take off the blinders

Posted on June 21, 2017

to figuratively remove those constraints which narrow one’s field of vision, leading one to consider an issue in its entirety without assuming that current or historical limitations hold sway; the phrase originates from the practice of blocking a horse’s peripheral vision to prevent distraction from the path ahead and to keep the typically flighty animal from startling; can be derogatory in implication if this instruction is directed at a single individual, who is thereby insinuated to be insufficiently creative, flexible, or broad-minded

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net-net

Posted on June 14, 2017

a term used to indicate the ultimate result, sum up a meandering conversation, or introduce a note of finality to one’s point; derives from the accounting term in which net profits are the final line on an income statement after all deductions have been made; a general aversion to using monosyllabic terms by themselves (i.e. ‘net’) and a penchant for sounding clever has led to this unnecessary duplication (non-modifier or declamatory jargon is almost never monosyllabic)

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do a dipstick

Posted on June 6, 2017

to quickly check the status of a particular activity, often to ensure that appropriate progress has been made, as in “Let’s do a dipstick on the report this evening and see how far we’ve come”; derives from the process used to check an automobile’s oil reserve in which a flexible metal stick is snaked into the reservoir and marked at the fluid level; in the real world such monitoring is critical, as insufficient oil can lead to catastrophic engine failure; in the business context, by contrast, this term is used in an offhand fashion for issues with low stakes, as is often the case with jargon repurposed from other contexts

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salt the earth

Posted on May 30, 2017

to embark on a course of action that so damages existing capabilities or relationships that future success is hindered, as in “Don’t penalize the whole company just because the Western division didn’t make its numbers, let’s not salt the earth here Tim”; derives from the legend of a victor punishing a vanquished group by spreading salt on its cropland, which purportedly renders it useless for agriculture; although the expression implies vengeful intent, in the business context it generally connotes recklessness rather than malice; salted earth is a side effect of particularly poor management; syn., poison the well

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t-shirt sizing

Posted on May 23, 2017

a casual heuristic used to indicate rough estimates in a limited set of categories, usually small, medium, and large, as in: “We can’t do a full bottom-up evaluation of each market segment, just use t-shirt sizing for now”; derived from the practice of standardizing clothing into a limited set of sizes that provide adequate fit options for the majority of the population; related to traffic light (verb), when options are sorted into three categories that represent yes, maybe, and no (or analogous variants thereof)

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snakes to kill

Posted on May 16, 2017

discrete tasks that are to be accomplished in fairly rapid fashion, as in: “I don’t think I’ll make that meeting this afternoon Phil, we’ve got a bunch of snakes to kill”; has the benefit of evoking the vague danger and urgency of a reptilian infestation while avoiding any specifics on what must actually be done; despite the implied drama the tasks refered to are invariably mundane; rel., wood to chop, for jargonists with a more outdoorsy bent

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slice butter with an ax

Posted on May 10, 2017

to achieve an objective using entirely disproportionate means, disregarding the sensitivities of the task and often risking collateral damage; synonymous with use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, both phrases evoke the ponderous swing of a brute force tool and the mess left behind by someone whose zeal exceeds his judiciousness1; an inverse variant is death by a thousand paper cuts, which refers to the eventual collapse of an initiative or institution through the cumulative effect of numerous irritating but individually underwhelming blows; were this entry to continue explicating this jargon much further it would risk becoming an example of the very thing being defined

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  1. Like a Lenny, with potentially tragic consequences if you’re the mouse. (This footnote brought to you by middle school English class.)

eat the seed corn

Posted on May 1, 2017

to utilize something, out of desperation or shortsightedness, that should rightly be preserved to enable later growth or success; in a business context often refers to redirecting investments that would have ensured future revenues to plug short-term needs, undermining the company’s ability to stay relevant and/or solvent in the long term

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wheelhouse

Posted on April 26, 2017

a particular area of competence or expertise where one can expect to excel, often due to extensive experience; typically used as a self-situated metaphorical place, as in “Let me handle the negotiations with the Brazilian team, I lived in São Paulo for three years so it’s in my wheelhouse”; the word refers to the control room of a ship, presumably alluding to the authority and mastery contained within, although the average business user has no inkling of the term’s nautical connotations; in common usage prepositions may be omitted entirely, leading to expressions such as “That data analysis was rough, it’s definitely not my wheelhouse”

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water the grass in a thunderstorm

Posted on April 18, 2017

to perform an action whose effects will be negligible in comparison to broader forces at work, and will be difficult or impossible to accurately measure, as in “We don’t need to send someone to Times Square to shill for Hamilton,1 that’s like watering the grass in a thunderstorm”; used to highlight the futility of a proposed course of action and dissuade the hearer from further considering it; the length2 and obscure intent of this phrase conspire to render it exceedingly rare in actual usage, as jargon users tend to favor more jocund terms used in backslapping fashion

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  1. For those reading this at some remove from the United States and/or the year 2016, this is a Broadway play whose rapturous reception and breakout influence in wider society have created a pop culture juggernaut.
  2. Despite its apparent unwieldiness, this phrase is by chance in perfect dactylic trimeter, which does lend it a bit of poetic elegance.