Recycled: Business jargon that needs to retire

This story first ran in June, but it got a great response, so we’re running it again here:

Here’s the long and short of it: BizSense has been compiling a list over the last few weeks of overused clichés from the business world – those terms or phrases used so often we don’t even question whether their definition is appropriate for that situation.

The motivation behind this was partly because it makes us cringe when we hear them and chuckle because we all use them. Using clichés are like picking your nose; everyone does it – just some more grossly than others.

We tried to narrow the list down to 10 in no particular order in hopes that they’ll be retired from use. Admitting you have a problem is always the first step to recovery.

Now if you realize as you’re reading this that you are guilty of using some of these clichés, don’t feel bad. A cliché isn’t a cliché unless everyone says it. Going a day without dropping a cliché is so difficult, it may even be next to impossible to get through writing this brief story without one showing up. We’ll try to catch them when they occur.

Now let’s get down to business. See – it’s not that easy.

1. Game changer We don’t want to kill anyone’s entrepreneurial spirit – but not every new product or service or company is a game changer just because it’s new. The iPhone, at the end of the day (cliché alert!), is still a cell phone. The first cell phone was a game changer. And does it bother anyone else that everything Steve Jobs does is labeled a game changer? Even wearing a black turtle everyday of his life has become a cliché.

2. Painted with that brush Don’t you hate when someone tells you they don’t want to be “painted with that brush.” Don’t you just want to actually douse them with paint when they say that?

3. Win-win – No matter how much you sugarcoat a deal, one party wins and one party loses. Someone spends money and someone receives money. There is always a winner and a loser. Some people are just bigger losers than others.

4. When the rubber meets the road – One free drink for anyone who can define this cliché and give us a situation when it’s appropriate to use it. If you can’t seem to stop using this phrase, watching this video is an effective treatment.

5. Perfect storm – That movie with George Clooney dying on a fishing boat with Marky Mark is partly to blame for this cliché’s popularity, which was based on a book of the same name by Sebastian Junger. Since then it has been used to describe any mundane coincidence. Can we toss this one overboard already?

6. Personal brand You’re nobody these days unless you are building your personal brand. Here’s the ultimate personal branding question: Have you trademarked your name yet? That’s taking it the next level (cliché alert!)

7. Share the same values You hear this one a lot when companies merge. Just come out and admit the common value is usually the desire to make more money. That’s why businesses exist. Just come out and say there was a financial benefit for one or both parties.

8. Low hanging fruit –This often has a negative connotation because it’s viewed as taking the easy way out. But isn’t going after the most readily available means of sustenance just called survival? Getting the stuff higher up in the tree is just icing on the cake (cliché alert!). How come no one goes after the high-hanging fruit? Lazy bums.

9. Core competencies – We dream of a day when a corporate employee manual will include at the top of its list of core competencies a mandate to never use the term “core competencies” again. In its place I suggest saying “stuff we do well.” It’s particularly rough on the ears when paired with a “leverage”, as in, “Let’s schedule a meeting to discuss how we can leverage our core competencies.”

10. Time to walk the walk – This cliché should be retired by law in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Honorable mention (many sent in by loyal RBS readers).

Circle back with me

Sphere of influence

Monetization

Out-of-pocket

A good problem to have

Price point

Leverage your creative capital

Skin in the game

Feel free to add more in the comments below.

This story first ran in June, but it got a great response, so we’re running it again here:

Here’s the long and short of it: BizSense has been compiling a list over the last few weeks of overused clichés from the business world – those terms or phrases used so often we don’t even question whether their definition is appropriate for that situation.

The motivation behind this was partly because it makes us cringe when we hear them and chuckle because we all use them. Using clichés are like picking your nose; everyone does it – just some more grossly than others.

We tried to narrow the list down to 10 in no particular order in hopes that they’ll be retired from use. Admitting you have a problem is always the first step to recovery.

Now if you realize as you’re reading this that you are guilty of using some of these clichés, don’t feel bad. A cliché isn’t a cliché unless everyone says it. Going a day without dropping a cliché is so difficult, it may even be next to impossible to get through writing this brief story without one showing up. We’ll try to catch them when they occur.

Now let’s get down to business. See – it’s not that easy.

1. Game changer We don’t want to kill anyone’s entrepreneurial spirit – but not every new product or service or company is a game changer just because it’s new. The iPhone, at the end of the day (cliché alert!), is still a cell phone. The first cell phone was a game changer. And does it bother anyone else that everything Steve Jobs does is labeled a game changer? Even wearing a black turtle everyday of his life has become a cliché.

2. Painted with that brush Don’t you hate when someone tells you they don’t want to be “painted with that brush.” Don’t you just want to actually douse them with paint when they say that?

3. Win-win – No matter how much you sugarcoat a deal, one party wins and one party loses. Someone spends money and someone receives money. There is always a winner and a loser. Some people are just bigger losers than others.

4. When the rubber meets the road – One free drink for anyone who can define this cliché and give us a situation when it’s appropriate to use it. If you can’t seem to stop using this phrase, watching this video is an effective treatment.

5. Perfect storm – That movie with George Clooney dying on a fishing boat with Marky Mark is partly to blame for this cliché’s popularity, which was based on a book of the same name by Sebastian Junger. Since then it has been used to describe any mundane coincidence. Can we toss this one overboard already?

6. Personal brand You’re nobody these days unless you are building your personal brand. Here’s the ultimate personal branding question: Have you trademarked your name yet? That’s taking it the next level (cliché alert!)

7. Share the same values You hear this one a lot when companies merge. Just come out and admit the common value is usually the desire to make more money. That’s why businesses exist. Just come out and say there was a financial benefit for one or both parties.

8. Low hanging fruit –This often has a negative connotation because it’s viewed as taking the easy way out. But isn’t going after the most readily available means of sustenance just called survival? Getting the stuff higher up in the tree is just icing on the cake (cliché alert!). How come no one goes after the high-hanging fruit? Lazy bums.

9. Core competencies – We dream of a day when a corporate employee manual will include at the top of its list of core competencies a mandate to never use the term “core competencies” again. In its place I suggest saying “stuff we do well.” It’s particularly rough on the ears when paired with a “leverage”, as in, “Let’s schedule a meeting to discuss how we can leverage our core competencies.”

10. Time to walk the walk – This cliché should be retired by law in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Honorable mention (many sent in by loyal RBS readers).

Circle back with me

Sphere of influence

Monetization

Out-of-pocket

A good problem to have

Price point

Leverage your creative capital

Skin in the game

Feel free to add more in the comments below.

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Keith West
Keith West
12 years ago

OK, I get it, funny, tongue in cheek etc… However, poor example on “game changer”. At the end of the day the iPhone isn’t a cell phone, it’s a computer that people carry around that just happens to let you talk on it. People use the things in many different ways. My kids are convinced that it’s a game machine with an annoying bug that forces them to hand it over when it rings. I use it mostly to keep up with news, remind me of appointments, and tell me how to get to them. The iPhone isn’t a cliche,… Read more »

Brick Smith
Brick Smith
12 years ago

“Would you mind reaching out?” Say what you mean. Would you like for me to call the other party and you can pick 1.) arrange an introduction 2.) soothe over some problem 3.) explain your incompetence

Bill Anderson
Bill Anderson
12 years ago

“No-Brainer” would be at the top of my list!

Jessica
Jessica
12 years ago

“Drill down”
“Deliverables”
“Think outside of the box”
“Synergy/synergestic”

ng.morris
ng.morris
12 years ago

Maybe this is one that should be brought out of retirement: “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game”. Most today don’t remember it. From the day when character and ethics meant something.

Mike Welch
Mike Welch
12 years ago

it is time “at the end of the day” came to its end of days.

Lewis King
Lewis King
12 years ago

Add: transparency and clarity; also, at the end of the day.

Irony
Irony
12 years ago

Great article! You don’t if I borrow some of these do you??

Ben English
Ben English
12 years ago

I disagree with your perspective on “win-win.” Having provided legal representation to entrepreneurial businesses for over 20 years, I strongly believe that the only business partnerships which are likely to succeed are those which are “win-win.” For example, an investor puts money in an early-stage company to help it develop and market its products. The company gets the resources it needs to grow its business. The investor gets the opportunity for a good return on investment. If the business succeeds (clearly the intent), both parties benefit. If the business fails, both parties lose. If the parties enter into the partnership… Read more »

Tom Kranz
Tom Kranz
12 years ago

There’s too many!….Blocking and tackling, think outside the box, agree to disagree, strike while the iron is hot, let’s whiteboard this thing, value-add….once knew a guy who played “Dongo” with his colleagues during their boss Don’s weekly call, using his favorite clichés in the boxes of their bingo-like cards. Thanks for the humor this morning RBS!

Scott
Scott
12 years ago

I agree with all of the above, and contibute a couple

“ping”
“collaborative”

Evan
Evan
12 years ago

Cradle to Grave.

Sara
Sara
12 years ago

“in these economic times” <– Makes we want to scream!!!

Sara
Sara
12 years ago

oh, and anything involving “tweets” or that word itself.

Carol A
Carol A
12 years ago

blah, blah, blah, THAT BEING SAID, blah blah blah
Do you think interjecting that phase makes you sound intelligent?
Quite the contrary

jack
jack
12 years ago

Hi: my name is …. and you have reached my voice mail. I am either on the phone or away from my desk………….

Whoever thought of this message should be sentenced to the depths! I want to leave my message and get off the phone. Long preambles drive me up the wall!

John Anderson
John Anderson
12 years ago

Please add: “It is what it is.” Thanks for an enjoyable article.

M.Vick
M.Vick
12 years ago

the worst of the bunch- “the new normal”

Anne Margaret
Anne Margaret
12 years ago

“move the cheese”
“ground truthing”
“run it up the flag pole”

Tom Kranz
Tom Kranz
12 years ago

I kinda agree with Mr. English…every time I find something at a bargain price I lose my money but feel the win side because I got a great deal.

David Boelzner
David Boelzner
12 years ago

I have to agree with Mr. English’s dissent regarding your dicussion of win-win, although I certainly think it is overused. Successful business relations really have to involve benefits for both sides or they will eventually fail. In law we have a mirror image regarding settlements: lose-lose: if both sides feel like they’ve had to give up something, it’s probably a fair settlement. I don’t know whether it has afflicted the business world, but in law we are plagued with the use of “as such” to mean “therefore” — very annoying because it is unnecessary (“therefore” has other synonyms) and it… Read more »

Chuck
Chuck
12 years ago

Bandwidth. grrrrr…….

Bryan
Bryan
12 years ago

My personal peeve is “myself.” Myself is not a drop in replacement for me in every sentence, no matter how many times mommy yelled at you for saying “Me and Bobby went to the park.”

Linda Heath
Linda Heath
12 years ago

The reason I disagree with “win-win” being on the list is that your definition presumes money is the only thing of value. You seem to agree with what my Dad told me: “Honey, there are two parts to any business transaction: Money and Experience. Always make sure you get the money and the other person gets the experience.” But I believe we are in the mess we are in (do I dare say “in these economic times” 🙂 ) because we have forgotten the intrinsic value of character, integrity, my word is my bond, doing what I said I would… Read more »

Tom Kranz
Tom Kranz
12 years ago

Bryan, thank you, thank you, thank you for the myself comment. I’ve been beating that drum for ~5 years. I first noticed it in MN and thought it to be local dialect, but it has spread everywhere. I’m hard pressed to think of a time to appropriately use myself. While we’re on it, one never waits ON someone, unless of course they’re a server, and shouldn’t the yellow highway sign say “Drive Slow…ly.” Irregardless (I called someone on this onetime and she casually pulled her dictionary out and showed me that it was defined as “the redundant of regardless”!), all… Read more »

james
james
12 years ago

A great Southern tradition is “fixin’ to.” Can’t leave that one out.

Craig
Craig
12 years ago

CAN’T WE JUST DO AWAY WITH POWERPOINT….., PERIOD!

Terry Weisenberger
Terry Weisenberger
12 years ago

I totally agree with win-win being acceptable, even necessary, in describing transactions. In a fair (noncoercive) transaction, either party is capable of walking away unless he/she feels that there is a benefit in transacting. One person feels the car, house, vacation, steak, etc. is more valued than the means needed to acquire it–cash, credit, barter, etc. The provider of the good values the medium of exchange more than the good currently possessed. Both parties win. Therefore win-win. I also cringe at the continued misuse of “myself.” Myself is not properly used as a replacement for the subject. “Bob and myself… Read more »

Arch Wallace
Arch Wallace
12 years ago

You didn’t include the most bothersome of all: “I love him to death…” This phrase is always followed by an insult or disparaging comment. As in “I love her to death, but all she does is complain.” Or, ” I love him to death, but he butt-kisses the boss more than anyone.” If you are going to talk bad about someone at work, just do it. I mean, take the bull by the horns for Chrissake and think outside the box enough to give it to them straight-you know where your bread is buttered and you don’t want your thoughts… Read more »

KDA
KDA
12 years ago

” best practices”
Naw, let’s all do the crappiest job we can.

KDA
KDA
12 years ago

Let’s not forgot all the “data points” that can be found in a ” white paper”

admin
admin
12 years ago

I don’t like, “Play in that space.” We are not kids at a jungle gym. This is not recess.

M. Vick
M. Vick
12 years ago

and don’t forget the anxiety provoking “boil the ocean” (read impossible)

Jay Kepley
Jay Kepley
12 years ago

I’m not sure I agree with this article. These phrases are generally metaphors. They are used for a reason, namely, that they communicate a concept efficiently and sometimes powerfully. All storytellers have used similar devises since the beginning of story telling. Why shouldn’t the business world be able to do so too? I believe the issue is not that these types of phrases should be excommunicated, but that they should be used properly and not overused. I agree with Ben about “win/win.” It conveys very efficiently the economic principle pareto optimality (two parties can be made better off in a… Read more »

Martha Steger
Martha Steger
12 years ago

“Wake-up call” should be put to sleep.

Katrina VanHuss
Katrina VanHuss
12 years ago

“Metrics” instead of “measurements.” “Utilize” instead of “use.” And for me the worst, used in business and life in general: “I’m well,” in response to “How are you?” Right or wrong, that just sounds weird. “I’m great! I’m good. I’m a pathetic piece of human flotsam!” Anything but the over-thought, let-me-prove-I went-to-English-class – “I’m well.”

Casey Quinlan
Casey Quinlan
12 years ago

Great list, all in deep need of a bullet to the head…except for win-win. I agree it’s overused, but the result that it speaks of is the best goal for all business, isn’t it?

Seller: win. Buyer: win. Everybody walks away feeling that they got what they came to the dance to get.

Does “everybody wins” work better for you? That might be an acceptable replacement if win-win has reached the fingernails-on-blackboard point 😉

Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden
12 years ago

Ben is right – Win/Win is good, and transactions only happen (apart from government mandated purchases) when both parties benefit. My personal pet peeve is the use of “impact” as a verb, or “impactful” as an adjective. We can’t have everything smashing into everything else. As a legal writer, I despise the phrase “In the event that…..” It’s the same as “if” Must be a holdover from when lawyers were paid by the word, rather than by the hour. So, at the end of the day, if your core competency is communication, and you play in the word space then… Read more »

Jerry Samford
Jerry Samford
12 years ago

I understand your angst about your No. 4 – “When the rubber meets the road.” The actual expression started out as “WHERE” the rubber meets the road – a metaphor for that very precise spot where a tire and a road meet – where the work of moving a car gets done, and so metaphorically, where all the work gets done.

Kristine
Kristine
12 years ago

“Soup to nuts” drives me crazy!

Keith
Keith
12 years ago

“Stop being anal”, “I don’t want to be anal about this but..”, “She’s so anal”, “I have an anal boss”…

I don’t want to be an anus about the anal thing, but please give it a rest.

Mariane
Mariane
12 years ago

The ROI of SEO

Scott B
Scott B
12 years ago

“We’re going to have to let you go.”

“Don’t make me call security.”

“Step back from that ledge, you have so much to live for.”

Biff Pusey
Biff Pusey
12 years ago

Ben, you’re right.

Tom, you made me laugh out loud.

I’m going with cliche bingo in all meeting from here on out. No, wait, that was a cliche too! Argh….

Terrie
Terrie
12 years ago

shovel ready

I am starting to think of options for the usage of said shovel

Terry Weisenberger
Terry Weisenberger
12 years ago

Anal does seem to convey a less than optimal mental image, but that is partly because it is only part of the expression. It originally referred to some one who was an “anal retentive.” That is, someone who had a painful experience in potty training such that it led to the person being–to put it another way–a “tight ass.” (I believe that word can now be used in proper discourse due to its recent public utterance by the president.) One of my favorite expressions delivered by a dearly departed friend was along the lines of, “That guy is so anal… Read more »

Eddie
Eddie
12 years ago

900 lb gorilla
although we may need him to gather that low hanging fruit

will
will
12 years ago

It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Oh, of course, because they’re similar in size, shape, and both are healthy fruits?

Franklin
Franklin
12 years ago

“It is what it is”…sounds like something Popeye would say.

Miki
Miki
11 years ago

I could do without hearing “it is what it is” ever again