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Business jargon

I know a guy who is a fountain of business jargon. He’s always checking on being on the same page with other people, of course, but that’s old jargon. Somehow he always has the newest expressions, so that at first you have to stop and think – what does that mean? Then you hear it 20 more times in the course of the day and it’s cemented in your brain. “We’re not trying to boil the ocean” is one that springs to mind that I heard over and over from him. Another day I heard him making a lot of phone calls. At the end of each one, he said, “Well, I gotta hop.” That expression is interesting, because it implies great busyness. I think another recent expression is “the whole pan of brownies.”

But what I’m really interested in is how he acquires it. It’s not just this person, it’s lots of business people, of course. Where do these expressions come from? How do people get them so quickly? Maybe just some people are early adopters, use the terms like crazy, and then move on. Stay tuned. I’m going to keep thinking about this and am interested in other opinions.

And I also wonder if people who use so much jargon do it in the rest of their lives too, outside the office. “Bottom line, Tyler, you’ve used up your bandwidth. Time for bed, now!”

Last week I was at a meeting of the water board for Rural Water District 6 in Lecompton, Kansas. The next town over is getting a new water treatment plant. Someone in the audience asked the water board chairman, who seems like a regular country guy and almost certainly not a middle manager, “When does the new treatment plant go online?” The chairman looked puzzled and asked the questioner to repeat himself. He still didn’t get it. Someone else translated: “When will the plant start operating?” Ahh. Then he got it.

Only partly related: I worked with someone who never committed himself if you asked a direct question. He always used “the thinking is”.
“Jeff, what’s the deadline for the draft storyboards to be back from the subject matter experts?”
“Well, the thinking is, the end of May.”

I love this stuff.

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