It’s D-Day for business jargon … some D-terms explained

Would you find any “dead wood” at work – and could you remove it with a “double edged sword?” And do you know why we use those terms today? Check out these Deees of business jargon!

Business jargon starting with D - explained on HTWB

Have you done a “dry run” with your “doggie bag?”

Damp squib: (sometimes said as damp squid, but as squid are sea animals they need to be damp to survive!) A squib, on the other hand, is a kind of firework and as you know, if fireworks get damp, they tend not to work properly or at all. So a “damp squib” is an occasion, activity, product, event, meeting, training course etc., that does not live up to expectations and is, basically, disappointing or even a total a failure. The first known use of the term goes back to the early 19th century in England.

Dead tired: means very tired, almost to the point of feeling “like death.” An exaggeration, of course. The word “dead” goes back before AD 950, to Old and Middle English. In recent tears it has also come to mean, in a slang way, “very” or “extremely” – both of which also qualify the word “tired.”

Dead wood: in a literal sense, it’s the wood in a forest or copse that has died back and which needs to be removed to tidy the place up and allow the living plants to flourish. As a metaphor in business and other contexts, to “cut out the dead wood” means to remove old, outdated practices and systems, and even people who are not performing properly.

Dirt cheap: on the assumption that dirt – or earth, soil – is very cheap because it’s so freely available, anything that is “dirt cheap” is very cheap indeed. The term was first used in the early 19th century and replaced another term meaning the same thing, “dog cheap.”

Do not bug me: this means “don’t bother me.” Perhaps unfairly, bugs – slang for “insects” – are considered a nuisance and if someone is bothering you, they can be compared with an annoying mosquito or other bug. There are suggestions, also, that the word “bug” may be an abbreviation of a longer word which means to sodomize, but that interpretation of “bug” is unproven.

Doggie/doggy bag: a term used for the container in which you can take home your leftovers from a restaurant meal, supposedly for your dog, but also possibly for you, instead. The term became very popular in North America but is now widely used in all the main English language markets. There are alternative suggestions that “doggie/doggy” could be a version of an old word from the region of East Anglia in England, which is “docky” – meaning lunch. As a metaphor you may hear this term used in business or public service: if you “take home a doggie bag” you may be removing things unlawfully, or at least against the rules, from the workplace.

Double edged sword: if you imagine a sword that is sharp on both edges, this could be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The metaphor that something is a “double-edged sword” means a business proposal, circumstance or other issue which is likely to be beneficial in some ways but have drawbacks in others. The term is thought to come from an Arabic phrase, and probably was used in English from around the 15th century onward.

Double standard: this term has only come into use since the mid 20th century, and in business refers to any policy, rule or other instance which offers advantages to one group of people while at the same time delivering disadvantages to another group. Essentially, it’s an entity which is morally biased and unfair to some, not all of its recipients.

Drag me down: to be dragged down means to be made unhappy, or in business, especially, to be brought down to a lower level of seniority or respect than you’re entitled to, usually through association with a bad idea, an inept co-worker, or something undesirable emerging about your past. Origins are unknown, but the metaphor is clear enough to understand.

Drive crazy: here we must assume we use the word “drive” in its earlier, pre-motorized sense when herd workers literally would chase their animals with whips, shouts, dogs, horses and anything else that would get the beasts running in the right direction. If someone or something, therefore, “drives you crazy,” you will have become crazy as a result of being driven by them, or it.

Drive up the wall: as in “drive crazy,” presumably using “drive” in its pre-industrialization sense of a herd worker driving their animals. This time it’s used with a lovely, funny metaphor of someone becoming so distraught they climb the nearest wall in sheer desperation, or at least frustration.

Drop the ball: means to make a mistake or miss out on an opportunity. The term comes from the games of (American) football (not soccer) and rugby, in which dropping the ball by accident or through carelessness can be a disaster for the game, or at least for the team concerned. Someone who “drops the ball” in business makes a mistake or suffers from an oversight, often just when things are going well for them.

Drown out: fortunately this term is not used in connection with drowning of the water variety, but usually in replacing one noise or conversation with another, louder noise or conversation. The word “drown” has its origins in late 13th English.

Drop the ball: means to make a mistake or miss out on an opportunity. The term comes from the games of (American) football (not soccer) and rugby, in which dropping the ball by accident or through carelessness can be a disaster for the game, or at least for the team concerned. Someone who “drops the ball” in business makes a mistake or suffers from an oversight, often just when things are going well for them.

Drown out: fortunately this term is not used in connection with drowning of the water variety, but usually in replacing one noise or conversation with another, louder noise or conversation. The word “drown” has its origins in late 13th English.

Watch out for more “English Business Jargon” … being published as a series here on HTWB and as a book in 2018 by Business Expert Press, USA.

In the meantime if you think of any English business jargon that should be explored and explained, please share it here in the comments!

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