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Flabbergast!  What’s a Gasting Flabber?!?

I was in a meeting recently, having to do with a project I’m working on. It doesn’t matter what the project was about – it was I/T but it could just as easily have been building construction or political nominations or charity volunteer co-ordination anything else at all that involves several teams co-operating on a complex interwoven timeline. The point is that something came up that makes me Always Grumpy. So of course I have to write about it here.

For several days before this meeting I had spent a significant portion of my working time keeping up with our progress on this project. I read boring e-mails and wrote some of my own. I reviewed minutes and timelines and charts, oh my! I flipped through presentations and combed through spreadsheets. I invested a good deal of mental effort to make sure I was up to date, as one of course should.

The meeting was small and brief; just three of us including the chair, for only a half-hour to review a specific set of material. As the meeting started, our chairperson started reading aloud from one of my e-mails about this topic. With our short time in mind, I interrupted to say we didn’t need to hear him read my boring e-mail verbatim… but he responded that he needed to read it to review the material. Really!?!

Ouch! The chair of our small sub-group had not even bothered to prepare for this brief meeting! One of three attendees was going to waste our time on work that should have been done ahead of time. Is this intentional obstructionism? Wilful negligence? Thoughtless inconsideration? It’s hard to say what our chair’s motive was, but here’s how I look at it: if someone’s not prepared then they’re not contributing. We have a word for a spirit being that manages to disrupt proceedings even while it’s not really present: it’s a flabbergast. So I coin a new term: people who don’t contribute to an initiative but disrupt proceedings anyway are ‘Gasting Flabbers’.

Full disclosure: I’m in a bit of a tiff with another blogger about who owns the phrase ‘Gasting Flabbers’. It came up, you see, in a conversation about this very issue. I described the situation and she said, “Flabbergast!” To which I responded, “more like Gasting Flabbers.” Then she said, “Flabbing the Gasters.” Then we got into an intellectual property argument. Unlike some large, cash-rich corporations I won’t mention, I’m not trying to claim rights over prior art… so the word ‘flabbergast’ remains in free, common use. But I said “Gasting Flabbers” first, so I get to blog about it! She can blog about Flabbing Gasters, or whatever. If you agree with me, please comment on this post. 🙂

Jonathan Gladstone is alwaysgrumpy at or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.


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