Recently I was working with a software development manager from a major German multinational. He’d just got off a 2 hour webex meeting and was frustrated. “I thought my English was pretty good – but what exactly does We’ve worked through it soup to nuts mean?!”. I could empathize. It was the first time I’d heard this expression myself and I needed to understand the context before I guessed it meant from beginning to end. Corporate and business buzzwords, jargon and expressions can be a challenge for native speakers – and when English isn’t your first language things get so much harder.
What do we mean by corporate buzzwords and business lingo?
The business world has always developed and used its own idiomatic phrases and vocabulary to describe all aspects of business and management. These expressions fall into 2 broad categories:
- Some expressions are used across all business sectors, are very well known, widely used and understood. “We’re moving to an open plan office in the hope that it will improve cross-pollination” (cross-pollination is the generation of ideas by combining people from different backgrounds and with different skill sets).
- Other expressions are specific to a certain business sector, for example marketing or auditing. This language (jargon) isn’t generally recognized outside the particular sector, e.g. Shoptimization is the way forward (using apps to optimize in-store shopping experience).
Why do people talk like this?
This is a good question. A part of good communication is about making things easy to understand buzzwords don’t always do this. Buzzwords are a type of jargon people use so they sound knowledgeable, up-to-date, important … or just cool or funny. Is it effective? Decide for yourself. The video in this post is an excellent demonstration. How many of the expressions do you recognize and understand?
Dealing with buzzwords and business lingo
I am a native speaker of English and have almost 40 years experience in the corporate world and I understood less than half of what was said in the video above. So what can non-native English speakers do when confronted by too much corporate speak?
- Encourage colleagues and partners to avoid using too much business jargon. When you don’t understand stop and ask them to explain. Then once they have explained, ask them to use that kind of English rather than the special expressions.
- If you lead a global team actively discourage the use of these phrases in meetings and all written communications
- Consult a dictionary. Do this if some expressions are coming up regularly and you don’t understand them.
- Don’t spend time learning new jargon.
Further online resources
Explanations for most of the expressions used in the video on available on these websites
9 common English jargon and buzzwords used in business
To close, here is is a selection of corporate jargon and buzzwords from the video … together with a simple explanation:
- Let’s get our ducks in a row. = Let’s get organized
- Can you put a deck together? = Can you prepare a visual presentation? (sales and marketing)
- Loop me in on that! = Keep me informed of what’s happening.
- He’s a disrupter. = He’s a person who changes the way things are done.
- I’m going to have to marinade on that. = I need time to think about it.
- Can you unpack that? = Can you give me more detail?
- That’s not even in our wheelhouse. = That’s not in our minds.
- That’s the silver bullet approach. = That’s the perfect solution.
- Can we talk about that offline? = Can we talk about that away from the main group?
To summarize, don’t forget that even native English speakers struggle with business jargon and idiomatic expressions. If you follow the tips and make use of the links I’ve mentioned you will find it a little easier.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Here’s a selection of posts if you want to read more:
- 16 jargon-busting learning terms you need to be familiar with (if you work in L&D)
- 10 common American sport idioms
- Business Phrasal Verbs