Sunday 21st January 2018
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Who makes it happen?


Last week, after I posted that link about overused corporate catchphrases, some of you shared the lines that drive you the most nuts:  Commenter Leah threw in “At the end of the day,” Dana suggested “On the same page,”  and Jane wrote: “I had to bring a definition of bandwidth to a meeting to get people to stop saying it.”

My personal all-time favorite is when the word “ask” is employed as a noun.*  Like, let’s say your boss wants an update on that strategic partnership you’ve been put in charge of.  You have no update, but that’s not an acceptable response. So you go with, “I’ve put in the ask. I’ll circle back to them and then loop you in.”  Saying “the ask” instead of just saying you asked sounds so much spiffier, right? (Likewise, saying you’ll “circle back” is a brilliant way of putting a big, pretty, distracting ribbon on the fact that your ask has gone un-responded to, or that perhaps you forgot to put in the ask at all.)

OK, people. Now I want to hear some more good ones from you. I know we can get a seriously definitive list going, so think big-picture. Really drill down. Don’t just focus on the low-hanging fruit.

*This phrase is also the inspiration for the title of Sam Lipsyte’s smart and hilarious novel, The Ask.

Posted on June 27th, 2012 73 Comments

73 Responses

  1. Sheila says:


    Does anyone who uses this word in business actually know what it means?

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an exec say “we’re network agnostic” “we’re platform agnostic” or maybe worse — “we’re vendor agnostic”.

    Soooo, you’re conflicted about whether said network, platform or vendor exists??

  2. Suzanne says:

    If this jargon is not already part of your DNA, here’s a link where you can create your own:

  3. Melissa says:

    I work in a specialized area of Insurance. A lot of people are stock-analyst-wannabees. They like using sports metaphors, such as:”skin in the game”, which makes my skin crawl. Another phrase I don’t like is “flesh it out”. It just sounds disgusting, like something Hannibal Lechter would say.

  4. vivien says:

    Our workplace is full of jargon catchphrases – here are just a few:
    robust – as in “let’s have a more robust conversation about that offline”
    proposition – as in “that margin proposition just isn’t working”
    Ugh – I could go on and on….

    • robrae says:

      We’re going to have to hit the ground running, this could be a win-win situation but we have to think outside the box. Lets circle back after the four day weekend.

  5. diane says:

    Hi first of all as a former ‘major gifts officer” i loved the book the ask, as to annoying phrases for three years i had a boss who wrote “thank you in advance for you cooperation” in every email! i wasn’t cooperating i was doing my job, drove me batty, thankfully i am my own boss now, and i never write that phrase or want to hear it again, diane

    • Viajera says:

      You raise quite the interesting subject. Email etiquette!!?? What to do? It can be very difficult to get the right tone, since email doesn’t convey them.

  6. I know this is hard to imagine, but here in OKC I see/hear people use “office” as a verb. Shutter. As in “Where do you office” “Office with us”.

  7. Laura says:

    I’m sorry, but I absolutely hate the phrase “reach out”! It drives me nuts and everyone uses it. Why and when did it become old-school to say, “I will phone/text/email the client tomorrow.”??? Do you reach out to the Chinese restaurant when ordering take-out?

    • Diane says:

      I hate that one too! Almost as bad as “relationship manager” as a job title.

    • Donna says:

      This was the one that I thought of!! Whenever someone says “I wanted to reach out to you” I envision a hand trying to touch me. It makes me want to slap it away.

  8. Cher says:

    I shared an office with a man who utilized the phrase “Per se” multiple times per day, never in reference to law. I was in turns amused, annoyed and dumbfounded and grew to think of him as Steve “Per se” Jones (not Jones) until the day I actually addressed him in that fashion and then laughingly explained that “per se” wasn’t applicable in every conversation.

    • Liza says:

      Even worse, my boss overuses “per se” and spells it “persay.” I finally did him the favor of correcting him. It was embarrassing.

  9. Kim | says:

    “Open the kimono”. Shudder.

  10. Julie says:

    “Deliverable” — used as a noun to refer to a task that you have been asked to complete. For example, “What are the deliverables for today’s conference call?”

  11. Beth C. says:

    Yeah, I basically hate any phrase that makes people sound like machines, I actually think it’s a big problem with corporate culture in general- whether you mean to or not you’re dehumanizing your colleagues. So, this includes bandwidth, functionality, and other technology terms in reference to people. I refuse to say it and I do my best to turn the sentences around (respectfully, obviously) when people use them in reference to me or other people.

    I did have one team member that used such terms so much I finally lost it and said to him “I am not a router, therefore I will never have the bandwidth for ANYTHING. If you want to know if I have the time to take it on, ask if I have the time. Please don’t talk about people like they are machines.” Fortunately, he was a pretty good guy who was young and new to the business world and didn’t realize he was just parroting back management terms that he had never really thought about, so we were good, but yeah, I rerally hate that.

  12. Tara says:

    As an English teacher, anyone who takes a perfectly good and innocent noun and makes it a verb where there is already a verb that exists, should be shot on site.

    Some examples:
    Gift: I was gifted these candlesticks. I gifted him those basketball tickets. I’m going to gift you this chair.
    The word you’re looking for is GIVE. It’s a perfectly serviceable verb that already exists…use it.

    Conference: We need to conference about this issue. I conferenced with Mrs. Jones about Billy. The word you’re looking for is MEET. It is a perfectly serviceable verb that already exists…USE IT!!!

    I’m sure there are many other examples of the bastardization of the English language by idiots in the corporate world. Like Calvin said to Hobbes, “Verbing weirds language.”

    • Kim | says:

      Sometimes I actually feel sad for the perfectly serviceable words that are being thrown over for this newfangled, made up BS.

    • epmlassie says:

      Should your phrase not be “shot on sight?”

  13. Liz says:

    I work in the nonprofit sector but still get subjected to daily doses of overused business jargon. If I ever hear a person use “paradigm shift,” I immediately ignore the rest of what he or she is saying. My new most-hated phrase, however, is “net-net.”

    I never comment on blogs, but this was such a funny thread that I had to chime in. Thanks for the distraction! 😉

  14. laura says:

    I have always hated that “outside the box” phrase
    And lately “thought process”
    “obviously” and “literally” seem hopelessly overused as well

    Thanks for asking. Love to have someone other than my husband to complain about this stuff to

    And I’m new to your blog – really enjoying it

  15. Adrien says:

    Oh you guys. I used to have a boss who would say “mute point” in every meeting. Not moot, mute.

  16. Brice says:

    if i hear ‘loop you in’ ‘I’ll take it back to the team’ ‘let us noodle it’ i may severely hurt someone. Lets also add ‘synergy’ ‘curate’ and ‘we need to take this conversation offline’

    • Beth C. says:

      Heh, I know they aren’t really related, but for some reason every time someone says “synergy” I want to respond to whatever their comment is with “I’m seriosuly questioning your commitment to Sparkle Motion.”

  17. daisyj says:

    The thing that makes my eye twitch is people constantly saying “utilize” when they mean “use.” Fewer syllables don’t make you stupid, folks.

    Also, when we went through a big spinoff/acquisition a couple of years ago I was about to create a drinking game for every time someone said “moving forward.” But I decided that dying of alcohol poisoning would be bad for my career.

    • Hayley says:

      I totally agree with this one. And in that same vein, when people say “indicated” instead of “said”.

      “He indicated the program would be terminated at the end of the quarter.”

      Also, “wordsmith”….as a noun or as a verb, hate ’em both. “Can you wordsmith the content so it’s more enticing?”

      And “throw under the bus”….still being used where I work.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Everyone in my workplace uses the word “leverage” instead of use. As in, “We can leverage this white paper at our next sales event.”
    Also “cadence” to mean regular. We need to meet once a week to establish a cadence.”
    I hate when people add “if you will” and “so to speak” after everything they say.

    • Suzanne says:

      Oh I hate that too. I know someone who pronounces it “lee-verage,” as though she’s English (she’s not).

      One of my favorites is from a friend who was asked to “cascade your learnings to the rest of the team” after meetings. Her assistant once prepared a 9 page Powerpoint to explain why she was unable to complete a simple assignment my friend had asked her to do.

  19. Kristine says:

    so many phrases that make my skin crawl . . .

    “flesh it out” IS creepy, melissa; i totally agree.

    “market penetration” always makes me gag.

    “let’s have a quick and dirty meeting” – um, NO. sounds like my market is going to get penetrated in the conference room.

    “i know that this isn’t the SEXIEST project, but . . .” – you are correct. there is nothing even remotely sexy about anything at work.

  20. Jaime says:

    The one that gets me is “impactful.” Not a word. Why not just say that something has a large impact or effect, or is powerful or moving or salient or important?

  21. lauren says:

    Any noun that’s used as a verb, e.g. “Can I task you with that project?” “Let’s workshop the idea.” Then there’s the new-and-emerging trend of using a corporation (and/or corporate founder) itself as an action verb: “I’m going to Google you.” or “You’ve been Zucked” (for when your “stock” doesn’t perform as well as it should).

  22. Kate says:

    I am English and I HATE ‘ reaching out to you…’ or ‘I would like to reach out to you”..and hate even more that I used it on a conference call the other day to my absolute horror and had to leave the room in disgust (actually hooted at by my colleagues)

  23. Mae says:

    “We have a disconnect.”

  24. Mae says:

    Also, “Let’s have a skull session.” How about you pull your skull out of your sphincter first?

  25. Elizabeth says:

    then there’s “Let’s take a step back.”
    And I’ll have to “socialize” that with my team.

  26. Claire says:

    “Take a haircut,” as in, “That division is going to take a haircut.

    Means layoffs. A little off the top, say, from the neck up.

    See also: headcount instead of employees.

  27. Jenny says:

    “Learnings.” As a noun, people! As in, “let’s look at what the learnings from that project were.”

    Also: “Planful.” (Planfull? I don’t even know how to spell it.)

  28. Dana says:

    Another one that always gets me is “verbage” when they mean verbiage, especially in written emails, when there is spell check.

  29. verbagetruck says:

    I had to respond after Dana’s truth-to-power comment on “verbage” (which was actually a legit variant of “verbiage” in the 18th century, before it became a standard of American slang and, apparently, office lingo). The phrase that most makes me cringe is “The fact of the matter is…” It inevitably leads to a statement couched in oversimplified, absolute terms.

  30. Dana says:

    I have to add “Called on the carpet” to indicate being in trouble for something. (Can you tell I have a supervisor who signs off on all of their email “Make it happen”?)

  31. Traci says:

    I’m just spit-balling here. (I guess it means brainstorming, which itself is a bit jargon-y, isn’t it?)

    Also, do we have to call the people we work on something with our “team.” this especially bugs me when celebrities use this to refer to their stylists. “I have a great team helping me get ready.”

  32. Heather says:

    “I have a concern” – not “I’m concerned”, that implies action. I’ve forgotten most of the worst now because I freelance, but I really wonder why all this stupid jargon is necessary.

  33. Elizabeth says:

    I can’t stand when people pad what they’re saying with “From my perspective” or “From an opex perspective” or “From a routing perspective.” Of course it’s your perspective and these other things can’t have perspectives!

  34. Elizabeth says:

    These get me too: “Move the needle” “Let’s increase consumption so we can really move the needle on our market share.”

    “Goodness” As in, “It’s great the whole team could be together in person at the All Hands and learn so much from each other. This is goodness.”

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Finally, I’ve noticed a trend in bad grammar. I hear people say “has went” and “has ran” ALL THE TIME at my company, which is a large very well respected one. It’s shocking to my ears.
    As in, “I’ve went ahead and scheduled the meeting.” and “We’ve ran out of time on the project.”

  36. Elizabeth says:

    “in regards to”
    In regards to that decision, I’m in complete agreement.”

  37. Elise says:

    Can I pick your brain?

    No, you can’t.

  38. Andrea Goldman says:

    Out here in California, I hear “concerning” all the time, as in, “I find it concerning that…” Or, what is the “take away” here? My favorite awful jargon examples are from people’s websites. Everyone has “deep experience.” You can strive to be “even better.” Or, you can be a “thought partner.”

    I’m really enjoying the blog! I read Sassy back in the day.

  39. TK says:


  40. Andrea says:

    “That’s really about finding our sweet spot!!” BLECH.

  41. Andrea says:

    And let’s not forget the misuse of “myself” — “Please feel free to contact Bill or myself regarding this matter.” Oh Kim, why did you open this can of worms? I have SO MANY!!

  42. Shanan says:

    When someone leads with “Interestingly enough…” I know that I will not be intrigued.

  43. jj says:

    I work in marketing/sales. And my coworkers always use the term “good look” when trying to say an opportunity will help elevate a brand. Example:”Yes, that interview with NYT will be a good look”. But now it’s used for everything and it drives me crazy- “That meeting will be a good look”. What?? It doesn’t make sense and it’s lazy.

  44. Nadine says:

    “as well” after every other sentence. What happened to “also’ and “too”? Or just leave ‘as well’ out altogether. It doesn’t add anything. Good for drinking game though.

  45. Christy says:

    Mute point. Hardy har.
    How about “that’s a whole nother issue”.

  46. epmlassie says:

    I hate the use of “issue” when there really is a problem, or “feedback” for response or comments: “I didn’t get any feedback to my e-mail about the issue with the office burning to the ground.” I’m pretty sure we could have some negative growth downstream.

  47. Charlie says:

    “What’s your ETA ?” – Oh just writing it makes me cringe and I remember every single time i have heard it!

  48. Jodi says:

    Do you remember when Taco Bell had those commercials that said “Think outside the bun”? I begged my husband to use that phrase in a meeting with a straight face as if it were a real saying but he chickened out and never did it. I don’t work in an atmosphere where stupid phrases are thrown around too much but I am getting very sick of hearing “really?” and “seriously?”.

  49. Tracey says:

    Thrown under the bus, touching base and/or checking in. And “I need to download”…..

    • KimFrance says:

      I actually used to catch myself saying download occasionally back in my old job: as in, “After that meeting, can you come in and download me on it?” Then I’d catch myself,and want to go into the bathroom and silently weep.

  50. d says:

    “so solid you could waterski behind it”

    “Has that idea jumped the shark or can we still go with it?”

  51. Leah says:

    I love this thread. I’m actually LOLing! hehehehe