Words & Phrases That Should Be Buried


Words become buzzwords and phrases become catch phrases for several reasons.  Some are catchy and fun to say.  Many provide verbal shortcuts.  Some of the most uncreative administrators and executives I know litter their conversations with buzzwords and catch phrases to the point where conversations become meaningless.
Here are some words that should be placed in front of a verbal firing squad and trigger an end to their vapid existences.
Vetted.  Maybe I don’t like this word because it gained popularity during the Bush administration. Let the veterans and veterinarians hold onto it and keep Vet out of job searches and politics. In fact check out the origin of “vet.” It will make you whinny
Literally. People literally use this word too much. I see and  hear it several times a day on everything from blogs to interviews on NPR.  “Literally” is the new “ironically” which was used correctly maybe 2% of the time.  Really.

Ironically. Actually, I think this word has been quietly tossed into the sea of washed out words and there was no irony in the act.
Best practices. I hate this phrase. It’s used so much that it’s lost its meaning. One of the shallowest, most ineffective  executives I’ve known loved to use the phrase to cover his own ineptness.  “Let’s check out best practices.”  What the phrase means is that we’ll check what others are doing and adopt something, sometimes without even adapting it. Living by following others’  best practices  means you’re not using your own creativity.  You are, simply, stealing.
Takeaway. The verdict still out on this one. It’s short and descriptive, but is in danger of being overused to the point losing its substance. See “best practices.”

Outside the box. People who use this phrase are usually still in the box and will remain remain there.   They should be sealed in and delivered to the Museum of Terminally Boxed-in People.  Here’s the history.

Granular. I was at a conference last during which a really boring presenter used this phrase at least 20 times, partly, I think, to show how hip she was.  I fully expected her to step away from the podium and start singing “Granular, granular, let’s get granular”  to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical.”

Finally, there is a word I know I’m going to come to dislike even though I believe in the concept.  It was refreshing to hear it used by Barack Obama.  It helped get him elected.  But in these rough times we’re all being asked to do things differently and the word we’re going to hear in all these discussions is change.  Most of the time it will be used in the same mindless manner as the other words I’ve cited.
Anyone else have a word or phrase they’d like to see dismembered letter-by-letter?

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31 responses to “Words & Phrases That Should Be Buried

  1. “throw people under the bus” “at the end of the day” and my personal favorite “step(??) outside the box” Blech!

  2. Proactive, essentially, and commercials where they have really quick cut scenes of people screaming like in the “Whassup” Budweiser ads, though not “Whassup”, that’s cool.

  3. You can add “Synergy” to that list…along with “up-sell”, “stakeholders” and “irregardless”. Just plain ugh.

  4. I second “stakeholders”.

    Yuck.

  5. I can’t stand when people say “the bottom line” to introduce their summation or conclusion. Because it’s very rarely the bottom line. The person will continue their analysis or argument, continuously using the phrase until those previous bottom lines are no longer bottom lines. They’re middle lines.

  6. I just hate the phrase “tease out” used as in this headline “Assistant secretaries, agency heads will tease out Obama lands policies”. I hope it dies quickly and quietly.

  7. Excellent additions, everyone. Keep them coming. Maybe I’ll do another post with all the additions and a few more I’ve found.

  8. “I want to piggyback off that” translation: I don’t have an original idea myself, so I’ll repeat what you said.

  9. At the end of the day, reimagining a new business ecosystem means being in pole position, as per your instructions.

  10. “Quote un-Quote” was that already said?

  11. Jason,
    A good addition. Thanks!

  12. I spent several soul-stealing years of my life in management of a company – these are the phrases that magically appeared during meetings and became daily cringe-inducers from then on. It almost seemed like there was a competition to be the first guy to use a new hot phrase before anyone else in a meeting had a chance to.

    To me, these phrase always made the guy saying them seem like a poser. I made sure never to say any of them, but as it becomes part of the office culture, it can be hard to survive without using catchphrases….here’s my list:

    “Going Forward”, I’d like to……

    What was your “Takeaway” from the meeting yesterday?

    We need to spend some time “Flushing out” the design…. (used incorrectly instead of Fleshing out)

    This process is all about “Team Building”…

    We are developing a new “SKU” with mass-market appeal…. (Using Sku, as in sku number, to replace the word “product”, and thus sound like you are a real business insider.

    Also the President of the company used the classic flub “Irregardless” at least 3 times a week.

    I’m sure there are a hundred more, but these are some of the worst to me.

  13. Oh and “Vet, vetted, vetting” the absolute worst new poser buzz word of the last few years.

  14. another one that started up a few years ago and is still going strong – sometimes you’ll get this one twice in one conversation –

    Iteration/iterative

    usage example – We are taking an iterative approach regarding interface improvements on this particular title. Our takeaway from the focus groups is that the average user has a low tolerance for sweeping changes to an existing interface – we need to keep the learning curve from getting too steep with each new iteration of the sku.

  15. When at a meeting and a new topic comes up between 2 people that is taking focus away from the main topic –

    Let’s finish up on that “offline”

  16. The data we got from them retailer really doesn’t “Jive” with what our market research tells us.

    instead of the correct “Jibe”

  17. Here’s one which always pointed at a deeper problem – how management often sees humans as cattle and often prefers quantity to quality – especially during a hiring spree.

    Let HR know….we need to “Fill Seats”.

    PS-Let me know if you’re getting tired these entries and I’ll stop…..

  18. GRANULAR !!! I hear that one so much I want to pour table salt over the guy using it !!!!

  19. Pingback: More Words & Phrases I’d Like to See Dead « The Higher Ed Marketing Blog

  20. I think you are being a little anal here. All of these words when used appropriately are perfectly fine.

    I always hate when people decide to become the word police. It must make you feel so good and warm inside huh?

    • I agree with you Phil. And, since you caught some criticism for using the word “anal” maybe the appropriate word is pedantic.
      Is that ironic?

  21. “Let’s take it to the next level.”

  22. Did Phil just use the word “anal?” Really?

  23. The worst: “leverage” as a verb.

    e.g., Let’s take it to the next level by leveraging our human resources…

  24. How about “growth edges”? Why is it so wrong to have a weakness?

  25. “In order to…”, interface as a verb, “staycation,” and “daycation.” Uggh. I’m getting a headache just thinking about them.

  26. uptick (makes me upchuck)

  27. The lead story on google news today is one in which CNN “vets” the candidates’ claims from last night’s debate.

    Just . . . please make it stop, CNN.

  28. Vetting and Kudos! Hate these over used stupid words

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