Hump Day Humor: ‘Most Hated Phrases’

By Jayne Bodell

If these phrases were to die tomorrow, our world would be a better place.  I don’t know how they came to be. I imagine a windowless room in some corporate hi-rise where five highly-paid, pretentious people are sitting around a table with their frappes and tofu-alfalfa sprout-sushi, creating the next hot phrases.

This room is probably down the hall where five really bored people are sitting around the table thinking of paint color names. I’m not sure which job is harder, but I know that the “phraseologists” have more on the line. Success for them will be measured when and how long the phrase insidiously enters and stays in the mainstream lingo. The “colorists” probably couldn’t care less if their latest creation, “watermelon rind,” described the new green paint chip.

The criteria for making my list, although subjective, are sound.  Which phrase will cause instant apoplexy at any given moment while factoring in how many inane corporate emails  I am able to delete without reading, am I having a good hair day, did the speeding driver who cut me off in traffic finally get his? With so many factors affecting my decision making, I’m sure you’re wondering how I do it. Well, I’m a professional, and that’s what I do.

In no particular order, numbered for your convenience, I give you my most hated phrases for 2016.

  1. Corporate values. A corporation cannot have values, only people can. And if it could, what is so special about the values of one corporation over another. Let’s make something clear. A corporation exists to make money, and in that process, people have jobs. That’s the beauty of capitalism. Some corporations do a better job of keeping their employees happy, but I doubt if writing up corporate values has anything to do with job satisfaction. If said employee isn’t happy, said employee can find another job. That’s a pretty easy value system to understand.
  1. Core competency. The five-person human resources group across the hall from the paint “chippers” and down the hall from the “phraseologists” created this one. In an attempt to devise an evaluation system for said employee, they created a list of job duties for each job description. In other words, what is the bare minimum an employee needs to do to keep a job? Being competent is one step above breathing.
  1. Give 110%. I love football. I also have the innate ability to turn off the TV in lightening fast speed before the after-game interviews start, all because of this phrase. Why not 120% or 130%? Oh wait, you gave only 110% and still lost. Bummer. Next time give 220%. Maybe then you can finally win a game.
  1. Think outside the box. Please put this worn out, never was that clever phrase in the trash bin. If everyone is thinking outside the box, maybe it’s time to get back in the box. You’ll be all alone, but you’ll be the only innovative thinker on the team.
  1. It is what it is. What does this mean anyway? This must be our feeble attempt to comment on something that really doesn’t need commenting on because it’s just not that important. If it’s our way of sounding witty or cute, there are other ways to accomplish this. Call 1-800-Hallmark and see if their writers can come up with something better.
  1. An existential moment. The average person is not able to grasp existentialism, and neither are you. So, unless you are Jean-Paul Sartre’s protégé, don’t say this. The person with you might ask you what existentialism means, and you won’t know the answer. The only thing I remember about existentialism is, “I think, therefore I am.” I would have no way of knowing if I had an existential moment unless Sartre came back from the dead and gave me a V8 slap.
  1. Take offline. Ever have that one person in your meeting who strays off topic? Pretty soon the discussion drifts so far that someone has to do something or the meeting will go into overtime. Managers learn to recognize meeting drift on the first day of manager school, so they’re ready with this phrase, “ let’s take this discussion offline.” Thanks to technology, corporate America has found a plethora of phrases: we don’t have the bandwidth, let’s double click that, cascade that down. Oops. I may have hinted at what’s to come in 2017.

Let’s decide together to combat these painful phrases. Our lives are stressful enough without having to hear our beautiful language being tortured. Repeat after me: I pledge to only use these phrases if my job depends on it, my writing requires sarcasm, or I need to play lingo bingo at the next staff meeting.

Going forward, please cascade down these phrases in order to empower me with the information to achieve core competencies needed while embracing my corporate values.  And if you could requisition a new paint job for my office in watermelon rind, that would be great.

Two Drops of Ink Writing Challenge: Hump Day Humor – send us your submission!

Jayne Bodell



Jayne Bodell graduated from UW-Madison with an English degree many, many years ago. About two years ago, she renewed her interest in writing by starting a blog about grammar but soon realized that she wanted to expand her subject matter. She now blogs about keeping life simple, smart, and sassy at In between blog posts, she’s planning to branch into the scary world of writing fiction by writing a collection of flash fiction stories.
Jayne lives in Wisconsin and fills her spare time with gardening, photography, knitting, reading, and a side of coloring. Her favorite way to vacation is to pick a general destination and drive, no time constraints and no plans.

Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:

1) Tell Me Your Why

Past “Hump Day Humor” posts: here


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  1. Hi, Jayne. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Laughed, harrumphed, numerous head nods, and an “aha” with finger pointed at ceiling.

    Your mastery of the anguish ranglage provides effortless reading – I’m envious. Gives my core competency the quivers.

    In tandem with Marilyn, I would opt for a tangible reference to your piece. My submission would be a T-shirt emblazoned with “I Survived Lingo Bingo”.

    A pleasant, humorous read, Jayne…looking forward to all that follows.

  2. OMG!!! So funny! I used to be an executive assistant. Maybe those crazy sayings are the reason why I always had a headache and why I now work virtually. I take the pledge to continue to not utter those phrases. Awesome post! 🙂

  3. Too true, and too funny! I’m so glad you included “going forward” in your *wonderful* example sentence at the end, because that’s my current pet peeve. One of my coworkers appears unable to speak for more than ten minutes without using it!

  4. Jayne, What a fun read! I had a good laugh at the visual of people now beginning to jump IN the box, because everyone else is now outside the box! lol!
    I do have to say though, that we “colorists” very much care about our new “watermelon rind” paint chips! Lol!
    I do hope you are able to “become empowered to obtain the information you need to gain your core competencies while embracing your corporate values,
    all in your freshly painted “watermelon rind” office.”
    If not, well… It is what it is!
    Thanks for the much needed Hump Day Humor!

    • I never heard the phrase “low hanging fruit” until I entered the working world. I remember asking what the meaning was. I’ve blogged often about “corporatese” so I think I’ve heard them all.

  5. Hi Jayne, here’s a phrase I’ve been hearing more often. Especially, from news reporters.

    Ubiquitous- existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent:

    I can see how this apply’s to government.

  6. Hi, Jayne. I’m taking the pledge as you requested. “I pledge to only use these phrases if my job depends on it, my writing requires sarcasm, or I need to play lingo bingo at the next staff meeting”.

    Do you send me a t-shirt, a poster, a membership card, an invitation to the lingo bingo? Something tangible? I know we should just do some things for the intrinsic reward (try using that one next time someone asks you for a raise), but I’d like visible proof that I’m a member of the Stop Using those Phrases Brigade. Or maybe just charter member status?

    Fun read, and on a serious note, couldn’t agree more. Hmm. What is the value of agreeing more? Or agreeing less? Those would be qualifiers and we all know, or at least pretend to comprehend, that quantifiers define existential moments – or a rerun of Seinfeld.

    I hope you continuing writing in this vein – never got that one, either. I digress. Keep writing funny stuff, Jayne.

    Thank you.

    • Gee Marilyn, you may have something there. I may have to whip up a pledge card. Thanks for reading and glad you liked the article. There’s more where this came from. I’ve written about jargon numerous times on my blog.

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