How to become a Jargonaut

by
August 25, 2011

I recently asked an American client of mine (politely!) why she didn’t do a particularly routine  editing job herself – I couldn’t believe the company would pay me to perform this every month when it could so easily be handled in-house.  She replied “I don’t have the bandwidth.”  Bandwidth?  Not wishing to appear ignorant I didn’t query the expression – I figured it was office-speak for “I’m too damn busy!”

Sharing this story with friends and colleagues I soon realised I was hopelessly out of touch with current corporate-speak – not good when you work with words.

So, I’ve been doing some linguistic trawling and thought I would share with you some of the more colourful phrases I’ve managed to scoop up.  Drop these terms or phrases into your corporate conversations to demonstrate you are not an Ignoranus (one who is stupid, and an a**hole) or Dinosaur (an older worker).

Shoot the puppy.   “To take an unpopular action” – as in “We have to downsize the department, but I don’t want to be the one to shoot the puppy.”

Jump the shark.  This means to lose your edge – from an episode of Happy Days, in which Henry Winkler’s character, the Fonz, jumps over a shark while waterskiing. This was considered the beginning of the end for the series.

Kicking dead whales down the beach.  This means “to perform a deeply unpleasant, seemingly endless, but often essential task”

Sheep it.  This means “to follow a ridiculous company policy without complaint”.

Pilot fish.  A junior level manager that closely tails a senior executive

Percussive maintenance.  The common practice of “fixing” a piece of equipment by slapping it repeatedly (see above, wham bam, thank you ma’am).

Not the long pole in my tent.  This denotes something of low importance.

Al Desco.  Describes any meal consumed at your desk.  (See photograph above – mmm, looks goood!)

Carpool tunnel syndrome.  The semi-conscious state that is the result of repeated early morning ride sharing.

Boiling the frog.  Making unpleasant changes so slowly that nobody notices.

Deja moo. The nagging feeling you’ve heard this BS before

Putting socks on an octopus.  To attempt the impossible.

Vanillacide.  This refers to the process by which a radical concept is destroyed by too much consultation.

Slave trader.  Affectionate term for anyone in HR

Muppet Shuffle.  This refers to the process of shifting under-performing employees to other unsuspecting departments.

Pig in a python.  Slow moving.

Bangalored.  Fired because your job has been outsouced to India (see happy people in Bangalore, above)

Can I stir fry an idea in your think wok?  I’d welcome your opinion

Hippo.  Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. The deciding factor in workplace arguments. “What can we do to get HIPPO buy-in on this layout?”

Rub my rhubarb.  To be irritated in a particularly annoying or painful way. “These whiny new interns are really starting to rub my rhubarb.”

Capsizing.  Laying off employees (downsizing) to the point that the organisation can no longer function.

Wow factor.  That special something that the client keeps demanding, but can never quite articulate.

Rocks in the backpack.  The individual responsibilities that make up a person’s total workload, as in “Can’t help you.  I’ve got enough rocks in my backpack.”

That’s enough for now – you, and I, need to do some real work.  In other words we need to Stick to the knitting (focus on one’s main areas of business).

If you’ve got any phrases that really float your boat, or rub your rhubarb, please use the comment box to run them up the flagpole.