26 killer jargon words for writing sassier copy

May. 13th, 2009

JargonJargon is an inescapable part of business culture. And while some words and phrases make us cringe and plug our ears from the buzzword-overload--as we've previously noted-- there are nevertheless times when the right bit of jargon is the perfect cure for a business' communicative efforts.

There's no hard-and-fast rule for qualifying a piece of jargon as "acceptable" or "horrible."  So that's why it's important to have a healthy list of examples to draw from before you begin venturing out on your own.  Not only can you sprinkle these tried-and-tested words into your daily language and remain fresh and vibrant in your writing, but examining this larger pool of words will give you the background co be able to decide whether a particular phrase is dynamic or dull.

Let's begin!

1| Al desco (adj or adv)

Definition: eating a meal at one's desk

Why we love it: We don't love the trend of desk dining, especially if it's happening at dinnertime, but we do like this playful phrase to describe the ever-increasing phenomenon.

2| Backstory (noun)

Definition: Jason Bourne had one; Starsky and Hutch had one as well. Made popular by Hollywood screenwriters, this word has crept into our everyday vocabularies to describe the events—whether real or made up—that precede the story at hand. Business folks have caught the fever and the word is often used as the "context" surrounding an action or decision.

Why we love it: If it works for Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Jerry Bruckheimer, it works for us.

3| Bag of doorknobs (noun)

Definition: A website with poor navigation and too many links, i.e. there are too many "doors" to enter and no logical information structure to guide users toward the information they want.

Why we love it: It's a clever turn of phrase to quickly summarize a confused website in need of some help, plus it conjures up cool Harry Potter imagery.

4| Crowdsourcing (noun)

Definition: using the average intelligence of a large number of people to solve a problem or create a product more quickly—and sometimes with better results—than with a small group of informed experts. Wikipedia.org is the most famous crowdsourcing project.

Why we love it: This Web 2.0 buzzword is not a fuzzword.

5|Deep dive (noun)

Definition: to explore or discuss something in great detail; i.e., "The presentation will provide an overview. Then you can do a deep dive when you meet one-on-one with participants."

Why we love it: There's nothing fuzzy about this descriptive metaphor.

6| Duck shuffler (noun)

Definition: someone who disrupts a nearly complete project.

Why we love it: Everyone can relate to the experience of having someone swoop in and change or complicate something after you've put all your ducks in a row. It's a silly enough term to use without putting someone on the defensive, and the image is fantastic.

7| Emoticons (noun)

Definition: a series of letters and symbols that emulate a facial expression, typically in an email, instant message, or text message.

Why we love it: How can you hate smiley faces (when used with restraint), or the cleverly coined word for them?

8| Fuzzword (noun)

Definition: a meaningless buzzword; in other words, business jargon. According to Marketing News, "a fuzzword carries with it an aura of a new, more exciting reality, but one that has no basis in the real world."

Why we love it: We don't like the fuzz, but we like having a word to describe it.

9| Google (verb)

Definition: to perform a Web search (of course, named after the popular search engine); e.g., "I'm going to google my blind date."

Why we love it: The abbreviation is handy, the word is catchy, and we wish we had stock in the company.

10| Grep (verb)

Definition: The general-purpose, geeky cousin of "to google," grep means to search, both online and off. Therefore, googling someone is merely one way to grep them. Sometimes, however, the word is also used to mean "to apprehend," as in "grep a clue and get lost."

Why we love it: What's not to love about this mellifluous, alliterative companion to grok? It offers an alternative to the overused "google it!"

11|Grok (verb)

Definition: in Internet-nerd slang, to grok means to understand something to an almost Zen-like state, usually something that is known to a small subculture. For example, a programmer may claim that he or she "groks" a programming language.

Why we love it: Grok is one of those words that acts as a line in the sand: You get it or you don't. It's useful for separating out the nerd elite from the normal people.

12| Hallmarketing (noun)

Definition: de rigueur in the United States, hallmarketing is the holiday push that starts weeks or months before the holiday is even on your radar.

Why we love it: We saw Valentine's Day merchandise on January 3rd, and we're sure the Easter bunny isn't far behind. Now we have a clever word for the irritating trend.

13| Iceberg principle (noun)

Definition: the idea that in any situation, only a small part of the problem will initially be visible (from Understanding American Business Jargon: A Dictionary)

Why we love it: If you're doomed to be the next Titanic, at least you can identify what you're facing with a snappy catch phrase.

14| Jump the couch (noun)

Definition: curious behavior that has a negative impact on people's perception of you (i.e., Tom Cruise)

Why we love it: A perfect play on "jump the shark," an expression denoting when the time has come for a TV series or actor. Anyone who has seen clips of Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch like a lovesick maniac will appreciate this phrase. Perhaps by immortalizing this bizarre incident as jargon we'll be reminded of things we shouldn't do.

15| Knock the cover off the ball (verb)

Definition: to wildly exceed expectations. Co-opted from baseball, in which it refers to a batter whacking a ball with so much force that the leather comes off.

Why we love it: Just envision Roy Hobbs knocking the cover off the ball in "The Natural." Is there a spot for Robert Redford in the All-Star Game?

16| Lunch and learn (noun)

Definition: a meeting held at lunchtime featuring a presentation, workshop, or other opportunity to learn.

Why we love it: Because "brown bag" is just so 10 minutes ago.

17| Mission-critical (adjective)

Definition: extremely important, essential for function, vital to the success of a stated goal; e.g., "Faced with rejections dance after dance, Jimmy began to understand that deodorant was never just a suggestion for the fall formal; it was a mission-critical factor."

Why we love it: It says what it means in clear, precise language: mission, critical. You immediately know the severity of the action you're about to undertake and the potential ramifications of its consequences. Fail, and you have a severe problem on your hands. Succeed, and you've potentially saved the day. We also like this phrase because it makes us sound like astronauts whenever we use it.

18| Narrowcasting (verb)

Definition: the opposite of broadcasting. Used in the marketing sense, it means sending a message to a small group of people likely to respond vs. contacting a large group where response rates will probably be much lower. See the long tail.

Why we love it: It's a descriptive term for a good concept-knowing your audience and packaging your message appropriately.

19| Ping (verb)

Definition: to touch base with someone, typically via email or instant messenger

Why we love it: It's onomatopoeic and it packs more punch than email, its less glamorous synonym.

20| Shelfware (noun)

Definition: also called coasterware, this is software that you purchase and then don't use — it just sits on the shelf.

Why we love it: It's descriptive and, unfortunately, all too relevant. Is there a similar word to describe the unworn shoes in our closets?

21| Soup to nuts (adjective)

Definition: Completing every aspect of a project or building every aspect of a technology from beginning to end. Refers to a traditional full-course meal, beginning with soup and ending with nuts as the dessert.

Why we love it: It's a descriptive analogy and we like the obscure, old-timey reference. Plus, who doesn't love incorporating food metaphors into the workplace?

22| Spit (noun)

Definition: spam over Internet telephony; now you can have unwanted messages and advertisements delivered to you twice as fast.

Why we love it: Like "ping," SPIT is what it sounds like: something you need to get rid of.

23| Splog (noun)

Definition: a fake blog created by spammers in order to generate click-through ad revenue, usually featuring fake articles heavy on keywords in order to increase the blog's Google ranking.

Why we love it: Web 2.0 brings its own nuisances, and this short monosyllabic word is perfect for describing one of them.

24| Subject matter expert (noun)

Definition: Someone others call on for the 411 about a particular topic.

Why we love it: It's not a new term, but this dot-com phrase has been experiencing a sudden renaissance and we're all for it. If you hear the acronym "SME," you'll know what it means.

25| Word of mouse (noun)

Definition: old-fashioned word of mouth with a viral marketing spin. For example, the "forward to a friend" button on many websites and email newsletters is an example of word of mouse.

Why we love it: Free advertising combined with the speed and reach of the Internet? That's an excellent holiday gift.

26| Zerotasking (noun)

Definition: daydreaming, sitting around, doing nothing. According to buzzwhack.com, the term originated with a New Yorker cartoon picturing a "serene-looking man plopped in a comfy chair."

Why we love it: It's more fun than multitasking, but we do keep our zerotasking to a minimum.


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