Sometimes buzzwords become so pervasive they’re almost inaudible, which is when we need to start listening to them. Disruptive is like that. It floats in the ether at ideas festivals and TED talks; it vanishes into the jargon cluttering the pages of Forbes and Harvard Business Review. There’s a quarterly called Disruptive Science and Technology; a Disruptive Health Technology Institute opened this summer. Disruptive doesn’t mean what it used to, of course. It’s no longer the adjective you hope not to hear in parent-teacher conferences. It’s what you want investors to say about your new social-media app. If it’s disruptive, it’s also innovative and transformational.
Curious to know what the new Most Irritating Word is? Not many people agree on the number one offender, but for a while a top choice was “literally,” which evolved so much over the past few decades that the Oxford English Dictionary revised its official definition. At Slate, Katy Waldman proposed that we give the title to “amazeballs.” Now, in The New Republic, Judith Shulevitz makes the case for “disruptive,” the scourge of the tech world.