a new way to kill time.

Category: corporate speak

the password is SOCIALIZE


One of the small highlights in my workaday is hearing corporate speak.  Now I know, this is definitely contradictory to much of what I’ve said in the past, but hear me out. After an extensive discourse with the Imperialist about potential inductees into the “Hall of Annoying Language,” I began to pay attention to the wit and wonder of my co-workers.

I would listen for who uses what word.  I would check how many times per conversation it might appear.  I would listen for correct usage.  I might add style points for multiple corporate-isms in one breath. Spotting the speak out in the wild has become a full on sport. Heck. If it was allowed, I might have invented the best drinking game ever.

In any case, the latest target in our endless smirkathon is “socialize:”

(v. w/ object) 1. to make social; make fit for life in companionship with others. 2. to make socialistic; establish or regulate according to the theories of socialism. 3. Education; to treat as a group activity; e.g., “to socialize spelling quizzes.” (v. w/o object) To associate or mingle sociably with others: e.g., “to socialize with one’s fellow workers.” [1]

(v. tr.) 1. To place under government or group ownership or control. 2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable. 3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society. (v. Int.) To take part in social activities.[2]

(v.) 1. take part in social activities; interact with others; “He never socializes with his colleagues”; “The old man hates to socialize” 2. train for a social environment; “The children must be properly socialized” 3. prepare for social life; “Children have to be socialized in school” 4. make conform to socialist ideas and philosophies; “Health care should be socialized!” [3]

Etymology: 1828, “to render social,” from social (adj.). Meaning “to be sociable, to mingle” is recorded from 1895. Socialization “process of making social” is from 1840.[4]

It’s a pretty straightforward word. When we socialize with out co-workers, it means happy hour. When we socialize our children, that means they will grow up to play well with other kids. When we socialize medicine, well, that’s still a pipe dream here in the States.

Madly, our little do-bees will never leave well enough alone.  They socialize processes: “Now that we have a new payroll system, we will need to socialize it with the staff.” They socialize documents: “The meeting minutes should be socialized with the attendees.” They socialize email: “The welcome email from Triple G should be socialized with management.”

In our hive, people love to socialize. Not with each other, mind you.  Heaven forbid!

I’m not sure who the wordsmith was who decided that “socialized” would be the catch-all word of the moment.  Probably someone in HR.  I think that I was out of that circle.  Perhaps with a bit of socialization…


[1] “socialize.” Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 17 Aug. 2007.

[2] “socialize.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 17 Aug. 2007.

[3] “socialize.” WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. 17 Aug. 2007.

[4] “socialize.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 17 Aug. 2007.

the new corporate speak for yup…

After a week of driving myself into the ground, I did what any self-respecting gal would do.

I ran away from home.

It was off to LBI for me. What ensued was a weekend of companionship, crying, commiseration, and crafting. I napped on the beach and went hard at work on that long over-due suntan. By Sunday, I was more whole than I had been in quite some time. That was, until it happened.

Somewhere around Exit 148, the Professor and I were deep involved in a conversation about class size, students, and next semester’s course load. I asked the Professor what the expectations were for mid-term deliverables. At that point, I needed to duck the spit take of Diet Coke bursting through the Professor’s lips.

“Expectations for mid-term deliverables?!”

Spell check your graffiti

Was that me?! Who talks like that? The Professor called me out, tout de suite. Between my horror and the Professor’s amusement, we figured something out. Since my personal world has been a bit of a wreck, I tossed myself into work. By doing such, I destroyed completely my natural cadence of speech. In part, it’s because I’ve been hanging with way too many Brits. For another, my NYC verbal stylings have been blossoming like tulips in spring.

But for all of these reasons, the greatest culprit is the language of Corporate America. In a land where so many things are unacceptable, where granularity and accountability are king, and where transparency will save the day, I can’t seem to carry on a normal conversation. Not for not trying. The only way I’ve found where I might protect the joy I find in words is to openly validate the kooky.

You see, gentle readers. For all of the street, NYC, hipster, B.S. coding that I’ve been injecting into my adult conversations, I have but one touchstone. My one very special saving grace. That’s right. In this place, the land of my childhood, amongst the voices of home, within throngs of my peeps, I cling to the verbal cues of my new digs. I sing the language that is purely Chicago. Therein, my dear friends, lies my crowning achievement. I have overwhelmed my colleagues, friends, and cubical partners with my use of two words that are unapologetically, unabashedly middle America.

I have infected these jaded New Yorkers with the kooky. From the cosmopolitan continental, to the beaten Bushwick brother, to the sullen Staten Islander, and the angry Astorian, I got them all.

There is little more satisfying than hearing these hardened drawls accidentally uttering my favorite four syllables:


Coming to a corporate cube near you.

corporations as a foreign language…

From a corporate America perspective, I have been a bit out of the loopy. Not that it is that difficult to jump right into, but I will admit as readily as the next gal. I am a bit behind on the jargon. Take comfort, dear hearts. I was not completely lost. There will always be the gems that won’t die, no matter how much they should.

“Out of the box” is one. I think that Miss Boom Boom said it best: “If you actually use the term ‘out of the box,’ it could actually be considered ironic.” For those of you still inside the box, that means that the tired phrase is so overused, it is the box. In any case, paper cut to the eye. Fortunately, I have only heard that wretched phrase once since I started at the new gig. Unfortunately, I have only been there since Monday, but hey.

Some of the jargon comes right back, no matter how hard I tried to avoid this distress. The one phrase that sets me on nails is “speak to that.” You know how it works: “There is no milk left in this container. I am not sure who left it in the fridge, but I am sure that Mr. Generic can speak to that.” Speak to that. Is that even correct English? Every time I hear that phrase, I keep thinking, I am not sure why he will speak to that. A milk carton won’t answer back. Speak to that. No. I don’t think it will ever sound right. Chime in Al?

Not saying that I am an expert, or even an enthusiastic amateur on the language we call English. I will say this. Corporate America has a language all its own. It reminds me of when I see little kids dress up in their mothers’s clothes. They will start with the dress, then the shoes, then put on as much of mom’s jewelry as their tiny arms can handle. Then the hat. Always the hat.

postit.jpgIt seems that the machine is like that with language. I can just hear the collective wheels spinning: Here is an obscure word. We should try to use it as much as possible. People will think we are wicked smart. While I am sure that there is an honest way to say what we are trying to say, let’s try it this way. Let’s novate. Much better. That is fun to say! What a fait accompli! Even Todd says so, and verbiage is of Todd’s core competencies. I am sure that it won’t negatively impact our bottom line. In any case, let’s brain dump on this. I will get back to you by end of day. I will have to speak with control to make sure that it is within the appropriate processes, but either way, I will better speak to that by our 3:30 call. If I can’t find you, I will just leave a sticky.

Welcome back, me.