Once upon a time, if people didn’t know the answer to a question, they’d say they didn’t know the answer. Now, if they work in a big organisation, they’re just as likely to say, “I don’t have visibility about that.” They’ll say they’re sending an email so the recipient “has visibility”.
I first heard visibility used in this way in Rebekah Brooks’ evidence to the House of Commons media select committee hearing into the News of the World phone hacking scandal in 2011:
“One of the problems of this case has been our lack of visibility and what was seized at Glenn Mulcaire’s home. We have had zero visibility.”
Where did this nonsense come from? I have no idea, but I’m sure it follows the belief that jargon and buzzwords are more impressive than plain English. The truth is the opposite. Language like this deadens the senses. People use it without thinking.
Here’s my earlier post about jargon and buzz phrases. Sadly, ‘roadmap’ and ‘granularity’ remain as common in office language today as two years ago.