10 Business Buzzwords To Stop Using


Business jargon, corporate lingo, corporatese—there are ample descriptions for the overused and often intentionally vague (meaningless) expressions tossed around the workplace. From deliberately confusing words to the sneaky lexicon of “spin,” corporatese lurks.

We’ve taken it a step further though, this corporate lingo is the worst of the worst. These are the business buzzwords that are actually offensive—to humans, animals, you name it. Quit wasting productive time with this trashy jargon! These business bullies should be axed for good.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Forbes is right to describe drinking the Kool-Aid as a “tasteless reference.” The figure of speech signifies blind acceptance of a corporate vision, which can lead new or small companies to make errors in judgment. Such caution is founded, but what’s wrong with “blind acceptance”? Nothing; use it instead of the nod to the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, in which 900 cult followers (and infants), died after drinking Kool-Aid laced with poison.  

Open the kimono

Really? Especially given the climate of unveiling sexual-harassment scandals in the workplace, retiring this phrase with sexist undertones is simply the best policy. Open the kimono is business jargon for disclosing information about how a company operates on the inside. The problem is, in the West, the kimono (although unisex) has been tied through film and popular depictions to the image of Japanese geishas and the exotic eroticism of women. Thus, why a Vanderbilt business professor calls this jargon “kind of creepy.” For sure.

Bleeding edge

Ouch! The cutting edge is already bad enough! (We’ll slip that buzz term in here, too). Describing a product or service as so innovative, so cutting edge, it draws blood is definitely not the way corporations should appeal to customers or clients. Investopedia explains the uncomfortable logic behind a bleeding edge innovation: a product so brand new it carries with it a higher degree of risk; the product might be too complex, unfamiliar, or unappealing, and therefore fail in the end.

Bottom line though—And, isn’t that what businesses care about?—consumers want to feel safe, not like they’re about to get stabbed with a butcher knife. “Bleeding-edge” technology is out.

Boil the ocean

Global warming is already doing enough to the poor ocean! Boil the ocean means “waste time,” “undertake an impossible task,” or “go overboard.” Allowing this corporatese idiom to escape one’s lips is a total waste of time and breath, not least because the phrase has multiple meanings and it’s hard to know which sense is being applied. What’s more, the phrase comes perilously close to the inconvenient truth of which Al Gore has twice reminded Americans. 

Punch a puppy

For the love of sweet, innocent puppies, by no means should anyone ever punch them! What kind of workplace cruelty is going on, here? This detestable phrase means doing something, well, detestable, but good for business. Such a repugnant action is scream-inducing for the poor puppy and for people with moral integrity.

Screw the pooch

Man, these poor dogs. Screw the pooch is a milder form of the original “F— the dog,” though neither makes the phrases any less abominable. Screw the pooch has meant “loaf around, doing nothing of productive use” for over a hundred years. Then, it came to mean “to commit an embarrassing mistake.” Whether an employee builds a paperclip kingdom or sleeps with the boss, call it “lazy,” call it “stupid,” but please, please don’t “screw the pooch.”

Eat your own dog food

So corporatese likes to punch puppies, screw pooches, and then eat their food! Messed-up stuff.

Businesses can’t expect paying customers to trust or buy products if company employees, themselves, don’t show they trust the products enough to buy them. That’s eating your own dog food. It doesn’t speak highly of products or services if they aren’t being used and endorsed internally. The phrase originally referred to Microsoft products in the 1980s.

Eat the frog

Animal abuse is rampant in biz lingo, sadly. Eat the frog can mean finishing something that’s been put off, or starting the workday with the worst task first (leaving the rest of the day to breeze through a lighter load). Both rules of thumb can improve productivity, but “finish what you start” and “worst first” are better, crystal clear expressions that save frogs—even fictitious ones—from being devoured.

Big boy pants

When the going gets tough at work, apparently the only attire needed to tackle the job is a pair of big boy pants. This implies that only men work in the corporate world, which is, you know, just entirely sexist and untrue. Adding big girl pants to the lexicon won’t help, either, because it would suggest that adult male employees are merely “big boys” and their female counterparts “big girls.” How about we all just wear normal-size pants and handle our responsibilities as best we can.

800-pound gorilla / Elephant in the room

The average Mountain Gorilla weighs between 300 and 485 pounds, so the weight discrepancy in the first buzz-phrase is one of major offense to those gorillas. An 800-pound gorilla in corporatese means a “huge problem” or “monumental challenge to overcome.”

The elephant in elephant in the room has been misused in much the same way as the (fraudulently) obese gorilla: as an equivalent to “problem,” “setback,” or “obstacle.” Like dogs and frogs, gorillas and elephants are tired of being corporate scapegoats!

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