Let’s roll this out, push it up the flagpole and see who flies …

When middle management in particular wishes to impress, it uses office jargon.

The two which always get to me are “rolling out” and “real time”.   The first suggests some great lumbering beast on trolley wheels which gets “rolled out”.    Why can’t they just say “introduced” or “distributed”?

The second is so stupid, it’s annoying.   What the hell is “real” time?    Time is time.    By definition, it’s real.   I believe one of the most annoying is “thinking outside the box”, followed by “pushing the envelope”.

Some expressions seem legit to me.   For example, having a “brainstorming” session suggests everyone throws ideas in in a group discussion.   “I’ll get back to you on that,” also seems legit – quite understandable.

The Plainspeaking English people might object to office idioms and I’d agree with that when it goes PC and is used by limited brains but English has always used idiomatic expressions widely.   And that’s before we get onto phrasal verbs such as dressing up, looking up, following up.

In order to understand how much we do talk in idioms, one needs to see it from a foreigner’s point of view learning English.   These sometimes flummox:

#  barking up the wrong tree
#  bedroom eyes
#  coals to Newcastle

Often the other language has similar and so it’s understood more easily but often not.   So, each and every one of them has gradually to be learnt.   This has always been the case and we have to do that too when learning another language.    This is not what the Mail article was on about though, was it?

Some comments:

#  The two that get right up my nose is “at this moment in time” and “we are holding several dialogues with them!” Why just not say now and having talks?

#  These phrases are only used by people who are out of their depth and haven’t a clue what is really going on.

#  A manager where I used to work went off and had NLP training… after that we couldn’t understand a word he said. The classic was when somebody had a go at him, and he just gave a cheesy grin and said ‘I can’t deal with your anger at this time’.

Yep, Common Purpose speak.

# I can remember when this American style rubbish started. Along with it came the idiotic mission statements and sickening little plaques with words like ‘Our customers mean so much to us’. Employers in this country must think that their employees are thick. My manager once told me that he wanted to ‘Touch base’ with me, he didn’t look too pleased when I told him that I’d rather he didn’t touch my base thank you.

# The best one I heard is that I’m going to jump in a puddle and splash you with my ideas. He no longer works with us.

# I hate ” so we can all start singing from the same spreadsheet” so much I scream inside when I hear my boss use it!

# ‘Managing expectations’ really annoys me!

Agreed – what the hell does it mean? Don’t expect anything, as you won’t be disappointed?

If we combine this office jargon rubbish with the types of people who are increasingly being employed – young, of limited brain, ambitious, easily led, accepting crap as otherwise, it’s more than their job’s worth – then it’s easy to see how it spread like wildfire. “Like wildfire” is a simile, by the way, not a metaphor.

# When a new manager started at our company, he usually brought a new trendily named process with him and it was fascinating to see the how the forelock-tugging plonker brigade adopted the expression and dropped it in to every conversation.

# “Synergy” is one of those “buzz-words” used to make pretty simple ideas sound like something clever by people who also are pretty simple but want to appear clever!

# The directors in my organisation use the phrase “washing it’s own face”; they use this in the context of describing a service area that covers it’s own costs. Personally, this phrase makes my skin crawl. It’s stupid, confusing to people who don’t know what it means, it’s meaningless and totally unnecessary.

With that last one, notice the misuse of the apostrophes too?

Mind you, there are expressions which are not too bad, such as “welcome aboard” – the ship or bus analogy is OK but then it got ridiculous. “Flying kites” is close to the edge but when you add “to see if they fly”, it becomes more understandable.

The beautiful thing about going down and working on the boat though is that one does not need to think of any of this, only where I misplaced the bloody drill a few moments ago.

15 Responses to “Let’s roll this out, push it up the flagpole and see who flies …”

  1. pavlov's cat December 26, 2013 at 11:16 Permalink

    I actually use ‘managing expectations’ a lot , with my team (please don’t hate me) Because that’s what we have to do As a software trainer I have to manage the expectations that have been put in place by the sales team.
    i..e Buy this product it is a universal solution and will do X, Y and Z

    Whereas I know it will do all of X brilliantly , a fair bit of Y with more to come and it will do Z sometime in the next year.

    My personal hate is “Let’s take this ‘off-line’” When actually meaning “Can we talk about this outside of this meeting as it’s not germane and is taking us off track , if that’s OK “

  2. Amfortas December 26, 2013 at 11:17 Permalink

    Tell them to put a knot in it, James. Or you will keel-haul them, hang them from the yardarm and flay them.

  3. pavlov's cat December 26, 2013 at 11:20 Permalink

    To my mind “Flying kites” will always be slang for ‘Passing bad cheques’ So it makes me smile (may be a Sarf Lahden thing )

  4. ivan December 26, 2013 at 12:34 Permalink

    Don’t be too hard on ‘real time’ James. It has a legitimate use in engineering where you can monitor something in ‘real time’ i.e. as it happens, or look at the logs and outputs at some other time when it is convenient.

    The first you would do when you started a new piece of equipment, the second when you want to check how it is working long term.

    I do agree that most of the current ‘management speak’ is just bull dreamed up by some marketing droid in the US.

  5. Kryten December 26, 2013 at 12:49 Permalink

    I can honestly say that jumping up in the middle of a departmental conference and shouting “bingo” doesn’t go down too well, nor does “can you repeat that in English” in response to being asked if there are any questions!

  6. Furor Teutonicus December 26, 2013 at 13:02 Permalink

    The only way to get to these bastards is open derision every time they use such crap.

    Works every time.

  7. wiggia December 26, 2013 at 13:14 Permalink

    The qualifiers for a list in this are endless
    Jargon, doublespeak, slang etc, without trying……..
    Limited availability – out of stock
    Blue sky thinking – blank
    Perfect storm – no such thing
    Because your valued – not
    Non performing Asset – bad debt
    Tactical withdrawal – retreat
    24/7 – just hate it
    It’s all good – never is
    Pre owned – second hand
    Concerned – as in a politician is concerned = liar

  8. ubermouth December 26, 2013 at 13:31 Permalink

    Great post. I also HATE faddish slang such as when interior designers will say ‘ That colour will make it[usually another colour] “pop” or ‘don’t beat yourself up’ and other such sayings [like"thinking outside the box" or that "checks all the boxes"] that people jump on and soon everyone is using particular,annoying terms until a new ,equally annoying, one comes along.

    Why can’t people just speak plain and clear without the need for cutesy phrases that aren’t so cute?

  9. haiku December 26, 2013 at 13:55 Permalink

    Another favourite in the IT industry: “eating your own dog food”

  10. Mark in Mayenne December 26, 2013 at 14:05 Permalink

    On any DIY project I spend as much time looking for tools that I had in my hand just now, as I do doing the job.

    I’m OK with “managing expectations”. It means explaining to a customer exactly what you can (and can’t) do for him and what you expect in return. Perhaps there is a better and more succinct way of expressing this but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

  11. Twisted Root December 26, 2013 at 14:41 Permalink

    You could pop this antidote in your toaster and see what comes up.


  12. Twilight December 26, 2013 at 20:10 Permalink

    Some of those phrases mentioned are truly irritating, but others do lend a bit of colour to a grey world. ;-)

    My personal phrase to hate is one used by President Obama often in his speeches: “Let me be clear…..” when he’s anything but. I noticed that talking heads gradually began to pick up on this expression and use it more and more themselves, while we poor saps remain, as ever, in the fog of delusion and/or illusion.

  13. lordsomber December 27, 2013 at 01:40 Permalink

    Jargon within a trade shouldn’t be confused with nonsense and trendy-speak.
    Jargon is verbal shorthand — meant for brevity as well as clarity.

    Don’t be too hard on ‘real time’ James. It has a legitimate use in engineering where you can monitor something in ‘real time’ i.e. as it happens, or look at the logs and outputs at some other time when it is convenient.

    “Real time” is the only one I find myself using, of those listed.
    In publishing, there are edits and revisions between publications in print, but online requires updating *as it happens* — ‘real time’ or ‘live’ updates.

  14. wiggia December 27, 2013 at 08:05 Permalink

    Couldn’t resist this, from PE and Pseuds Corner, stretching the meaning to absurdity, for haiku !

    From the Sunday Times restaurant critic Camilla Long.

    There’s a sharp haiku of hamachi and a small dish of partridge escabeche that’s pink and silky and sour, like Marie Antoinette’s thong…..

  15. Furor Teutonicus December 27, 2013 at 09:58 Permalink

    Don’t know if these count, but things bosses say that piss me off;

    “My door is always open.” = Big Brother is watching you.

    “Flexable work force” = “We can call you at three in the morning to start shift at 5 on the only day off you have had for months.”

    “Company loyalty” = “YOU will be loyal to us. WE will drop you like a ton of hot bricks at the first opportunity. Go ahead, make my day!”

    And, did “Blue sky thinking” not used to be called “Day dreaming on the job?”

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