Office Jargon – The Words We Love To Hate

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Have you ever had a colleague at work ping you an email with some out of the box brainstorming ideas to move forward your blue sky thinking project? Oh and don’t forget to action it by the close of play so you can touch base tomorrow.

What does this even mean? If you have ever been overcome by office jargon in your workplace, have a snoop through our list of phrases that we love to hate while we decipher what they really mean.

Ping an email

This phrase is dedicated to Chen Ping, a Chinese advisor and chancellor to Emperor Gaozu during the Han dynasty. Since his death in 178BC, people have been pinging messages as a sign of respect for his advisory prowess.

Close of play

Most companies don’t want you to feel like you are working while at the office, so you often hear words such as “play” used instead of “work”. This has been proven to increase worker satisfaction by thinking they are enjoying a game instead!

Sing from the same hymn sheet

This phrase comes from the departmental choir group. There would always be someone who didn’t receive the right lyrics and cause havoc by singing the wrong song. Since the inception of this phrase, office choir groups across the country have seen huge improvements in accuracy.

Right-sizing the organisation

To right-size a company means to put it the right way round again it after it has been capsized, usually by heavy winds or pirate tomfoolery. This phrase has been around since the golden age of piracy from the 1650’s to 1730’s and has since been applied to companies that work in office riverboats.

Touch base

This phrase came from the field of chemistry where a “base” is an aqueous  solution slippery to the touch. Therefore, to “touch base” is used as a synonym for something that cannot be caught due to our inability to touch the slippery surface. This even includes Arrhenius bases, making it a popular term.

Think outside the box

To “think outside the box” was a phrase coined in the small village of Box, Gloucestershire. The area is well known for having cows wandering through the village which would stifle the creativity of the local populace. They would literally leave the village to organise their thoughts!


When you give someone a heads-up about something, you are really warning them that if they don’t improve their game, their head will be “upped” onto a spike and displayed at the entrance of the Tower of London for everyone to see. This is commonly used to motivate the less productive staff.


Key performance indicators, key challenges, key stakeholders and key milestones. All of these phrases were invented by cunning lock-smiths as a devious method of drumming up additional business. Notice how each phrase reminds you of keys, and ergo the locksmith’s “key” products and services!

Do you use any of these terms a lot? Or are you sick to death of hearing some of them day after day? Please leave a comment below, and also let us know if there are any terms we didn’t include that you think should be there.

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