Do you speak Touchy-Feely?

Business jargon fascinates me because it reflects the mood – or perhaps what should be the mood – of our current financial and economic circumstances.

business jargon changes on HTWV

Touchy-feely business jargon: how’s yours?

Think back to the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were striding forth with ballsy (excessively ballsy?) economic policies which bred such classic, hard-assed terms as…

Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) – did what it said on the label. No bullshit: if your business wasn’t doing well, its processes needed to be re-engineered. End of.

Committed – I wish I had a dollar or a pound for every client who said to me back in the 1980s and 1990s, when I asked what made them better than their competitors, “ah, but Suze – we’re committed…” At least its business use vaguely corresponded with its original meaning, though.

Getting down to the short strokes – no prizes for guessing the sexual connotations but meaning, essentially, getting down to business

Micro-f*cking – wasting time on unnecessary detail. Told to me by a lovely Brit who had worked in the US for many years and picked up some very useful terms which made me laugh.

Putting your ducks in a row – (as in a fairground shooting gallery) to get yourself/business/etc properly organized so, presumably, once that’s done you or someone else can shoot the daylights out of it all.

Thinking outside the box – a.k.a “lateral thinking” – using your imagination and daring to break the odd rule or two.


How the metaphors have changed…

Today’s business jargon – whether in the commercial or public sectors – has softened and ripened just as so much of our accompanying culture has.

Rather than use raucous terms in business that link ordinary, boring stuff with the red-necked and in-yer-face metaphors used towards the latter part of the 20th century, today we have touchy-feely metaphors that would bring smiles to the faces of Enid Blyton and Mary Poppins.

Is this softening appropriate, considering our current financial/economical problems? Or is it a reaction to the harsh reality of all that and an invitation for us to stick our heads up our derrières so we can pretend that all is, er, well, touchy-feely?

Here are my own interpretations of some of the current touchy-feelyisms. Do you agree with these or if not, what are your views?

Channel / Model
They mean copy. Why we can’t just say copy I don’t really know, but can hazard a guess. To copy someone or something is a bit crass, isn’t it? A bit cheap? But channelling or modelling, well, sounds a little less jaundiced and more, sort of, well, soft-bullshitty.

funny business jargon on HTWB

Would you really want to “embrace” a supplier’s new methods of draining your septic tank?

When did embrace stop meaning to hug or kiss and start meaning to “take into account” or to “introduce into our business” … ?? Would you really want to embrace a supplier’s new methods of draining your septic tank when agree to would do the job?

As we should assume this has nothing whatsoever to do with couples getting engaged, it falls to another rather less romantic usage of the term when we get ourselves into something, rather like engaging first gear when we try to set off forwards in a car. However I think predominant users of the term try to use it in somewhat less unsophisticated ways. Can members of a group of council / municipal toilet cleaners be better placed to clean toilets if they are fully engaged in their roles emotionally, spiritually and intellectually?

In the loop
Sorry, but I can’t help comparing this metaphor with the jovial use of the term loopy, as in nuts. Do I want to be kept in the lunatic asylum? That’s probably where I belong. However I think I prefer to be kept informed, even though that’s not quite so romantic.

Such a sweet way of saying experience, way forward or even destiny. Gets a bit iffy if you ask too many questions about what’s at journey’s end, though. Especially when you’re looking at it in a medical context.

About a year ago, just for laughs, I researched the use of the word passionate in home page text on business websites and eventually found a company in south London, England, who declared they were passionate about their plumbing business. If anyone says that “P” word to me these days I tell them I’m passionate about stick insects and have a couple of hundred live ones right here in my bag, would you like me to let them loose in your office?

Do we really need to visualize our progression through piles of tedium towards even more tedium in terms of a pathway like the yellow brick road? Who are we trying to kid? Yes, it’s a nice metaphor if you’re a gardener and touchy-feelier than route or progression. But the pathway through filling in your tax return?

Reach out
Means contact. Reach out suggests to me an almost-drowning loser grasping unsuccessfully at a life-saver ring. I suspect this is not quite what the originators of this term had in mind. Why does anyone have to reach out merely to get in touch with someone? Why can’t you just contact them?

Being a visual type, when someone thanks me for sharing I get a mental picture of two tramps on a park benching sharing half each of a mouldy sandwich. What I do not get the picture of is the rather cheesy way it’s used now to replace inform, tell, communicate,  send, etc. Thank you for sharing this immediate dismissal notice. I’ll get my coat.

humorous business jargon on HTWB

That there’s my silo and it ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Here we’re going back to the grain-growing Canadian provinces and American states where the annual grain (corn) harvest was stored in cylindrical structures that protected it from the weather and stopped anyone else stealing it. Wikipedia describes its business use as follows: An information silo is a management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related information systems … is a pejorative expression that is useful for describing the absence of operational reciprocity.’ As a modern silo is a kind of container that keeps its contents well locked up and airtight, it’s quite a good metaphor. Plus it’s a lot more touchy-feely than tight-assed.

Penile devices that keep Pinky perky? Engineering gizmos that prop a bridge up long after a double-decker bus has driven under it having forgotten that its clearance was 6 inches short? Under-wired brassières that stop their contents from dropping south to the wearer’s knees? No. Now it just means to agree with, help, back, etc.

Please “share” your favorite Touchy-Feelyisms here!

Let’s get touchy-feely with your writing…

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand


photo credit: Rachel D via photo pin cc
photo credit: photoholic1 via photo pin cc
photo credit: Patrick Henson via photo pin cc




  1. None to add, but I forgot that I could speak fluent jargon… I just no longer have the opportunity!

    • Not to worry, Sarah, I’ll reach out to you and share information to keep you in the loop so you’ll be supported on the pathway through your Touchy-Feely journey, feeling fully engaged and able to embrace it with passion rather than a silo mentality or the need the channel others.


  2. Lovely, cringe-worthy examples! Must watch myself to make sure I don’t do too much reaching out, channeling, and embracing!

  3. Suzan,

    While this list isn’t exhaustive, it creates awareness for the crusade… The crusade to end jargon (or at least tamper it a bit). For that I and my team thank you.

    Bartlett Anderson III
    CEO of SignFelt

    • Dammit Mr Bartlett Anderson III, I clean forgot about “low-hanging fruit.” Thanks for reminding me. Forgive me for not including “drink the Kool Aid” but I’m based in the UK and the Brits have never heard of it.

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