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Business Buzzwords: Meet Twenty of the Worst Offenders

During a phone conversation with a friend the other day, I uttered the phrase “I’ll shoot you an email tomorrow.” Shoot you an email? Who am I, a yuppie stockbroker from the early ’90s? Somehow, though I’m not technically a part of the corporate world, its ridiculous lingo has entered my vocabulary (albeit ten years behind everyone else). 

But “shoot” is where it ends, because most corporate jargon baffles me. Only in that world would phrases like “drill down” and “going granular” replace plain English. There are many confusing aspects of the business world, but with slang like this, it’s a wonder anything gets accomplished at all. 

1. Back-of-the-envelope: calculations made haphazardly or informally. “Jim’s giving me back-of-the-envelope numbers, but I need concrete, exact figures.” 

2. Bio break: a bathroom visit during business hours. “Sorry I’m late, guys. I had to take a bio break.” 

3. Bleeding-edge: a concept or trend that’s so innovative and new, it goes beyond being cutting-edge. “This idea’s so bleeding-edge, the other guys won’t be talking about it until next year.” 

4. Desk dive: the awkward bend to retrieve something that’s fallen or been placed underneath one’s desk. “When Jill dropped the almond under her desk, she sighed, adjusted her shirt and pants, and had to desk dive to retrieve it.” 

5. Disintermediate: to take out the middleman. “There are too many people involved in this project, so let’s disintermediate a few of them to make work flow more smoothly.” 

6. Drink from the fire hose: to take in too much information at once. “Sally drank from the fire hose with all those reports she read last night, so she can’t remember a thing.” 

7. Drill down: to examine carefully. “After lunch, let’s drill down on this case and figure out what’s going on.” 

8. Eat the frog: to finish a job you’ve been putting off because it’s annoying and/or frustrating. “I’ve been avoiding these TPS reports all week, but it’s time to eat the frog and get them off my desk.” 

9. Eating your own dog food: to test out your own products to understand their public reception. “Once employees ate their own dog food, they understood that it was time to go back to the drawing board.” 

10. Feature creep: adding on so many features to a product during its development stage that it becomes a jumbled mess. “The software started out great, but programmers feature-creeped, and now it’s full of bugs.” 

11. Going granular: going into extreme detail about a situation or product. “Ted, I don’t understand what you’re presenting. Can you go granular about it?” 

12. Hard stop: the predetermined end point of a meeting. “Jill has an appointment at two, so let’s make one thirty the hard stop.” 

13. Low-hanging fruit: goals that are attained effortlessly, or problems with clear, easy solutions. “Getting customers is easy at this point; they’re low-hanging fruit.” 

14. Monday morning quarterback: someone who passes judgment or gives a negative critique after something goes awry. “Phil claimed to disagree with my pitch only after the boss’s negative reaction. He’s such a Monday morning quarterback.” 

15. Out of pocket: a way of telling people you’ll be out of the office and/or unavailable for emails or phone calls. “Shoot out an office-wide email that says he’ll be out of pocket in Tahiti for the next week.” 

16. Pencil-whip: to fill out forms or submit reports with intentionally incorrect information. “Jan pencil-whipped all her tax information last year, so the IRS is all over her now.” 

17. Prairie dogging: the occurrence of heads popping up over cubicle dividers to check out something of interest going on nearby. “Everyone in the office prairie-dogged when someone walked by with a tray of cookies.” 

18. Rightsizing: a more polite way to say “laying off” or “firing.” “The company’s dealing with a huge profit loss right now, so rightsizing a few people’s the only way to stay afloat.” 

19. Skin in the game: to have money invested in something, usually business ventures. “If you want to make money in the stock market, you’ve got to put more skin in the game.” 

20. Stakeholdering: when someone tries to solicit support or endorsements for a new idea or project he or she’s come up with. “There goes Melissa, stakeholdering for her commercial storyboard, when all of us already said we like Adam’s better.” 

You’d think corporate jargon was created to minimize extra conversation and waste less time, but I can’t see how anyone can understand these terms without an initial explanation. It seems to me we’d all benefit from disintermediating these excess phrases; after all, going granular like this only leads to drinking fire water … or was that hosing down a fire? All this slang’s clearly too much for me to take. Time for a bio break!

Updated March 17, 2011