We’re taught many things at school that are meant to prepare us for the world of work, but at no point do I remember being told what EOP stands for. Nor did any of my teachers brief me on how best to go about being onboarded, or explain what it means when a future boss asks me to ‘small chunk’ a project. With a GCSE in Advanced Douchebag I might be a CEO by now.
But aside from everyone hating you, there are many good reasons that corporate email speak is suboptimal. I mean, bad. It alienates newcomers or anyone who doesn’t speak fluent bollocks, and risks jeopardising work because half your staff are too embarrassed to admit they’ve no idea what you just said.
Most office jargon is vague, too, or used to mean different things by different people, and the amount of time spent deciphering or laughing at your corporate code is always going to be more than it would have taken to write it out using proper words in the first place.
Raising the topic on Twitter (sorry, floating it) unleashed a torrent (sorry ‘cascade’) of rage (sorry, ‘grey sky thinking’). Here are the worst offenders…
The worst of the worst of the worst, ‘action’ used as a verb is unacceptable because it is a whole four letters longer than the perfectly effective, far less offensive word it replaces: do. As such, putting it in sentences is reckless and can trigger unnecessary rage. For example:
‘Can you do this please?’ ‘Why yes, certainly.’
‘Can you action this please?’ ‘SHUT UP OR I’LL ACTION YOUR FACE.’
‘EOP’ and its ugly cousins ‘EOB’ and ‘COP’
Means: ‘anywhere between 5:30pm and midnight, depending on your work ethic’
The main problem with this one is that nobody can agree on a format. Is it end of play, end of day, close of play, close of business or one of millions of other mystical acronyms for hometime? Actually no, the MAIN problem with this one is that it took me a week to find out I didn’t work with a finickity Scandinavian named Eop.
A common source of irritation at corporate email blah is people using whole new, imaginary words in the place of a perfectly good word that already exists. Enter: ‘learnings’. Things wot we have learnt. I can see the pithy appeal of just popping an ‘s’ on the end of any verb to make it a noun, but my discoverings show many gratings from the doings of such.
Means: ‘send someone an email’, or just ‘talk to them using words’.
If this one seems slightly less odious than the others, it’s only because it’s impossible to hear without The Four Tops playing merrily on a loop in your head for an hour afterwards. Without the jolly soundtrack, it conjures up images of clammy-palmed colleagues grasping at you from some sort of zombie underworld – which means you’re obliged to break off one of the reaching limbs to clobber them round the head with.
Means: ‘pass round’
I’d never even heard of ‘cascade’ until Twitter told me about it, but now I want it dead. Apparently it refers to memos from on high being sent (or trickled) down to all the underlings – for them to catch in a pail and bottle to sell at market, presumably.
Means: ‘from now on’, or ‘the way time trudges stubbornly on in one inevitable direction despite Dr. Emmett Brown’s best efforts’
As opposed to going back and changing the past, you mean? Yep. Can do.
Means: ‘having a meeting’. Seating irrelevant.
A cosy euphemism for meetings that I will only stop hating when I turn up to one to discover scones on a gingham table cloth, a good book and a cat to stroke.
Means: ‘check you’re not ruining everything, you talentless oaf’
Don’t make work sound like sports. Sports are tiring, and half of us hate them. Call it ‘hovering in front of your oven’ and I might be a little more engaged.
Means: ‘revisit’ or ‘perform a complex manoeuvre round a May pole’
The trouble with using barn dance analogies in the office is that they just serve to remind us we’re not, in fact, having a giddy time at a lovely barn dance, but sitting in an overheated conference room explaining to Brian from Acounts why the idea he rejected four hours ago has turned out to be the only idea that will work. Dosey-doe your way out of that one, Brian.
‘Get your ducks in a row’
Means: ‘line up some stuff and shoot it’
The issue here isn’t so much the weird conflict of fun fairground and brutal animal slaughter imagery (make a killing on this project and win a cuddly toy!), as the fact that when you think about it, getting one’s ducks in a row basically IS work. Organising different elements in order to achieve things isn’t a special task, it’s what we do all ruddy day long. Otherwise we’d all be sitting around doodling on our arms until hometime and nobody would ever get paid.
Means: ‘make a change to your work so enormous and demanding that it feels like being yoinked quite hard on the nipple’
They say ‘tweak’, you hear ‘RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN, MORON’. One of the most flagrantly deceitful office requests, along with ‘a tiny favour’ and ‘this should only take a few minutes’.
Means: ‘put a date in a diary’
Easy to remember, because it sounds similar to the medical complaint you’ll use as an excuse to get out of that meeting in a week’s time.
Means: ‘person duped into being in charge of things because it sounds vaguely like you might get a cape and sword’
You don’t get a cape or sword.
‘Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes’
Means: you probably ought to just quit your job now.
Here you go: Guardian jobs