When it comes to plain English, we in the property world are our own worst enemies.
I don’t just mean the cliches - the “nestled in” and the “benefitting from” and the “wealth of period features” - but increasingly even our job titles have expanded from the simple and explanatory to the absurd and self-important.
These days even tiny and probably short-lived start-ups embrace job titles previously reserved for multi-national pharmaceutical giants. Is any PropTech firm NOT led by a “founder and chief executive”.
If that seems pompous to the outside world just wait for some of the grander titles.
A new agency launching in the UK sent a press release quoting a person called (wait for this one…) ‘Head of Constellation’.
I asked the agency’s PR what the title meant and what its holder did - there was no reply.
This isn’t the only bizarre title in our industry of course.
Another agency has an International Expansion Leader, and ill-fated Boomin had a People Partner (that ended well).
Countrywide, during its miserable decline in the 2010s, had a fetish about the word ‘Retail’ - jobs were called retail commercial, retail programme and retail performance, for example, plus large numbers of regional retail representatives.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the organisations behind these rather obscure titles were not so humourless about them.
Rightmove, for example, created a position called ‘Director of Property Science.’ Mock this at your peril.
When the title first appeared a year or two ago, I checked with Tim Bannister - the scientist in question.
While no doubt wearing a lab coat and holding a test tube, he told me: “Having been at Rightmove for 12 years, I’ve seen how the insight from complex data analysis can help support our customers’ decision making. My title reflects our work bringing data, modern data science and analytical techniques and technology together. As there are thousands of local markets and every home-mover has their own experience, the aim of our data outputs, such as our House Price Index, is to help provide agents with insights that they can use alongside their own local expertise and experience.”
That’s me told: Rightmove’s data is clearly so scientific the Oppenheimer sequel may well be about the housing market in Woking.
There are others amongst us who, thankfully, see the silly side in odd titles.
EweMove started years ago when the boss called himself Head Shepherd and won admiration for keeping the brand alive even in the boring world of corporate nomenclature.
Now PropTech firm The Depositary has taken up the humorous cudgels - it has a Chief Rocketship Engineer, a Master of Tactics and Navigation, and a Mission Commander.
But such humour is in short supply, and so is plain English.
What’s wrong with ‘director’ or ‘manager’? Do such easily understood, transparent job titles convey levels of responsibility that modern management figures simply aren’t up to accepting?
Or am I completely wrong and supposed to believe that an estate agent calling himself Head of Constellation really is out of this world?