The phrase that started all this is "knowledge amid general understanding." In 1998 the Republic Powdered Metals company, manufacturer of a waterproofing material for the interior rain gutters in metal buildings, included this documentation:
Part 1 GeneralI imagine a committee trying to write a "Gutter Liner Specification" document. I imagine some overly honest member of the committee saying something to himself, only he actually said it out loud: "Well, they ought to know what the fuck they're doing in the first place..." Instead of being kicked out of the meeting, the chairperson agrees, and puts the question of how to say that without actually saying that.
1.01 Applicator's Qualifications
1. Applicator shall have knowledge amid general understanding of building design as well as Republic's products specified for the project.
Another phrase that came into use around the turn of the millennium is "compatibility issues." In fact, the "Y2K" era was the beginning of describing a problem as an issue. If there's a problem, there's a possibility of blame. If there's an issue, gee, well, everybody's got "issues" and nobody's to blame, right? So if The End Of The World As We Know It happened one second after midnight on the First of January, 2000 -- well, there were some compatibility issues. That's all.
In fact, here is a real quote from a British credit card company spokesman when 20,000 of their card-swipers failed during a "Pre-Y2K" test on 27 December 1999:
It is a software time and date related issue, which will be resolved and we're entirely confident that terminals will revert to full functionality.On 20 March 2002 I first encountered the term "Open Issue" (meaning unresolved problem" in the readme.txt file distributed with UPS Online WorldShip software. "We still have some open issues..." means "Shit keeps happening and we have no idea what the hell we're going to do or when or if the problems are going to be addressed!"
A story on Slashdot.com posted by Zonk on 6 January 2006 and titled "Microsoft Censors Chinese Bloggers" quotes a Ziff-Davis article saying "Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements..." Unique Elements. Which means, Microsoft never did hold any values above $ale$ Dollar$.
Product descriptions, formerly in print, and now online, receive ever less editorial scrutiny. A listing from CDI in January 2006 for the Ultra ATX 600-Watt SATA-Ready power supply lists among specifications, "Low Acoustic Noise." As opposed to electomagnetic "noise" I guess? It also boasted "Thermal Overload Cutoff Protection" which sounds like it means that it protects the circuit breaker from cutting off in the event it overheats.
Circumlocution is nothing new. Read Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens (Really -- it's a great book!). Dickens invented the term. One of the great practitioners of the past was "journalist" Will Duranty, who sang thus about the Holodomor while telling his readers that there had indeed been "serious food shortages" in the Ukraine: there was "no actual starvation" and furthermore "no deaths from starvation" -- merely "widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition." Oh. All right then.
In 2011 I was told by a customer at the Valero refinery in Benicia, "We are rapidly becoming critical path on our coker!" Me no know what that mean. But I assume he means that if the repair schedule isn't shortened to IMMEDIATELY!, bad shit is gonna happen -- and when it hits the fan, there will be plenty to spread around to everybody.
In 2012 the Obama economy got worse and worse. A spokesperson for the president insisted the economy was not in a recession or depression; it was not contracting, in his view, it merely showed numbers "consistent with a weakening growth backdrop."
In August 2016 it came to light that Defense Department intelligence assessments about ISIS had been skewed to downplay the threat and the White House (remember the "Junior Varsity" comment?) incompetence. "The facts on the ground didn't match what the intelligence was saying out of the United States Central Command," said then-Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), adding that the intel had clearly been "manipulated." In response, one Lieutenant Commander Patrick L. Evans spoke from the Pentagon to say that the intelligence community assessments were "based on multifaceted data related to the security environment." Whatever that means.
I got an email from FedEx on 13 May 2017:
FedEx experienced interference with some of our systems which caused disruptions to the FedEx Express Memphis Hub sort operations. We immediately implemented contingency plans to minimize the impact to our customers. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.The email concluded by reminding us that, "consistent with the provisions of the FedEx Service Guide, the money-back guarantee is not in effect for FedEx Express packages due for delivery on May 13, 2017." Great money-back guarantee, that.