On workplace lingo

So, the lingo at my new job is kind of amazing.  I have worked in technology for more than fifteen years, so you’d think I would not be surprised by the language I hear at a software development shop.  That is so not the case!  I find it highly entertaining, so below are a few terms, phrases, and general oddities of speech and language that I’m hearing on a daily basis.

My boss, the one that walks barefoot, managed to use both the phrase “think outside the bun,” and the term, “quiesces” in the same sentence yesterday.  He was responding to someone else’s question about what we might do if a particular solution to a problem we have didn’t work.  He said, “Well, then, we’ll just have to think outside the bun, and if the application quiesces, it will all be moot, anyway.”  He seems to have a real penchant for sayings.  I know I should come up with a better descriptor than “sayings,” but I just can’t quite classify what he says as analogies, metaphors, similes, or euphemisms.  To my mind, they just don’t fit perfectly in any of those buckets.

Then, today, we had a “lunch and learn.”  For you non-corporate types, that’s just a way of saying everyone has to work through lunch to listen to someone explain something you may or may not already understand because the powers that be cannot justify taking away from your normal work time to do something entirely internal, which is not billable to some client.  This lunch and learn was about how to present the company if you were manning a booth at a big software trade show.  Part of the presentation was to discuss the various “messages” we would want to convey to the innocent people that wander too close to our booth.  We are considered a very high-end software consulting company, and we don’t operate like many other consulting companies do – where some big company calls on the consulting firm, and the consulting firm ships a person or three over to the client’s location to do whatever work they need done.  Instead, we build long term relationships, and we do all our work in-house.  That background is only important for you to have some understanding of what my boss tossed out as his opinion of what our company is – or is not.  He said, “We are not a body shop!  We are project based!  Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor……Mm Hmm”

Some other terms that have been bandied about in the past week and a half that are interesting…

When someone’s availability is in question, you do not say, “Does so-and-so have time to do this work?”  You say, “Does so-and-so have cycles.”  And in my case, I received an email that asked not only if I had cycles, but if I “had enough to prosecute this activity.”

In the information age, it is a common problem to have way too much information lying around.  Often, the information is out of date, or there are seventeen versions of some document, none of which tells the whole picture, and some of which completely contradict each other.  My new company’s way to handle this is to insist that a core value is to only recognize a single version of the truth.  I haven’t yet decided what cult-like comparison I can make on this one, but what it really means is that we are all supposed to put information only in one place, and we should worship that place.  There are actually multiple places when it comes down to it – document storage systems, project status forms on a website, time tracking entries in an accounting system, project plans on a server.  My boss calls these “first-order artifacts,” and I can’t tell you how many times I hear the phrase, “one truth,” or the phrase “single truth” every day.

I have begun jotting down the amazing phrases I hear every day, because I know I would forget most of them otherwise.  All I can say is that I’m thrilled that I will not only be making money working at this job, but I will also be expanding my vocabulary, significantly, it seems, on a daily basis.  More on this as it develops…

3 thoughts on “On workplace lingo

  1. All I can think of is Case Closed “One Truth Prevails!”

    I had a boss for awhile who’s first language was not English. He would continually marr phrases to great bemusement, because we never had the guts to correct him. Most infamous was his penchant for beginning sentences with “From time some time…”

    By the end of our time there, it took some great lip biting to keep from giggling.

    • Haha – I realize it’s probably in poor taste to laugh at these things, but I can’t help it. There’s another one I’ve heard many times… “Remember long back when…” I also once had the pleasure of working with a guy from India who I was very close friends with. His everyday English was pretty good, but not great, and he knew it. He was determined to learn slang phrases, though, and picked up some random book of idioms that took him in a bad direction because they were either really outdated, or never very commonly used, anyway. I’ll never forget the time he said he was afraid the boss might make him swim with the fishes. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Pingback: Copycat communication « east.bay.writer

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