Is office jargon getting out of hand?

What exactly is office jargon? The dictionary has inadequate descriptors when trying to fully grasp the beauty and magic of office jargon.

Illustration: Ashley Siebels

“Confused unintelligible language.” “Obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words.” “A literary device Aliya used to reach essay word counts in high school.” These are just a few ways that Webster’s Dictionary defines “jargon.”

But what exactly is office jargon? Not only are dictionary definitions the “cop out” of writing introductions, they are also inadequate descriptors when trying to fully grasp the beauty and magic of office jargon. That’s why I took it upon myself as the keeper of Career Contessa’s Instagram to reach out to you, our readers, to hear what you have to say about your favorite or most frustrating office catchphrases.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite submissions—phrases that had me saying, “Will coworkers notice if I start using this all the time? or, “That person’s office culture seems … interesting.” and even, “I just can’t. I’m taking the rest of the day off.”

“Let’s take this offline”

Submitted by: Miranda Grueiro, Continuous Improvement Leader, and Kirby McLaine, Digital Strategist

What Does It Mean?

This is one of the more common phrases heard ‘round offices across America. It means, “the thing we are talking about right now has gone off topic.” A courteous way to say, “let’s move on.” Perhaps Miranda’s definition is a little more straightforward: “Let’s shut up and talk about it later with only the people we need to. K. Thnx.”

What’s to Love/Hate?

This phrase saves time in a meeting when someone goes off topic. It can also carry a little sass. But as Kirby mentioned, when used face-to-face, the offline reference becomes pretty strange. How do you take something offline, when you weren’t online to begin with?

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

Use when the conversation has drifted for more than a minute, and others in the team are disengaging.

“There’s lots of fur flying”

Submitted by: Lulu Says, Freelance Writer/Content Provider

What Does It Mean?

I had definitely never heard this one before. Turns out it doesn’t mean, “I accidentally let out the flying squirrels that we weirdly keep in our office.” It actually means, “there’s a lot going on right now or things are getting hectic.”

What’s to Hate?

Lulu’s train of thought was similar to mine. She dislikes this phrase because of the horrible imagery. She can’t help but visualize someone juggling hamsters—which is probably not the best mindset to be in when things are hectic around the office. “Where’s Lulu? The deadline is coming up! Please don’t tell me she’s thinking about hamsters again.”

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

From Lulu: “Never. Ever. Don’t do it. Unless it’s faux fur. And even then, no. Put the hamsters down!”

“FU”

Submitted by: Anonymous, Executive Assistant

What Does It Mean?

This was one of those “phrases” that really just seemed to be specific to this submitter’s office. FU is short for the phrase that we were all thinking, “follow up.”

What’s to Hate?

I’ll let the submitter take this one: “1. FU does not mean follow up. I think we can all agree on that. 2. There’s often talk about the youngest generations in the workforce (specifically, millennials) ruining communication. There are complaints that we can’t write in full sentences or with proper grammar. In my experience, we’re not the guilty party. I work in a generationally diverse department, and no Millennials are using ‘FU’, ‘thx’, or ‘c u later’ in emails.”

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

“I really don’t feel like there’s ever an appropriate time to have a public ‘FU’ block on your calendar. Also, getting an email that says ‘I wanted to FU with you about Monday’s meeting … ‘ is a little jarring.”

“Pull the lever”

Submitted by: Jasmine, Supply Chain Analyst

What Does It Mean?

“Pull the lever” means to go forward with a project, to initiate a task, or to finally make a decision on something.

What’s to Love?

From Jasmine: “I love it when a task is expected and I am ready to execute. I hate it when my team is assessing risks and we have to make a decision. Then it feels like Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove is pressuring me to ‘PULL THE LEVER KRONK,’ and I might fall into a pit.”

 

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

You can use this phrase when you want to signal that it’s time to move forward. Or like Jasmine said, “when it’s clear that a path of action needs to be made.”

“Slick”

Submitted by: Allison Cherry, Marketing Manager

What Does It Mean?

This also seems to be one of those unique-to-their-office phrases. At least, it was new to me. Here’s what Allison had to say: “I often hear colleagues outside my business unit (marketing) call brochures and sales sheets a ‘slick.’ It’s their way to define a piece that has been formatted into branded design layout with relevant product/service information.”

What’s to Hate?

From Allison: “I despise ‘slick’ because it truly has no meaning within marketing. It’s not jargon marketing experts use. It’s something those who work outside marketing have decided is a fun, hot phrase for marketing. Slick is an adjective, not a noun. Stop making up your own words and call what you’re talking about a brochure or sales sheet. Insert extreme eye roll.”

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

In Allison’s opinion, the appropriate time to use this phrase is never.

“Mea Culpa”

Submitted by: Tessa Nicolas Arias, Interpreter/Translator

What Does It Mean?

Mea culpa is the Latin way to say, “my bad.” Because we all know that Latin is the most relevant way to speak in 2018.

What’s to Hate?

This phrase frustrates Tessa because the way she sees it, people will get the point when you apologize for something being your own fault in English, no need to involve Latin. If there’s a simpler way to phrase it, by all means, do it. It seems like this can be applied to most office jargon.

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

From what I gathered, the most appropriate time to use this phrase is when you are taking the blame for something, but maybe you also want to slightly throw off your coworker. “What were we talking about? You made a mistake? All I remember is that you speak Latin and that makes you interesting and cool, Aliya.”

“TL;DR”

Submitted by: Jennifer Goebel, Regional Operations Manager

What Does It Mean?

TL;DR means “Too long; didn’t read.” It signifies that whatever is written is too lengthy and the reader did not invest the time to read it. As Jennifer defines it, TL;DR is a thoughtful SparkNotes version of your email.

What’s to Love?

TL;DR sums it all up. It’s all of the best/most important information, packaged into a one or two sentence, I’ll-take-the-time-to-read-this gift. Jennifer put it best: “In a world where your inbox overfloweth with information TL;DR is our saving grace.” Blessed be to TL;DR.

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?
TL;DR: Use this phrase when you need to make long things short.

“Double Click”

Submitted by: Reggie Hanson, Customer Success Manager

What Does It Mean?

To “double click” means to dive deeper into a subject. Zooming in or unpacking a topic as one would on the computer.

What’s to Hate?

Personally, I semi-ironically love this phrase because I had never heard it before. This just seems like a phrase that someone would make up if they were asked to come up with some fake office jargon. For Reggie, it’s the opposite. He dislikes this phrase because it’s overused. “Many of these types of phrases are the equivalent of short guys buying giant trucks and just trying to elevate a conversation.”

When Is It Appropriate to Use This Phrase?

“When you are trying to double click an icon on your computer.” Loud and clear, Reggie.

Thank you for making it this far into the article

So there you have it. A few of my favorite office jargon submissions.

To be honest, there was only one or two of these that I had heard of before. After “let’s take this offline,” it took a hard turn into the obscure and never #circledback.

Nonetheless, I hope you learned something today. I know I’m looking forward to using these incessantly around the Career Contessa office. And I’ll keep you updated on whether I still have my job next week!

This article was originally published on Career Contessa.