not a day goes by without someone making a public speech or statement using it at least once.

It seems to convey the vague notion about how something or someone needs to proceed into the near future.

But in nine out of 10 instances of it being used, the phrase adds little or nothing to what is being discussed. So why use it?

Its use appears to indicate that the speaker is in a position to take an organisation, an issue or a policy forward. It's a socially acceptable way to show that you are a Very Important Person.

Take the by-now famous exit message of Carol Bartz, the recently sacked chief executive of Yahoo, to her staff.

'I am very sad to tell you that I've just been fired over the phone by Yahoo's Chairman of the Board,' the message said. 'It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward. Carol'

It has been lauded for its candour. But why not end it with 'I wish you only the best'? Because only a lowly executive would write like that; a (former) chief executive like Bartz can only go forward, no matter what.

But at least egoistic chief executives only talk about going forward, instead of making a 'Great Leap Forward'. Mao Zedong was saying he wasn't just a VIP but The Most Important Person. We all know where that led China. At least (former) chief executives like Bartz don't yet have Mao-sized egos.