Business buzzwords: Phrases can become too popular
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
This is the latest entry in a series that examines business buzzwords, helps readers understand them and offers alternatives.
Sometimes a colorful buzzword (or phrase) becomes so popular "nobody goes there anymore" as baseball legend Yogi Berra once said about a restaurant. Or at least you should resist going with the stampede.
Case in point: "Boots on the ground." C'mon, that military term is just so macho-sounding, it's hard to resist. Sounds so much sexier than "deploy ground troops." Yet think about it a second — where else would boots be but on the ground? In the air?
And then came the almost-instant overuse in business parlance. Instead of "Do we have sales reps in Phoenix?" you say "Does sales have boots on the ground in Phoenix?" Much sexier, except civilians seldom wear boots unless they're Texans. It's more likely you'll have wingtips or loafers or high heels on the ground.
Verdict: Leave it to the armed forces.
Five o'clock? Sunset?
I would also like to hear less of "at the end of the day." For one thing, our work days don't really end anymore, thanks to instant global communications. Even agricultural workers can go past sunset thanks to those newfangled headlights on the tractor.
Of course, the phrase doesn't literally mean "by close of business," it's more a way to indicate you've come to the conclusion of your argument or presentation. There must be a hundred ways to wrap it up (which is one of them). Try "in summation" or "to sum things up." Or how about "all things considered" or "taking everything I said into consideration" or just plain "in conclusion"?
All told (another one), this is a rhetorical point where you can be original.
As much as I love baseball, I really wish there were less usage of "step up to the plate." After all, everyone playing baseball, from the catcher to the right fielder, steps up to the plate — with the exception of American League pitchers. It's part of the game, not a special effort or act of courage.
On the other hand, "step up," the truncated version, doesn't require swinging a bat, it just connotes increasing effort. One can step up to the microphone, step up to a bully or step up the pace. Forget home plate.
Do five pull-ups
While we're talking sports and increased effort, did you ever wonder about "raising the bar"? As in, "This new widget will really raise the bar in widgetry." Which "bar" did that come from, I wonder? The high jump? The pole vault? Unlikely, since most of us would never attempt either track event, no matter how low the bar was.
I'm pretty sure it comes from the chin-up bar, something that is in every gymnasium and is usually adjustable since we are of different heights. If a third-grader came along after the eighth-graders, he or she might find the chinning bar set so high it was out of reach.
Here comes the nerdy part of my brain to point out that raising a pull-up bar does not make it harder to do a chin-up, it just makes the bar impossible to reach. Given this potential illogic, why not stick with "raising the standard," "raising the stakes" or "setting a new level of competition"?
As always I'm keeping an eye on the buzz until next month.
- 8 exercises for strengthening your business writing
- 10 negative employee behaviors that undermine success
- Millions of high school students set for success: Celebrating Career and Technical Education Month
- How employers are helping employees reduce student loan debt
- 3 ways to make your supply chain more resilient
- Report: Only 6% of US companies offer comprehensive child care benefits
- What is social capital, and how can educators help students build it?
- Selling your business? What tenants need to know about their lease
- Hydration: One bite at a time
- 7 tips to clean and maintain a bolt-action rifle
- Be kind to yourself — you’ll be healthier for it
- Lax security practices, weak passwords make children an easy target for hackers
- Telemedicine: Gains, losses, and debates
See your work in future editions
Your content, Your Expertise,
Your Industry Needs YOUR Expert Voice & We've got the platform you needFind Out How