Sunday, April 06, 2008

Word of the Week: play

I went to a presentation this week by a marketing/communications specialist. The audience was business communication specialists -- mainly writers and designers.

The speaker was telling us about work he did for a group of investors. At one point he said, “It was exciting because often, mid-way through a project, there’d be a shift and, for example, it might go from a straight condo deal to a condo/hotel play.”

I’ve worked for clients in the finance industry so I’ve heard “play” used in that way -- it’s sort of a hip way of describing a deal or transaction. I wondered, however, whether most of the folks in this particular audience understood the jargon.

The speaker didn’t explain the term and no one questioned him about it. I suspect people didn’t ask because they got the gist of the story (which was that he found the pace challenging and the fact that things often changed mid-stream interesting) and so they didn’t really care whether they were 100% sure of his use of the word.

I decided to make “play” word of the week because this story shows how a word that everyone knows can be jargon. I think it was ok for the speaker to use the jargon without defining it in this case for two reasons: because understanding the term wasn’t critical to understanding what he was talking about and because the presentation was pretty informal. But, if he had been my client and he had written the sentence in something to be given to the same audience, I’d have urged him not to use “play” because there was no reason to use jargon.


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