Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 46;   November 13, 2002: High Falutin' Goofy Talk

High Falutin' Goofy Talk

by

Business speech and business writing are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled with pretentious, overused images and puff phrases of unknown meaning. Here are some phrases that are so common that we barely notice them.

The day after Human Beings invented talking, they invented the trite business phrase. In those days, business consisted mostly of acquiring food, shelter, and the necessities for procreation, much like business today. The first trite business phrase, loosely translated, meant "gimme that." Despite its rapid descent into triteness, "gimme that" did serve a higher purpose, because it led to the invention of a phrase of great utility even today: "in your dreams."

StonehengeSince then, the more inventive among us have tried to stay ahead of the triteness curve — so to speak — but now cable TV makes that impossible. As soon as an authoritative author or a pontificating pundit unveils a clever new verbal invention, it's blasted around the world on the 24-hour news cycle, and everyone scrambles to be the first to use it in email or a meeting.

Clever new verbal inventions
have short shelf lives.
Everyone scrambles to be
the first to use them
in email or a meeting.
The rest of us must repeat the same old too-familiar phrases, often forgetting what the phrases once meant. They might have had real impact when they were new, but now they're just filler.

Here are a few examples of once clever and colorful, but now trite and tired business phrases. Recall the first time you caught yourself using them, and decide if you want to continue.

that said, having said that
We used to say "but." Nowadays we seem to need more syllables.
with all due respect
Probably popularized in modern times by Perry Mason or those characters on C-SPAN, this one is a real oldie. See, for example, the patriotism entry in The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce [1911].
at the end of the day, bottom line
Two different ways of saying "finally." "Bottom line" comes from accounting and finance, and used to be cute.
on the ground
Desperately trying to remain vital, this one is transforming itself into "boots on the ground." It's probably military in origin — a flyer's or paratrooper's term.
ahead of the curve, behind the curve
The "power curve" describes the relationship between drag, airspeed, and vertical speed for an aircraft. In business, the "ahead" form means advanced or innovative, while the behind form means "in too deep to ever dig out." Originally, using this image meant you were a pilot, which carried status. No longer.
on our radar screen
This one means "in our awareness." It used to be clever-sounding.
get your arms around
This one means "master," "grasp" or "understand." It's a highly charged physical image that can be somewhat risky.

The language we use reveals much about us. If leadership in writing and speech is a part of being a leader, then it's important to choose consciously the language we use every day. Choose yours.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Pick-Up Sticks and the Change Game  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

For more examples of high falutin? goofy talk, see "High Falutin' Goofy Talk: II," Point Lookout for January 17, 2018.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenwukwabulJouRRFYaner@ChacORPhZKvYvzmqZzQkoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A pattern that isn't a patternCoincidences Do Happen
When we notice similarities between events, or possible patterns of events, we often attribute meaning to them beyond what we can prove. Sometimes we guess right, and sometimes not. How can we improve our guesses?
A grove of quaking aspenFinding Work in Tough Times: Infrastructure
Finding work in tough times goes a lot more easily if you have at least a minimum of equipment and space to do the job. Here are some thoughts about getting that infrastructure and managing it.
Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'Self-Serving Bias in Organizations
We all want to believe that we can rely on the good judgment of decision makers when they make decisions that affect organizational performance. But they're human, and they are therefore subject to a cognitive bias known as self-serving bias. Here's a look at what can happen.
A Great Grey OwlHow to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings
Nearly everyone hates meetings, and virtual meetings are at the top of most people's lists. Here's a catalog of some of the worst practices.
Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torchHow to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting." We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) speaks at a recent Senate hearingComing October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
A man, standing, explaining something to a woman, seatedAnd on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenClTCHtkcAdeDbXgwner@ChacDYhLyaGvOTITBPSQoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Misunderstandings and unintended offenses are just some of the ways person-to-person communication can go wrong. In my Communications Workshop, we explore how things go wrong, and how to keep them right. We learn that Prevention is Easier than Repair.
What People Say About Rick's Programs
  • "Rick is a dynamic presenter who thinks on his feet to keep the material relevant to the group."
    — Tina L. Lawson, Technical Project Manager, BankOne (now J.P. Morgan Chase)
  • "Rick truly has his finger on the pulse of teams and their communication."
    — Mark Middleton, Team Lead, SERS
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.