I tore myself away from Brave New World to write this. I’ve never read it I’m ashamed to admit. Thing is, the book was written in the thirties and is still relevant today. I realized that it parallels my life in some ways, so I just had to write about it.
I care about words. I care about the creative use of words. In Brave New World, Huxley tells a story about people who are conditioned to not set themselves apart from everyone else. The same phrases, recorded and repeated under the pillows of young children two hundred times a night, were the phrases they repeated mindlessly in their adult lives for any given circumstance. It was all for the good of the community.
We do that now. Well, I don’t. But I’m a square peg at my job. I am talking about office lingo. I come close to screaming out loud whenever I hear certain phrases. The one I hate the most these days is reach out.
This is a term that, when used, proves you know how to play the game. You’re part of the team. You know the rules and are willing to abide by them for the greater good of the company. YOU are appropriate. YOU know the score and intend to climb that ladder above the minions.
I work with people who say “reach out” constantly. They don’t say, “I will call, email, text, IM, or talk to John Doe.” They say, “I will reach out to John Doe.” If John Doe gives them a hard time, they don’t argue, debate, have a lively discussion, or tell him to ***k off. They say, “I spoke to John Doe and pushed back about the fact that he hasn’t paid us. I will reach out to him again tomorrow.”
I could go on and on about other terms that are waved around like signs that say, I’M ONE OF YOU. I BELONG HERE. But I want to propose a solution I’ve come up with to make the company workspace a tad more creative and esoteric. These phrases can be mixed and matched at will. There are many excellent old sayings just waiting to be dusted off and resurrected. They’re so much more colorful than drill down, on a granular level, push back, and reach out.
I propose the following vernacular for the workplace:
- Come what may.
- Til the cows come home.
- Does a bear poo in the woods? (Shit is not appropriate in the workplace)
- Sometimes you get the goldmine, sometimes you get the shaft.
- Far out!
- Don’t worry, be happy. (Instead of no worries, another oft-used phrase.)
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
- Dodged a bullet.
- Broke the ice.
- Cat got your tongue?
- Get the bugs out. (Instead of scrub the spreadsheet.).
- Poo or get off the pot. (See number three.)
- He was fired. (Normally, you hear nothing. There’s just an empty desk that everyone cannibalizes when they realize John Doe is not coming back.)
I shall now demonstrate the possible uses for some of these:
When will you meet your productivity?
Come what may!
Great, but how long can you continue to turn these accounts in late?
Til the cows come home!
Seriously. Did you get that list done that I gave you yesterday?
Does a bear poo in the woods?
John Doe said he did most of the work on those accounts.
Sometimes you get the goldmine, sometimes you get the shaft! (This replaces he threw me under the bus.)
We’re going to go ahead and give you a 2% raise because you’ve done such an excellent job this year.
You get the idea, right?
That’s another word that makes me want to poke my eye with a fork. I say, “Well, at least it’s Friday and I can sleep in tomorrow.” And the person to whom I’m talking says, “Right?” or “I know! Right?” In fact, they answer every statement of fact with, “Right?” or “I know! Right?”
I sound like a cranky person. That’s because I am. You see, I’m twice as old as most of my coworkers. I feel like I work in a daycare sometimes. They remind me of the scarecrow in Wizard of Oz. They have a piece of paper so they immediately feel smarter. Conversely, years of life experiences and tough decisions only makes you one thing. Obsolete.
Maybe I should try harder to fit in. I will incorporate office jargon into my sentences. I will say, “I plan to reach out to Fung Wa’s for lunch today. Would anyone like to be on the same page?”
~written by Deborah Klein, Safety Harbor resident blogger