by Mike O’Mary
The other day, I was walking past a meeting room at work. The meeting was just breaking up and I heard the sales manager clap his hands together enthusiastically and say, “Okay; if that’s our objective today, let’s make it happen!”
Let’s make it happen. I don’t know what it is, but the workplace–particularly the business workplace–seems to spawn more than its share of euphemisms. I assume that when the manager said, “Let’s make it happen,” he meant, “Let’s do whatever we need to do to meet our objective.” But that would sound boring and not very leader-like, so instead he said, “Let’s make it happen.”
We’ve all had to sit through meetings that were peppered with trendy catch phrases, clichés and euphemisms. Unfortunately, these phrases seem to catch on with a lot of people. For every individual that suffers a gag reflex upon hearing the word “synergy,” there are at least half a dozen vice presidents who nod their heads in approval.
Personally, as a writer and occasional meeting-attendee, I think it’s best to say exactly what you mean. And when I hear something that sounds a little trendy, I try to translate it into plain English. For example, I’ve determined that when someone says, “It’s time to start thinking outside the box,” they really mean, “We’ve boxed ourselves in.” When they say, “We need to create a new paradigm,” that means, “Nobody is buying our product anymore.” And when somebody says, “This is no dog-and-pony show,” you’d better watch where you step after they’re done.
About 500 years before Christ, the Chinese philosopher Confucius figured out that, “If what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone.” So if you find yourself surrounded by people talking in euphemisms, you might try quoting Confucius. If they still won’t say what they mean, try quoting martial-arts expert Chuck Norris who once said, “When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.”
Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher and online community for writers and other artists.