Off Brand

How ‘Superpower’ Became the Most Irritating Corporate Jargon of 2019

It’s even worse than the #humblebrag

Rob Walker
Published in
5 min readDec 11, 2019


Illustration: Tom Guilmard

SSee if this sounds like something that happened to you this year: You’re in a meeting, a new business pitch, or a job interview, and someone declares in a totally straight-faced, unironic manner:

“My superpower is radical transformation.”

Or: “My superpower is detecting cultural trends.”

Or: “My superpower is Excel sheets.”

If 2018 was the year of the #humblebrag — braggadocio (barely) camouflaged as humility — we went in the opposite direction in 2019. Brazenly pumping up skills into flat-out “superpowers” became not just acceptable but practically obligatory. How did this happen?

Let’s begin at the preposterous extremes and work backwards. It seems plausible that we’ve just lately hit peak superpower, and I feel obliged to give a special shoutout to tech investor turned tech critic Roger McNamee for the next-level superpower citation: “Bono said to me more than once,” McNamee told the New Yorker recently, “‘Your superpower is you’re not motivated by money.’”

McNamee’s superpower maneuver feels like the culmination of what, over the course of 2019, became a flat-out…