Buzzwords That Make You Want to Hurl



by Sarah Warlick, copywriter and editor (with input from Bonnie & Kelly)

It’s time for the spring Buzzword Bust, where we round up and expose the current jargon terms for their crimes against good taste and a workplace conducive to productive thought.

The hot phrases of the business world tend to come in nauseating bursts of popularity, just like internet memes and middle school catch phrases. These are the pretentious, lame or just plain stupid terms that drive us crazy at work. It’s not that they’re meaningless, exactly. Many of them do refer to a real and perhaps admirable or important idea. It’s just that they’ve become so tired through misapplication and gross overuse that it makes us want to hurl when we hear them.

Look, it's a hedgehog. You'll understand why later in the post.

Look, it’s a hedgehog. You’ll understand why later in the post.

To be sure, inclusion on the abhorrent list is purely a matter of taste. Nothing could be more subjective than an aversion for a particular phrase. And yet, it’s interesting to observe that in any discussion of these awful expressions, there is a surprising amount of agreement as to which terms deserve contempt. Others, of course, will strike one listener as completely innocent while inspiring wretched revulsion in another. Odium is, like beauty, truly the purview of the beholder.

So in a spirit of sharing and openness, we’d like to offer up our small list of reviled buzzwords and catch phrases, in the hopes that it will invite you, our esteemed readers, to share your own most despised terms of this kind. After all, nothing fosters group cohesiveness like shared loathing!

Step up to the plate. You are not, nor will you ever be, a professional baseball player.

Incent/Incentivize. Incent isn’t a real word. Incentivize always reminds us of overly demonstrative TV preachers.

Paradigm shift. It’s no longer 1998.

Hedgehog. Yes, we get it. You read Good to Great. It was good. But there are better ways to communicate this concept than relying on a small, spiny mammal.

Taking somethingoff-line.” It doesn’t sound as cool as you think.

24/7. It’s a fraction, not a virtue.

We need to wrap our heads around this. Anatomically unlikely, but disturbing nonetheless.

Over the wall. Are we escaping from the nunnery?

Throw it against the wall and see what sticks. This phrase becomes far less charmingly metaphorical for those who are raising children or dogs.

Giving 110% (or anything over 100%). With a grasp of mathematics like this, you should definitely not be in charge of people or projects.

Client-focused. It’s all client-focused, unless we’re going to drill down (another dreadful bore) and admit that really, it’s all money-focused.

We need more boots on the ground. This is probably true. Actual Marines or the generally competent boot-wearing public could no doubt accomplish the task, but alas, all you have is loafers.

Anything involving leveraging or synergies, and most especially where the two are combined.

And it can never be said enough

Low hanging fruit. Seriously, what does this make you think of? Please, for the love of all things holy, stop!

What words or phrases drive you crazy?

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