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by Branden Hart
You can act tough and say you never succumb to “work talk.” But you know you do. We ALL do. If you work in corporate America, chances are, you’ve said most of the things I’m going to talk about here. Because, overall, you can’t get away with not saying them. Yes, it’s the dreaded work lingo. Every office has something unique about its lingo, but there are several universal things that everyone knows and understands. And while it may be stupid, it’s also necessary, unless you want to be the office dick.
1. Days of the week
There are three days during the standard five day work week that are used in work lingo. The first is Monday. Here’s the standard Monday morning conversation:
Mary: Pretty good—for a Monday!
*hearty chuckles all around*
Bob: Yeah, I know what you mean. The weekend just isn’t long enough.
Well no shit Bob. Of course the weekend isn’t long enough. It’s only two fucking days. And most of the weekend, you’re miserable, because you drank too much on Friday, so you woke up and started drinking again on Saturday, and that puts you in really bad shape on Sunday, and you have shit to do on Sunday, but you don’t feel like it, so you start drinking again and play video games until you pass out on the couch with half a Ding Dong hanging out the side of your mouth and your girlfriend screaming that you’re a worthless good for nothing and that she should have taken her mom’s advice and married that rich Asian kid from down the block when she had the chance.
But I digress.
Next comes Wednesday. “It’s Hump Day!” Here’s Bob and Mary on a Wednesday.
Bob: Hey Mary! How’s it going?
Mary: Pretty good—halfway there!
Bob: I know! The weekend’s in sight now.
Wait a second, weren’t you complaining about how short the weekend was just two days ago Bob? And now you’re looking forward to it? See, Bob’s your standard American business man, who looks forward to things that he knows are going to disappoint him in the end. And why does he do this? Because he’s a spineless little sheep, that’s why. So, Bob and Mary spend a good portion of their Wednesday informing other people that it is Wednesday, as if this is some cause for celebration. Then comes Wednesday’s bastard child Thursday—not much ever happens on a Thursday. Next is the mother of them all: Friday. Let’s drop in on Bob and Mary and see how their conversation goes Friday.
Bob: Hey Mary! How’s it going?
Mary: Great—it’s Friday!
Bob: That’s right! The weekend is finally here!
Yes Bob, the weekend is finally here, the weekend you’ll be complaining about being too short on Monday, when this whole crapfest starts all over again.
2. Touching Base
This usually means “I want to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” Let’s see what happens when Bob has something he needs from Mary.
Bob (peeking around the edge of Mary’s cubicle): Hey Mary! Just touching base to see how those expense reports are coming.
Mary (trying to not look suspicious while closing an Internet browser window. She’s probably reading an email about someone’s cat or forwarding some stupid “Microsoft will give you a dollar” shit to everyone in her goddamn address book. You know the kind of person I’m talking about.): Pretty good Bob! Should be able to get them to you within the hour.
Bob: Woah! That’s great! But no pressure, no pressure—take your time.
No pressure. Right Bob, you presumptuous asshole. You presume that Mary doesn’t have her shit together (you are right about that, though) and then you presume that she has a bunch of pressure on her about finishing these expense reports. But Mary doesn’t give a shit about the expense reports. She’s still thinking about that janitor she sucked off in your office the night you made her work late, and whether you’ve ever noticed the stain on your leather chair. Next!
3. Action Items
Might as well just call this what it is—shit you need to do. But no, this is business, and we need to make sure that all our words and phrases sound like something they really aren’t. Let’s take a peek at what happens at the end of a meeting with Bob and Mary.
Bob: Ok group, let’s look at the action items resulting from this meeting. We’ll start with yours Mary. Your first action item is to retrieve the industrial hole punch from Accounting.
Mary: I’m on it Bob.
Bob: Next, you need to find some Vaseline.
Mary: Not a problem, Bob.
Bob: After that, I want you to help me insert the handle for the hole punch into my anus. Jack will take care of getting the dress I’ll wear while we’re doing this, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Mary: Sounds good Bob.
See what Bob did there? Basically gave Mary the worst job anyone could think of, but made it sound exciting by calling it an action item. As you can see by now, Bob is one slimy dude.
4. Ensure quality/quality control
This really just means, “We’ll do our best not to fuck this up.” When used in conjunction with “Action Items,” it means “We’ll do our best not to fuck this up next time.” This is one I use ALL the time. But it isn’t because I fuck up all the time. It’s because other people fuck up and I have to clean up their messes. Just like our friend Mary.
Mary: Bob, the handle is stuck on your asshair.
Bob: What's wrong?
Mary: Well, it seems that, due to shoddy craftsmanship, the handle has several metal splinters sticking out from it.
Bob: What are you going to do about that Mary?
Mary: From now on, I will implement a serious quality control system for all office supplies that you may want to have inserted into your anus.
Bob: Excellent! You sure are a go-getter Mary!
The thing is, we all say this shit. You can't get away with NOT saying it in corporate America. It's our plight, really. We're all stuck in a fucking nightmare. So share your nightmare with me guys. What lingo do you despise at your workplace? If we're going to be scared, we might as well be scared together.
Uberchief will leverage the paradigm synergy in your butt.
I love this! Ok, I hate the reference to dining. You know, I have A LOT ON MY PLATE, and he BRINGS A LOT TO THE TABLE. So I guess what must happen here is one Cubey brings a lot to the table and then puts a big old heaping helping on ohter Cubey's plates. Which, of course is exactly what usually happens.
But by far, the worst thing anyone can say to me in Cubeland is "I don't really feel COMFORTABLE with this. (maybe that's what Bob said after Mary inserted the handle of the hole punch in his ass) Anyway, instead of having enough balls to say - hey, that idea of yours sucks - cube people need to explain in how I've somehow adjusted their comfort level to a setting that is now making them sweat a little.
Happy Monday! God, where did the weekend go?
Posted by: lovemonkey | February 12, 2007 7:43 AM
I almost got in trouble once because in a very large meeting, the vice president of my division (that is, his boss is the CEO) said "Leverage our partner ecosystem" and I had to cough VERY loudly to keep from laughing.
Posted by: baby huey | February 12, 2007 7:50 AM
I know that every single day this winter when I walk into work, someone at the security desk will say "Good morning! Cold enough for ya?"
I am so tempted to answer by saying "No, you jackass. It's not cold enough for me. In fact, I'd like it about 100 degrees colder so everything would shut down and I wouldn't have to walk into this building and listen to you ask me that inane question AGAIN."
You know what else I hate? It's what I call "The Hallway Hey" - that little nod and "hey" you give to someone you already passed 56 times in the hallway today, yet he feels obligated to make eye contact with you once again, forcing you to acknowledge his presence. Isn't one "hey" a day enough?
Posted by: michele | February 12, 2007 7:52 AM
I've only been at work for 30 minutes, and already I've asked 3 people how they were doing when I really didn't give a shit one way or the other. Gonna be a long week...
Posted by: Uber | February 12, 2007 9:03 AM
I wanted to read the entire story but I did not have the cycles. I'll see if I have some bandwith later. I'm interested in the granularity of your article. Right now I need to get some traction on my current WIP. I'll ping you later when we take it offline.
Posted by: Ernie | February 12, 2007 9:24 AM
1: Hey, howzit goin'?
2: Shrug, second Monday of the week.
1. Yeah, it just ain't right.
The yahoos who still think these are clever need pounding with the hole punch:
SHIT day: Sure happy it's Thursday.
POETS day: Piss on everything, tomorrows Saturday.
Posted by: Timmer | February 12, 2007 9:28 AM
Shrug, second Monday of the week.
I've never heard that, and I hereby pledge to use it incessantly tomorrow and make everyone else miserable.
Posted by: Uber | February 12, 2007 10:04 AM
I'm sure Timmer can second this, but the military is the worst when it comes to this corporate-style speak. Because we not only use corporate/business style euphemisms, but also create out own.
Power Projection Platform. Apparently, Fort Polk, LA, is a Power Projection Platorm. I was stationed there for three years and never figured out what the hell a power projection platorm is exactly. I think it has something to do with being able to ship stuff to places. Fucked if I know.
We have a bad habit of turning proper nouns into verbs, and in a very bad way. The department that controls computers and communications is C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) and if you have a problem with a computer system or need something set up, you might hear someone say, "You need to C4I that."
Any office is subject to this.
Here's a great story on a similar subject.
Posted by: Cullen | February 12, 2007 10:30 AM
This is a fascinating topic. I think we should peel the onion. This is definitely a target rich environment with a lot of low hanging fruit. Lets work harder not smarter.
Posted by: Ernie | February 12, 2007 10:35 AM
Dude, Uber, you must really hate Bob.
Come to think of it I hate Bob. What an asshole.
Posted by: Ian | February 12, 2007 3:04 PM
I work retail and get paid to say things like this. I'm going to go shoot myself now.
Posted by: Jenn | February 12, 2007 3:19 PM
I work retail and get paid to say things like this.
Hell, technically, I get paid to say this kind of shit as well. Like I said--we're all in this nightmare together.
Posted by: Uber | February 12, 2007 3:52 PM
If I freaking hear, "we must synergise the four C cornerstones" one more time... I'm going to synergise someones ass.
They'd probably like it though.
Posted by: deb | February 12, 2007 4:48 PM
I cringe when I hear the phrase "...make sure we're all on the same page," ie, we all need to spout the company-approved talking points like good little drones.
Posted by: mike | February 12, 2007 10:25 PM
One thing the Air Force is on about lately are toolboxes, as in "it's another tool for your toolbox". The only place these people have seen a toolbox is at Sears. I really want to throw a wrench at the next person who says that and yell, "Put that in your toolbox, dumbass!"
Another thing that people, especially officers, like to do is inappropriately appropriate flight line lingo. Example:
I need you to quick-turn this EPR.
To which I respond, "You've never been on a plane before, have you?"
Do you have an ETIC on that EPR?
Um, no sir, I need to call for gas and get ATOC out here to download cargo, first.
Just make sure you stay ahead of the power curve. We can't take the delay on that EPR.
Your death would bring happiness to the children of this world.
Posted by: Paul | February 12, 2007 11:21 PM
I don't know how Bob does it day after day, even with a hole punch handle up his ass.
The nine to five jive is why I became a pirate.
Posted by: Pirate | February 13, 2007 3:40 AM