Why we should all stop using jargon, going forward
People trafficking... just to get to work. Photo: Nabeel Syed/ Unsplash
SLOWLY, SLOWLY, lockdown is easing and more of us are returning to our workplaces. The key to the Great Unlocking is expected to turn another notch on Monday 21 June. In fact, judging by the amount of traffic around my way, it seems most of us are already commuting again.
As well as busier roads, this means Zoom meetings in pyjama bottoms and high-pitched phrases like ‘you’re on mute’ will fade into the past. Hopefully.
‘Normality’ has much to recommend it. But one thing that worries me about a return to traditional work settings is that it could also mean a return to our former language. More specifically, a return to jargon.
Trust jargon to build mistrust
The problem with jargon, according to this Forbes’ article, is that it builds mistrust. It seems that, as well as setting people’s teeth on edge, fancy-pants words and phrases are also a big fat turn off. Well, who’d have thunk it?
Written on the back of research conducted by ANNA (a money management mobile application),,the Forbes’ article suggests the following are our most disliked workplace terms:
1 Touch base
2 Blue sky thinking
3 Going forward
4 Think outside the box
5 Annual leave
6 Low hanging fruit
7 Reach out
8 Can we chat?
9 Closing the loop
10 Let's take this offline
We probably all recognise at least most of these phrases. They’re a staple of every meeting room, like a jug of tepid water. Let’s have a closer look at a few of them…
Touch base. Really? It’s 2021. We live in a post-Harvey Weinstein world. Can we just stop touching bases now? How about we just talk to people instead?
Blue sky thinking. Well, it’s definitely nebulous. This phrase refers to stuff that is absolutely never, ever going to happen. So, why people want to spend a lot of time yakking about it is beyond me. I’d much rather stand by the window and stare at the clouds.
Reach out. What for? A bucket? Instead of using this bilious phrase, use something like ‘give them a call’ or ‘ask her’ instead. Then people won’t want to ‘reach out’ for a sturdy mallet to whack you over the head with.
Yikes! Would you look how low that fruit is? Photo: Lumix2004/ Pixabay
Low hanging fruit. What fruit? Where is the fruit? I love fruit. But no. This phrase is all about easy wins, apparently. But I’ve made a decision to keep my breakfast fodder and my business activities totally separate. Muesli. Gap. Meetings. And breathe...
The one I dislike the most from the list is ‘going forward’. It’s not just because it’s pointless (unless you’re Dr Who, you can’t actually ‘go backwards’) it’s also massively overused. A woman being interviewed on the radio the other day seemed to be using it in place of full stops: “We’ll commute less, going forward; hybrid working will be the ‘new normal’, going forward; I’ll continue using jargon, going forward…” Stop it! It’s irksome.
Turning a perfectly adequate word into a tautology
When we’re not ‘going forward’ we’re going backwards. Or we’re asking people for their ‘back story’. I can’t imagine how this tiresome phrase hasn’t made the list. Among some people, it seems to have replaced its remarkably similar sounding, and far less annoying sibling, ‘story’. Why add ‘back’? I don’t get it. Unless you’re a science fiction writer, stories are invariably based on things (real or fictional) that have already happened. Use the word 'history' for reference.
‘Thinking outside the box’ is another funny one. It is used only by people who clearly do not think outside the box. If you are one of those people, pop outside to do a bit of blue sky thinking. Seriously. Take your time out there.
‘Closing the loop’ is new to me; though my ears do try to curl in on themselves when a jargonite uses the equally wince-inducing ‘keep me/ keep you in the loop’. Whatever loop you’re in, get out of it. Stay out of it. Find another way. Use different language.
I can see why the Forbes’ article says using jargon builds mistrust. I don’t trust anyone at all who uses any of these phrases. No, not even you!
Those who aren’t familiar with whatever jargon is used are left alienated by its use. Those who are familiar with it often dislike it. Which begs the question, why does anyone use jargon?
Thanks for reading.