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Mind your language

We have looked at meaningless buzzwords and phrases before; the ones that can turn you in an instant from a happy-go-lucky colleague into a psychopathic nutter, prepared to thump anyone who directs one at you. As with all language, these phrases evolve, mutate and hence are worth keeping a vigilant eye on.  

Darlene Price, president of Well Said Inc, says that most business language clichés were once a fresh and creative way of expressing a popular thought or idea; but through overuse, they have become annoying tropes that have lost their originality, impact and meaning.

Lynn Taylor, author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant”, gives a list of her most disliked and annoying pieces of work-jargon:

“Hit the ground running”:   

“This must have come from the same sadist who thought up, ‘Break a leg’, says Taylor.

“Open up the kimono”:

“The open kimono phrase should be put away once and for all; stored in a distant space capsule, for everyone’s sake,” she says. Personally I have never heard this phrase and would applaud anyone who said it with a straight face.

“At the end of the day”:
“I’ve witnessed this phrase in corporate America for many years, but now I fear it could outlive the cockroach,” she says.

I thought it was only ever used by footballers and right-wing politicians.

“Lots of moving parts”:

Again, not a phrase I’ve heard in any context other than describing a watch, but Taylor says:
“Precisely describes the ‘soul’ of the business droids who use such vexing language.”

“Robust and scalable”:
“If you don’t push back, this is the very future of ‘Repeated Buzzword Fury,’ and it’s not pretty,” she warns. At this stage I’ve realised Taylor must only deal with Americans.

“Run it up the flagpole”:
“Can humans successfully run anything up a flagpole other than a flag?” Taylor asks. “Exactly.”

Again, not a phrase a real human would use without a mouthful of irony

“We have to move the needle”:
“A ridiculous, annoying and mechanical way of saying ‘shape up’ without pointing fingers,” she explains.

No idea what this even means.

“Peel the onion”:
“If they had true feelings and tear ducts, Buzzword Bots would not say this,” Taylor says.
I’m beginning to think she’s making these up.

“Our signals were crossed”:
In other words: you misunderstood.

They’re getting worse.

“People who use jargon like ‘ping me’ love complicating things and making them sound foreign, cool and geeky.”

Not sure what’s so foreign about ping.

“Mission critical”:


Well I’m not that impressed with Taylor’s choice of annoying buzzwords, but, with the rise of social media and the resulting increase of ‘celebrity culture’ and idiots being allowed to express their opinions, there are plenty of phrases and verbal tics that are beginning to really grate, both in and out of the office.  

My top six, in no particular order are:

“Not on a school night”:

If you don’t want to go out for a drink during the week, just say so; just don’t pretend to be a child.

“I’m liking that”:

No, if you like that, please just say you like it; grammatically correct and shorter.

When asked a question, the current default position seems to be to answer: “So…”, followed by your incoherent answer. This may buy you a bit of time, but makes you look stupid. This has become a symptom of a huge epidemic of stupidity.


This is particularly prevalent on television panel shows, where people try to show their understanding of the law of defamation by revealing their ignorance of it. If someone has has been found guilty of an offence, you can say so, without covering your arse and pretending lawyers are paying the blindest bit of attention to your programme.

In a similar vein. “Other confectioneries are available…”:

If you are telling your audience about Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and a Mars Bar, you really need to name the product. Same with other foodstuffs, drinks, iPhones or whatever you are wittering on about.

Back to the workplace and possibly the worst piece of business jargon and still shamelessly used by morons in offices everywhere:

“Low-hanging fruit”:  

The word you are grasping for is “easy”.

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