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Abused Words of the Day: Touch Base.

February 5, 2018

I’m not sure where the “base” is, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere near the box that everyone is thinking outside of.

Depending on whose base you’re touching, and where that base is located, you can get in trouble for touching base in today’s workplace. Trying calling or emailing instead.

To “touch base” is to “talk to someone for a short time to find out how they are or what they think about something,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. We’re not sure at what point “short time” becomes “long time” and touching base becomes something else entirely.

This overused construction was recently named the most loathed example of “management-speak” in a British survey of 2,000 people. Apparently, “It is what it is” hasn’t hit Great Britain yet.

Cliché of the Day: Push the Envelope

February 1, 2018

Why would anyone push an envelope? What has the envelope ever done to you? Why not pull the envelope and push your weight? 

“Push the envelope is yet another cliché promoting violence, although it’s not as aggressive as throwing someone under the bus.

You may be surprised to learn that the “envelope” in this case isn’t made of paper. According to The Phrase Finder, “The envelope here isn’t the container for letters, but the mathematical envelope, which is defined as ‘the locus of the ultimate intersections of consecutive curves’. In a two-dimensional example, the set of lines described by the various positions of a ladder sliding down a wall forms an envelope - in this case an arc, gently curving away from the intersection of the wall and floor. Inside that envelope you will be hit by the ladder; outside you won’t.” 

Does that clear things up for you? Me neither. Math was my best subject growing up, but that was a long time ago. 

Envelopes, whether they’re containers for letters or loci of ultimate intersections of consecutive curves, should not be pushed without just cause. 

Cliché of the Day: Give 110%.

January 25, 2017

Sure, it’s important to try your hardest, but it’s impossible to give 110%. It’s even impossible to give 100%, unless you give up breathing, eating and other important functions that have nothing to do with your job.

If your boss asks you to give 110%, ask for 110% of your salary in your next paycheck. Giving 110% doesn’t add up. 

Abused Words of the Day: Social Justice

January 23, 2018

“Social justice” isn’t a group of people sharing family photos in a courtroom. It has nothing to do with social media. This lofty sounding term is being used ad nauseum by academicians, activists (another abused term) and even some business people in the name of income equality and fairness.

“Social justice warriors” seek to “effect social change,” with the implication that we’d all be better off if we just did what the social justice warriors want us to do. Fair treatment of everyone would be nice, but one person’s idea of social justice is often another person’s idea of anti-social justice.

Parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars to send their kids to college to learn about social justice,. Where’s the justice in that?

If it’s really all about fairness, the word “justice” will suffice.

Cliché of the Day: Blue-Sky Thinking

January 22, 2018

It’s ironic that “blue-sky thinking” is a synonym for “brainstorming.” Whether you’re a fan of brainstormy weather or, like Irving Berlin, envision “nothing but blue skies from now on,” you should know that “blue-sky thinking” made the list of most hated jargon terms in a survey by Glassdoor.

I suppose “blue sky” means thinking unobscured by clouds, birds, airplanes, hot air balloons, satellites, nuclear missiles or other miscellany that blot out the sun. So if your mind is as blank as the sky is blue, you’re ready for some blue-sky thoughts. In other words, the term should be used only by managers who want their employees to stop thinking.

Cliché of the Day: Hit the Ground Running

January 19, 2017

If you “hit the ground” while you’re running, you’ve either tripped or passed out from exhaustion. But, in the business context, “running” is the key word here. Those who hit the ground walking or jogging need to get “up to speed” and learn to “run with it.” If someone coming toward you is hitting the ground running, you may want to “hit the deck.”

Abused Words of the Day: The New Normal

January 18, 2018

Forty is the new 30, 60 is the new 40 and orange is the new black. For the economy, 2% growth is the “new normal,” until the economy grows at the old normal rate of 3+%. What was once normal is replaced by a new normal, at which point the old normal becomes abnormal. But what happens when the “new normal” grows old?

The Language of Evasion, Hypocrisy, Prudery and Deceit

February 17, 2014

Why don’t we just say and write what we mean?

Instead, we often communicate in code.  Apparently, we’ve concluded that the people we talk to or write to can’t handle the truth, because we increasingly substitute euphemisms for real communication.

A euphemism puts a yellow smiley face on what we really mean.  It is a verbal cosmetic, a word or phrase applied like makeup to a wrinkled, sagging reality.  It seeks to be comforting, but is often annoying.  It is, as R.W. Holder put it, “the language of evasion, hypocrisy, prudery and deceit.”

Uncomfortable realities, such as death or job loss, bring out the worst verbal obstructions.  Today, no one dies.  People “pass on” and even pets are “put to sleep.”  If you’ve “lost” a “loved one,” unlike losing a set of reading glasses, you’re never going to find him.  A lost loved one is not misplaced – he’s dead – but it would be bad form to say so.