The following is a list of phrases so commonly used, you probably don’t even think about them…and there lies the problem. No one thinks about them.
These annoying business buzzwords are so overused and tired that no one even notices how ridiculous they sound anymore. It’s likely we’re all guilty of normalizing these verbal faux pas, but by calling attention to just how silly these are, maybe, just maybe, we can start finding more genuine ways to communicate.
If you’ve spent time working in any office in any industry, you have undoubtedly heard at least one of these annoying business buzzwords. Heck, maybe you’re even guilty of using a few of these yourself.
#10 Get Your Ducks in a Row
What it Means: To get organized.
Example: “We need to get our ducks in a row before we try to explain what happened to the copier.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Ever tried lining up ducks? I mean, seriously. This sounds like a practice in futility. Imagine the impracticality of men and women in nicely tailored suits, splashing about in knee-high water trying to arrange a number of tiny, excited soft ducklings into illogically straight lines. While cute, this image doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
#9 Let’s Not Throw Pies in the Dark
What it Means: Let’s plan this out and not take an ill-prepared approach.
Example: “We really need to get our ducks in a row before this board meeting so we aren’t throwing pies in the dark.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Ok, let’s be real here. A pie fight in the dark sounds WAY more fun than whatever is being planned. My vote is for pies.
#8 Circle the Wagons
What it Means: To come together in the face of a threat
Example: “With a corporate inspection team on its way from HQ, a meeting was called to circle the wagons and prepare.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Pioneers would circle their wagons in the face of very real threats such as angry natives, hostile bandits, and wild animals…all of which posed a very real threat and often spelled out death and/or bodily harm. Wagons were pushed together in a circle to form a defensive stance to protect cattle and other valuables.
Seeing as how the average office employee is generally in no danger of bandits, death by dysentery or other threats of the Oregon Trail variety, the use of this expression seems a tad dramatic. They don’t even have wagons at the office.
#7 Boil the Ocean
What it Means: To take on a task larger than one’s resources: an impossible task and a complete waste of time.
Example: “Yes, Margaret, your calligraphy is beautiful. I agree that handwriting all of the daily reports from 2002 to now would look much prettier, but I think we’re kinda boiling the ocean here.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Watching a pot of water boil is one thing– anyone who has tried can tell you what “forever” feels like. But an entire ocean??? And heaven forbid you watch the ocean while you try to boil it…
#6 Bring Your A-Game
What it Means: To do your very best.
Example: “The big proposal is this afternoon. Be sure to bring your A-Game!”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Really? Who’s been bringing their B-Game so often that this phrase needed to come into existence?
#5 Move the Goalposts
What it Means: To change the rules of the game during the game.
Example: “Just when I think I’m almost done with this project, my boss goes and moves the goalposts.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Sports metaphors are the worst! They speak to a very basic winners-and-losers dichotomy, and business is never that simple. Sports metaphors perpetuate the silly ideology that the competition can be beat, like there’s a trophy to be won, and this win-lose mentality does more harm than good in the long run. Plus, it just sounds silly.
Though, the idea of a suit-clad business professional ripping goalposts out of a neatly manicured field, running and scooting as fast as their shiny Grafton Wingtips will carry them, is highly entertaining.
#4 Beat Around the Bush
What it Means: To approach something in the most indirect fashion, avoiding the point as much as possible.
Example: “Rather than simply admitting to eating all of the donuts in the break room, Jim beat around the bush by explaining how many calories were in pastries and explaining how he was just thinking of our health.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: This phrase originated somewhere around the 1400s where the meaning was more literal. Used to reference the action of swatting at bushes to chase out hidden birds, it was the precursor to another popular phrase: cut to the chase. 600 years later, people are still beating this phrase into the ground. It’s tired and more played out than a Nickelback song. It’s time to let this one go.
#3 Low Hanging Fruit
What it Means: Setting sights on easily attainable goals. An expression that alludes to the quickest and easiest fixes by means of verbally abusing fruit. Have you ever noticed the absurd amount of fruit metaphors?
Example: “Let’s not go bananas here. We can easily turn these lemons into lemonade. If we cherry pick our goals settling for the low hanging fruit first, life will be a bowl of cherries… how do you like them apples?”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: See example.
#2 Reinvent the Wheel
What it Means: To waste time recreating something that already exists.
Example: “Dear Mr. Smith. Though we enjoyed your concept and the included schematics for the Frozen Water Generator, we regretfully inform you that you have just reinvented the wheel…”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: Though some people use the term with more of a positive connotation to imply that the reinvention is actually an improvement over the original, maybe it’s time to reinvent the wheel in regards to jargon…
#1 Think Outside the Box
What it Means: To come up with a creative and original idea.
Example: “To turn this quarter’s numbers around, we’re really going to need to think outside the box.”
Why it Sounds Ridiculous: The irony here is that there is nothing creative or original about using one of the most overused and annoying business buzzwords in existence.