Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Avoid cliches like the plague
Business cliches, especially. Plus, 7 other things worth knowing today.
We’ve had a few heavy days in a row, so let’s do something lighter.
Every generation gets its own clichés.
For our grandparents and parents, it was things like "run it up the flagpole" and "think outside the box." But in the last few years, it feels like we've added an entire new lexicon of hackneyed clichés to our business language.
Some of them started as fresh new phrases—but they were adapted and copied and ripped off until they became so commonplace as to be meaningless.
So, I put the word out and asked entrepreneurs and other business types for the ones that make them cringe the most--and got more than 100 great examples. Actually, I’ll get us started: “E-meet,” as in someone saying, “It’s nice to e-meet you” over Zoom or email.
In 2023, we all “know” people that we've never met in person. Often, we work with folks that we've never been in the same area code with. So I think we can just drop the "e" part.
But that’s just my take. Here are 17 more of the worst offenders:
1. Thought leader
"I don't know any high-level person anywhere who isn't described as a 'thought-leader.' Just having thoughts doesn't make you a thought leader."
--Amanda Ponzar, chief marketing officer at Community Health Charities
"People use this term to talk about their stepped-up game or their freelance work ('side hustle'). Why can't they just say that? Or how about, 'I am learning a new field...in addition to my full-time position'?"
--Jeffrey Soto, managing content editor, Katie Wagner Social Media
3. Come to Jesus
"'We need to have a come to Jesus meeting with him.' Really? It's that intense?"
--Chris White, CEO of Shinesty
"I get it. Seth Godin's got this book called Tribes. And all of his books are amazing. But now, like any word that turns into jargon, it's started to lose its meaning."
--Rachel Jordan, founder of 929 Marketing
5. Take it offline
"It means ‘let's talk about this after.’ I think people should just say that!"
--RaShea Drake, B2B Analyst, Verizon Business
"I'm from Africa, and every now and then you get a tech website reporting on how a new startup is 'disrupting' a particular industry in Africa. Funny thing is, most of these companies just want to keep raising rounds till their companies are no more."
--Daniel Bamigboye, Firebrick Digital
"Using 'rockstar' to describe a tech professional drives me crazy. Are sunglasses mandatory? Do they throw their PC through the window before signing autographs?"
--Richard Howe, UX Designer, Colour Rich
"He/she is a rockstar-ninja (fill in the blank). I don't want to hire rockstars. They are egotistical and spoiled. As far as ninjas, I am not looking for silent employees. I want great communicators."
--Sarah Johnson, public relations specialist, Fit Small Business
"People use it to mean the person is unavailable or difficult to reach. But it doesn't mean that. It's about expenses you have to pay yourself."
--Gary Romano, president and CEO, Civitas Strategies
10. Low hanging fruit
"I personally hate this term. It undervalues the effort behind a task and makes whoever is working on it not give their best (since it's just low hanging fruit and should be easy). Every job deserves your best effort."
--Jay Labelle, owner of The Cover Guy
11. Swim lane
"I personally dislike the concept of the 'swim lane.' It's reductive, and undermines a sense of shared responsibility within the organization. Nothing interesting would ever happen if everyone just stuck to their lanes."
--Erin Fisher, Dotted Line Communications
"The marketing phrase that companies use that drives me the most crazy is best-in-class. As soon as I hear it, I assume the exact opposite."
--Leslie Osman, vice-president of marketing and communication at Park Bank
13. Girl Boss
"I love that fellow females are excited about their power in the workplace, but enough with the #GirlBoss already—we don't hear men going around saying they're a Boy Boss now, do we?"
--Amanda Duff, founder, Duff PR
14. Open the kimono
"In other business environments, this may sound somewhat harmless. However, at Adam & Eve, this phrase takes on a whole new meaning and even makes us feel a bit uncomfortable."
--David Keegan, general manager of Adam & Eve Franchise Corp.
"'Let's regroup': Nobody wants to deal with this right now, so let's delay the pain and hope it goes away."
--Brooke Niemiec, chief marketing officer, Elicit
16. Change agent
"I certainly don't mind people using this expression when they're talking about Martin Luther King Jr., but when it's consistently applied to eighth-tier talents who once gave a TED Talk, it's annoying."
--Shlomo Z. Bregman, founder, Bregman Success
"This line from a Saturday Night Live skit has now made it into the boardroom. It's annoying as hell from a mature executive. So very sorry someone said something that disagreed with you!"
--Jonathan Kowit, chief marketing officer, Centricity
What do you think? Disagree with some of these, or have some others you can't believe we didn't include? Let us know in the comments.
Another survey :)
I was looking at the daily newsletter the other day. I’m proud of it, but I thought: Gosh, this is a long email. And with a lot of new subscribers, I wonder if people mostly read the top feature or the “7 other things” or both. What do you think?
7 other things worth knowing today
I liked this survey yesterday from the WSJ suggesting that the percentage of Americans who say patriotism, religion, having children, and other traditional values has fallen sharply. So I wanted to share this counterpoint. The argument is that they're comparing two surveys, and the methodology of the old one (via phone) likely overstated answers compared to the newer one (Internet). Basically there's a swath of people who won't tell a live person on the phone, even a stranger, that they aren't patriotic (1998), but they will check that box on a more anonymous online survey (2023). (WSJ, Patrick Ruffini)
A middle school classmate and basketball teammate of the person who killed six people in a Nashville school shooting said she heard from Audrey Hale for the first time in years via Instagram that morning, and that Hale had warned she would take her own life that day (but apparently did not mention hurting anyone else). Former classmate Averianna Patton said she called the suicide hotline and local police within minutes after the message, but it was already too late. (NewsChannel5)
At least 39 migrants from Central and South America died after a fire broke out late on Monday at a migrant detention center in the Mexican northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, apparently caused by a protest over deportations, officials said on Tuesday. Authorities believed the blaze broke out as some migrants set fire to mattresses in protest after discovering they would be deported. (Yahoo News)
Bending to a wave of mass protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed his contentious judicial overhaul plan Monday and said he wanted 'to avoid civil war' by making time to seek a compromise with political opponents. The announcement appeared to calm some of the tensions that have fueled three tumultuous months of unrest. But it failed to address the underlying issues that have polarized the nation, and the antigovernmental protest movement vowed to intensify its efforts. (Daily Mail)
A Maryland appellate court has reinstated the conviction of Adnan Syed, the man who spent over two decades behind bars for the 1999 killing of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and whose murder case was featured in the landmark podcast “Serial.” The appellate court said the lower court had violated the rights of the victim’s brother, Young Lee, to attend a key hearing. (CNN)
FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried is facing still more criminal charges. The government alleges he paid tens of millions of dollars worth of bribes to at least one Chinese government official, in a new indictment Tuesday. (CNBC)
Five New York City boys, aged 11 and 12, who went exploring in a storm drain on Staten Island wound up getting lost in the underground labyrinth. They were able to call 911; firefighters ultimately had them scream as loud as they could so rescuers could find them. (The FDNY posted the audio on Twitter.) (NY1)