"Buzzword bingo arose as a reaction against half-truth and responsibility-dodging" in the workplace, says former Silicon Graphics Inc. software engineer Chris Pirazzi. When Mr. Pirazzi, now a software engineer elsewhere, worked at the hightech company, he wrote bingo cards featuring phrases like, "At Stanford, we . . ." (In Silicon Valley, it's hip to let people know you attended Stanford University.)
The game, by all accounts, began at Silicon Graphics in Mountain View, Calif. Tom Davis, a scientist and one of the company's founders, says that one day in early 1993, he was sitting in the office of a friend who had scrawled corporate-speak on his blackboard. A light bulb went off, and Mr. Davis wrote a computer program to generate bingo cards filled with the jargon he had seen, plus motivational cliches like "Step up to it." He says he coined the name "buzzword bingo" and passed the cards along to colleagues with a note written in the spirit of the new game: "The ball's in your court."
Elizabeth Macdonald and Asra Q. Nomani, "Lots of Executives Become Fair Game For Buzzword Bingo," The Wall Street Journal, June 8, 1998
Here's how to play: Each person attending a business meeting takes different buzzword bingo boards, which look like regular bingo boards, but instead of numbers in each square, there are buzzwords. When one of the buzzwords is spoken at the meeting, players put a coin on its square. First one with a straight line wins.
The buzzwords in buzzword bingo include: "Whatever it takes," "Impact" (as a verb), "Win-win," "Scenarios," "Hot button," "Up to speed," "Bite the bullet," "Ball's in your court," "Pass the baton," "Functionality freeze," "Proactive," "State of the art," "Leading edge," and more, many more, as any meeting-goer could attest.
Rob Morse, "Fun and games for the '90s," April 18, 1993
Buzzword bingo is appealing not only because most business meetings are deadly dull, but also because you get the feeling that most of the people spouting these buzzwords are doing it only to sound important. (That is, in fact, the definition of a buzzword: "An an often-used word or phrase that sounds more important than it really is, used primarily to impress other people.")