Posts tagged ‘idioms’

November 3, 2010

Business Speak, part 1

As everywhere people in organizations tend to make up expressions and terms in order to sound more important and serious.  In America, and here I am especially referring to Silicon Valley high tech companies – have pushed this habit to new heights.  Many perfectly fine, accurate words have been replaced by big phrases which are a lot of air and little substance.  A few examples:

If I wanted somebody’s input or feedback I used to say “I’ll talk to her” now one says “I will reach out to her”.

Employee 1: “We should meet tomorrow and discuss details.  We also need to include Anne, George, and Freddie in this meeting.”

Employee 2: “I will reach out to them and see when they are available.”

The kimono still closed! © Brenda Bailey |

Before, when a decision or an agreement was reached or one left a meeting with a bunch of task lists one went and informed those, who weren’t in on the decision or the meeting.  Now however that seems a tad trivial, and therefore one doesn’t merely inform or talk, no one socializes an idea.

Boss: “okay, so we move the deadline forward by three weeks.  Please go and socialize this plan with the teams.”

In a world of political correctness and formulaic business speak there comes a time when one needs to speak openly and frankly.  Instead of having a meeting, like in the olden days, these days one has “open kimono sessions”.  The term is self-explanatory: all the facts get laid out and one has an honest discussion.

October 25, 2010


This is a somewhat lighthearted sounding expression with a very serious background “Drinking the  Kool-Aid”

Beware oif drinking your own Kool Aid. (c) OCAL

This needs a bit of explanation: Kool-Aid is a fizzy drink made out of a powder.  Kids like it, some adults as well, I suppose.  Kool-Aid, was used in the 1978 mass-suicide in Jamestown, Guyana.  Jim Jones, the leader of a group Peoples Temple told his follower to drink  Kool-Aid laced with cyanide and 913 of 1100 did – and died.

Drinking the Kool-Aid now means to accept uncritically and unquestioningly an idea, concept, or philosophy to the point were one looses perspective and acts irrationally.  It can also imply that somebody is gullible and easily lead by others.  One can drink somebody elses’  Kool-Aid by completely buying into what they are saying, following them blindly as Jones’ followers did.  One can also drink one’s own Kool-Aid which means to believe in your own hype, be overly convinced of your own ideas, products, positions.

In business it is often used to describe a situation where a (young) company becomes overly confident in the value of their own products/services or vision and people no longer critically think about how to improve them.

If  not recognized and corrected quickly drinking one’s own Kool-Aid can have extremely negative on performance.

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October 18, 2010

“You are such a geek”

Let’s talk about geeks – another one of those ubiquitous words that are difficult to understand for a non-native speaker.  Explaining what a geek is, is a bit difficult because the meaning has shifted somewhat.  It used to be a rather derogatory, used for (young, mostly male) people who build their own supercomputers with recycled parts from the flea-market but can’t bind their shoe-laces or say a complete  sentence in the presence for a girl.

Now people who are very interested in and enthusiastic about technology, especially computers (“computer geek”), engineering, technology or science (“science geek”) and are somewhat overdoing it are called geek. It still implies a certain lack of interpersonal skills but it is no longer terribly derogatory.

In some places – pretty much all of Silicon Valley, MIT, and other such geek havens –  the term is actually a compliment.  You have to be somewhat of a geek there. to be taken seriously.

Vulcan Greeting

Guy 1: “I stayed up all night to write an algorithm to remote control my electronic pet and then I studied Vulcan language because  I am writing a book about Vulcan grammar.”

Guy 2: “Dude, you are such a geek.  I thought you studied Klingon.”

Guy 1: “I am fluent in Klingon, dude.  Live long and prosper!” (makes Vulcan greeting)

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