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Let’s speak English, shall we?

I watched Boris Johnson in the commons yesterday – I know how to enjoy my time off – in the middle of his announcements he came out with a phrase that made me want to launch myself at the TV…..“Now’s the time to double down”.


Well there are two definitions according to the Collins English dictionary (actual dictionary not my own)

  1. pontoon

to double one’s original stake after having looked at one’s cards and before receiving     an additional card


The people who are falling over themselves to ‘double down’ clearly aren’t playing pontoon so that leaves us with definition number two, which begs the question, were you only half arsed in your commitment before? Why are now deciding ‘reinforce your commitment to a venture in spite of risk’? Was it not worth the effort before? Please explain because I don’t understand why everyone seems to be saying it? Do you know what you sound like?

This is just one of a number of ‘management phrases’ that irritates the hell out of me it’s up there with ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘let’s touch base’ and ‘moving forward’. I admit, I have used some of these phrases and not in an ironic way. I never thought I’d be a manager that would use wanky sayings but they infiltrate our vocabulary through osmosis or brain washing, I’m not sure which, and before you know it you’re ‘doubling down, picking low hanging fruit and thinking outside the box’ to your heart’s content. 

I asked my friend and former colleague Olly to remind me of some other ‘classics’ that we’ve both used and now cringe about, there were lots. I asked for suggestions on social media and my God did people provide. One told me how a former boss had said they’d like to ‘drop some de-scaler into her think tank’ – knowing Gill I can picture her face and hear her response. Another belter ‘I don’t want to boil the ocean on a point”, okay, don’t.  There were lots that came up repeatedly, I’m going to try and get through the rest of this post without swearing – or should that be I’ll double down on my efforts not to swear?…..

Think Outside the box….

Guilty as charged. I’ve spent many an hour telling journalists to stop using jargon in their radio copy – “If it’s not something you’d say to your friends, then there’s no place for it on the radio” – to then sit in an ideas meeting 10 minutes later asking them to ‘think outside the box’ (I know). If I’ve ever asked you to do this, I’m sorry. If it’s any consolation I have had a voice inside my head screaming ‘what are you saying?’.

I know I’ve never asked my friends to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to holidays, nights out, presents or anything, no one has, ever. I’d expect my friends to mercilessly rip the piss out of me for saying it and they would. So why do we think its effective management speak? Why not just ask for different ideas? It’s the same thing.

Grow Your Own Wood….

When this was first said out loud in a serious meeting, I laughed like a 14-year-old schoolgirl. I think everyone in the room did, I could not have said it out loud without laughing. Immature? Maybe. It’s an idea I like, it’s about making sure there’s people in the business ready to take on senior roles etc. Fine, good philosophy but do we really need to use a phrase that sounds like you’re instructing to people to get an erection?

Look Under the bonnet…

And kick the tyres. Excuse me? Last time I checked I was in a management meeting discussing the shape of the business not trying to buy a used car. 

Blue Sky Thinking….

Why am I being forced to think about what I’d want in a ‘eutopia, blue sky, sunny day’ scenario when we’re obviously in this meeting because the sky is grey, it’s pissing down and there’s no money????? We’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Touch base….

I just think it sounds really pervy for some reason, it makes me feel really uncomfortable. How about let’s talk.

I’ll run that up the flagpole and see who salutes…

No one will salute, unless you are in the armed forces.

I need you to action this….

I’m sorry to anyone I’ve asked to action something, I meant ‘I need you to do this’ – it was a moment of weakness and moving forward I’ll do better.

Moving Forward….

Again, I’m sorry.

Holistic Approach…

What does it mean? Apparently looking at the bigger picture (don’t even get me started on the bigger picture).

Reach Out….

The only people who should be reaching out are the Four Tops. 

Ducks in a row….

Are we at a church fete about to watch a duck race?

Low Hanging Fruit….

I haven’t signed up to pick for Britain.

Personal growth/personal growth plan…

Sounds like you’re talking about pubic hair and asking for a waxing schedule.

Let’s put some corn down and see if any chickens fancy a peck…

Or you know, we could just ask.

Where are you on your mood ladder?….

Jumping off it mate

Let’s discuss this offline…

Do you mean talk after the meeting?

I’ve got a window in my diary…

Lucky you, mine only has pages.

End of play….

Play? Is this playtime? If it is, it’s very different to being a kid, end of play meant a bell a ringing or my mum shouting me for bath time.

Negative Growth….

Contradiction in terms, makes no sense, just say ‘we’re fucked’.



Hit the ground running….

Don’t want to waste any time. 

Have you checked that will fly?….

Are we launching aircraft?

There’s no such thing as lose – it’s a win/learn game?

There is such thing as lose, I also didn’t realise we were playing frigging monopoly

Jump on a call…

We don’t jump on calls; we answer them or ring someone.

Flagging this up….

I’m telling you about it.

I’ll ask the question…


The list is endless

My problem with these phrases is that they don’t actually add anything and they don’t hide bad news.  It’s almost as though we think saying this shit makes us sound insightful, profound, professional or (dare I say it) like an adult, when in fact we sound like the love children of David Brent and Gordon Gekko, all the while our colleagues are probably thinking ‘moron’. I feel like we’re all listening to that voice in our heads saying ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ so to make up for it we’re trying to assert some authority by talking utter crap. Like someone will find out we’re winging it if we don’t say things like ‘double down’, ‘touch base’, ‘blue sky thinking’ ‘let’s not boil the ocean’ – I have to stop before I need to purge myself, scream into a pillow or cut my own tongue out.

Why are we incapable of just saying what we mean? Why do we need to fill meetings with sayings that mean nothing?  Why can’t we just speak English? It’s worked well for long enough so let’s stop desperately filling silences with pointless sayings in a bid to sound managerial. 

We should stick to this rule, if you wouldn’t say it to your friends, don’t say it at all. Don’t subject your poor colleagues who have no choice but to spend time with you to it, it’s really cruel. It isn’t going to make them respect you more, if anything it’ll do the opposite. Remember no-one took David Brent seriously.

And while we’re at it, it’s meeting not a ‘huddle’ and it is definitely not a ‘cuddle’.

Wow only six swear words….I did really well!

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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