Buzzwords and Trendy Sayings to Avoid

Once a year or so in the IndyCar offseason, I will take a step back from my usual cheery disposition, put on my curmudgeon hat and drift away from discussing IndyCar racing – for a day, anyway – to discuss how much I loathe the trendy sayings that have invaded our everyday lives. Being the increasingly crusty old goat that I am, I don’t take kindly to the latest trends in our everyday language. I tend to be fairly plainspoken, but we are being constantly bombarded with wordy and unnecessary pretentious sayings.

I’m not sure how often I’ve updated this rant, but recently it has been an annual thing. Most readers coming here to read about Alexander Rossi or Josef Newgarden, would probably prefer I didn’t do this, but I find it therapeutic – a way to keep my sanity in an ever-increasing pretentious world, where people love the sound of their own voice – especially when that voice is saying something hip and trendy.

Some of the items on this list you’ve read here before. I keep hoping if I continue to list them, they will mercifully go away. With the IndyCar season quickly approaching, I figured I’d better throw this together, or it may be another year before I do. Who knows what foolish trendy corporate buzzwords and sayings people will be babbling by then?

Pivot: It used to be that in order to be successful at just about anything, you had to be flexible. That is a good word that is very descriptive. No one questions what it means to be flexible. Since my mantra in life is Change is Bad, flexibility has never been one of my strengths – but I certainly know what it means.

But today, that is considered boring by corporate types. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that instead of being flexible – it was much better that we all learn to pivot. When the pandemic was playing havoc with the 2020 IndyCar schedule, it was said that the powers-that-be were learning to pivot on a moment’s notice. I just thought they had to be flexible.

Reach Out: I may be mistaken, but I think this one may have been included on every list of these I’ve done. I will call, text or e-mail someone, but I will never reach out to anyone. Unfortunately, it has become a way of life to reach out to someone rather than contact them. It just sounds a little too warm and fuzzy. Can you imagine AJ Foyt reaching out to someone? No, he calls them. If that doesn’t work, he whops them over the head with a tire-tool, but he will never reach out to them. No one should.

Journey:  No, this isn’t the 80s rock band. If you think reaching out is touchy-feely; journey takes it up a notch. Everyone wants to label a certain part of your life as your journey. When my son was going through some teenage struggles about fifteen years ago; well-meaning folks would always refer to this as his journey. When people are faced with a terrible situation or a crisis, it’s popular to give it a soft label like journey to make it sound more like an adventure. Just call it what it is – a bad time in your life that you hope to get through.

Granular: I was in a meeting back in December, when someone from the local chamber, with a mythical title for his nebulous job was pitching some new way of doing something. He kept using the term granular, making me think he had sand in his shoes. He must’ve said granular no less than ten times in a twenty-minute presentation. I kept listening to how he was using it, and I finally deduced that he meant specific.

My question is, why didn’t he just say specific? People that use corporate buzzwords are more interested in sounding cool and hip than they are in actually communicating properly. If I am sitting in a meeting hearing you say granular over and over, and I’m wondering what in the world you mean – you are not communicating. You are just self-absorbed in your use of pretentious buzzwords.

Price Point: There actually is such a term as price point, but the pretentious people have taken it and now use it simply to mean…price. If you Google the term price point, you realize that even the experts aren’t real sure what it means. Some define it as a range, while others define it as an exact price.

My question is, if there is such disparity and confusion on the correct definition of a term – why use it at all?

I first heard price point used to simply mean price, last fall when I was about to buy a car. I did a lot of research and watched a lot of You Tube videos on different cars and models. It was there when I heard these reviewers constantly talking about the price point of a car being too high. I wondered why they didn’t just say “the price was too high”. When someone uses two words, when one will do – the reason is usually because they are trying to sound intelligent. Don’t bother.

Literally: There is a correct way of using the word “literally” in a conversation, but most people today use it incorrectly and way too much. If I say that I literally jumped three feet in the air – that would mean I wasn’t exaggerating. I actually jumped that high. That would have been a couple of decades ago when I could still jump that high, but at one time – that would have been a literal statement…literally.

But people, today say “I literally jumped twenty feet in the air”, simply to prove a point. If you are saying something that is obviously very exaggerated, it is not literal. It’s now a figure of speech.

I literally hear people misusing this word, over a hundred-thousand times a day.

Bye Week: This has become a new sports-related pet-peeve that will tick off some that use it. They will say this is the ultimate in being picky. A bye is a round in a tournament when a team or participant gets a free pass to advance to the next round. For example, the Tennessee Titans earned a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs, meaning they rested for the first week, while everyone else played and they were guaranteed to be one of the final four teams remaining in the AFC. Not that it did them any good, as they blew a golden opportunity and sleep-walked through their game with the Bengals – one of the two participants in this weekend’s Super Bowl.

But people tend to misuse the word bye during the regular season. During the 2021 NFL season, there were seventeen games scheduled for each team across eighteen weeks – giving each team one off-weekend each season. But fans almost always refer to this off week as a team’s bye week. It isn’t a bye week, it is that team’s off week, when they get a weekend off. Only two NFL teams had bye weeks this past season – the Titans and the Packers. And they were both eliminated early.

Historical:   This word is suddenly being misused. Historical refers to history in general, such as a historical timeline or a historical society. But some people feel the more syllables, the better. Recently I’ve noticed that many people are saying historical, when they should go with the shorter and correct historic. Anything that has had a significant affect on history is historic, not historical. When Helio Castroneves became only the fourth person to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, and the first to do it in thirty years – that was a historic event, but it wasn’t historical. My only question is – is it a historic event, or is it an historic event? I think if I’m speaking, I put an an before it. If I’m writing it, I use a…I think.

Robust: This is a word I once used to describe a good cup of coffee. Lately, I’ve heard it used to describe a report or document that was overwhelming or contained too much information. “That report you sent me was just a little too robust”.

Again, if people look at you wondering what you meant by a certain phrase – don’t use it.

Scalable Solutions: This sounds like the name of a company. Instead, it is a very trendy corporate phrase. I am hearing this one a lot in webinars, generally from people that live elsewhere. I finally had to ask a co-worker what it meant. The best she could figure was that it meant ways to grow your program. Why can people not speak plain English anymore?

Gifted: You’ve seen this one before, but I am reminded how much it angers me each year at Christmas. The word gift is a noun. It is a thing. I give a gift to my wife Susan. Recently, however, it has become quite trendy to try and make the word gift a verb. After Christmas, I saw a lot of people on Facebook showing various items that someone had gifted to them. No! She gave you that coffee mug, she didn’t gift it to you. That makes about as much sense as saying we are going to car ourselves to Indianapolis in May.

Level Set: As with many of these, I picked this one up on a Zoom call. There is something about the virtual world that makes some people even more pretentious than they already are (if that’s possible). When I heard someone say that we have to get to a level set, I envisioned my brothers playing with their Erector Set on Christmas morning, when we were kids.

No, level set is not an engineering or construction term. It’s the new term for a group of people all being on the same page – which I suppose was considered a buzzword when that phrase started being used decades ago. Telling a group that we need to get to a level set, means that we need to be on the same page or to be working together for one common goal. If you want us to be on the same page, don’t say level set.

Right??? I’ve had this on here before. But it is so irritating, it bears repeating again and again until people stop it. My ex-father-in-law who, unlike his daughter, was a very likeable guy. But he had one annoying habit of following up everything I said with the phrase “Is that right?” I could utter the most benign phrase like; I had eggs for breakfast. Is that right? I stopped off at the grocery store on my way home. Is that right?

He was old-school, being born in 1930. Today, that annoying trait has been updated to something far more irritating – I know, right??? Sometimes, they just shorten it to Right???

I cannot tell you how much that makes my skin crawl. Susan and I have a friend who throws out the I know, right??? at the most inappropriate times. I can be in the middle of a story, when she interrupts mid-sentence with a I know, right??? Sometimes I’ll just stop and stare, wondering why she would choose then to throw it out there. It’s almost like an involuntary reflex, as if she has Tourette Syndrome or something.

Unfortunately, I think she got it from the many “funny” commercials out there, that always has the hip mom or dad responding with I know, right???

These Trying or Unprecedented Times: After COVID went into full gear in March of 2020, it didn’t take long for TV and radio commercials to jump on the latest opportunity to sell whatever. Invariably, a piano would play softly in the background as a soothing voice discussed these trying and unprecedented times. They assured us that whatever profession they were in, they were here for us. It didn’t take long for these commercials to all morph into each other where you were unsure with what was being sold, but the message was always the same. Two years later, these times have a precedent.

Disaggregated Data: To me, this is the worst one yet. I (literally) had to stop in the middle of the conversation and ask what that meant. The simple translation is data that has been separated or sorted. Why not just say that in the first place?

Boots on the Ground:  Upper management always likes to use this term to refer to the ones that are getting the actual work done. When I entered the workforce a few decades ago, we were referred to as those that were "out in the field", to differentiate us from those that worked in the ivory tower corporate office. It was descriptive enough, but I guess someone was afraid it made us feel like farmhands. So the term boots on the ground was given to us that were not in the corporate office. I don’t see that as an improvement, because we are still the ones getting the work done.

Fair Enough: These days, almost everyone at work is younger than I am. But I have two young co-workers who sometimes speak in a jargon that I seldom recognize. I think they are both bad influences on each other. Overall, I enjoy chatting with them and they are both very intelligent. But they both have this very annoying habit of following practically everything I say with “Fair enough”.

I think I’ll go eat my lunch. Fair enough. Susan and I are going to grill out tonight. Fair enough. It’s literally too much.

The Usual Suspects: This annual rant would not be complete without the usual non-words I complain about. Flustrated and irregardless are the two that come to mind the quickest. Flustrated gets to me more than anything because I’m hearing it more and more every year. I’m afraid it will become an accepted part of the English language as a portmanteau – the blending of two words to become an actual word. Smog, for example is a portmanteau. It combined smoke and fog to become smog. It would frustrate me if that happened to flustrated. Then there are the usual corporate buzzwords and phrases I could list year after year – like metrics, optics, drill-down, deep-dive, circle-back, in the weeds and my all-time favorite; Let’s put that in the parking lot.

My hope is that none of you reading this ever use these trendy phrases or buzzwords. If you do and I’ve angered you; fair enough!

George Phillips

19 Responses to “Buzzwords and Trendy Sayings to Avoid”

  1. My current personal favourite is “..are you joking me?” as a term of surprise.

  2. Or Sick for something which is great. I’m afraid that these expressions creep into everyone’s life making it difficult to avoid them. I find I am now very occasionally using “reach out “ or similar. Makes me feel a bit twattish when I do!

    Just between us thought George, I won’t tell but that list comprised more than just one day away didn’t it!!!!

  3. One that’s used on business programs is “SPACE” used to replace market or marketplace. “ABC Widget Inc. is working to increase our presence in this SPACE.”

  4. 😂😂 These are all so true. It is amazing how fast they spread across all pats of the country right???

  5. “Outside Pole” to refer to the second fastest qualifier.

  6. Now I will be afraid to talk with you. Sadly, I use “I know, right?” all the time. Just using it to say I agree with you but I guess I will have to be careful when I’m around you. 🤣😉
    Yikes do you also hate emojis?

    I thought perhaps this would be some of the words or phrases used during the IndyCar broadcasts. I’d be just fine if I never heard them say “elbows out” ever again.

  7. I wish I had a dollar for everytime Tony Romo says “Right?” during an NFL game. Most people consider him a great announcer but I hit the mute button and watch the game in silence.

  8. David D Gardner Says:

    I agree on all of the above. The one that bothers me the most is “Super”. This has replaced very. It cannot be “very good”, “very hot or cold.” Every thing is super.

  9. “Gift” as a verb is actually the correct/legalistic usage coming back into vogue. “Gifting” is the legal transaction that allows ownership of something to be legally transferred without consideration (something in return), a “gift” is the result of that transaction.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    I always look forward to this column, George.

    “Bye week” has morphed from just a fan/media-used term to one that the NFL and the teams themselves use in their official schedules, something that started creeping into the more official vocabulary of pro and college football as early as the 90s. Prior to the common use of “bye week” teams would usually call their off week an “open week” or “open date” on officially published schedules, which certainly makes more sense semantically.

    The term “disaggregated data” has its place when the aggregated/totaled version of the same data is frequently dealt with as well. I encounter it pretty frequently in this context and find it a useful term, though I suppose one could also refer to it with a more commonly used term such as “detailed” or “sorted”. Using it outside of the need to distinguish a data set from a regularly referred-to totaled data set is pointless and silly.

    “Price point” is another term that I often come across, usually used to mean a maximum price at which a group of consumers would consider buying something. The use of “point” isn’t really necessary, of course, but I suppose it can serve to distinguish whether the conversation is about an individual’s opinion or a group tendency… provided, of course, it is consistently applied that way. Which it rarely is.

  11. I think if I heard someone using the term “granular” in a meeting I would get up and walk out. What a corporate assbag!

  12. You forgot the misuse of the ‘function word’ at.

  13. “My question is, why didn’t he just say specific?”

    my guess is…he was PAID to say what he said.

  14. My yearly rant about GOAT, so tired of that stuff! I also think it’s hard to say someone is a “GOAT” when they are on a team, I mean Sam Darnold might be the GOAT on the right team too.

    A new one for me is the increasing usage of “for sell” or people just misusing “sell” and “sale”. “I have Indy 500 tickets for sell” or “I am going to sale these tickets this year”. C’mon people!

  15. Your take on all-the-rage linguistics is always a highlight of your blog whenever you decide to write another post about it. Or at least, it is quite a fascinating subject matter for this non-native speaker.

    Pivot? I’ve never really heard the term before outside of the context of Microsoft Excel.

    Granular? I kept thinking of granola whilst reading that paragraph.I guess it must have been hard for you to take that pubic speaker cereal. Erm, serious 😉
    I would agree that buzzwords are of very limited use if the audience needs a translator to understand them.

    Using literally to state an exaggeration instead of its real meaning is turning the word on its head. That sounds like a side effect of scripted reality or something.

    Calling the off week a bye week makes it appear like the people who use the word in that way have been overexposed to others saying goodbye. And they are off!

    Luckily, people don’t mix up historical with hysterical. 😉

    I remember from somewhere I cannot clearly specify, that, in programming, robust code is stable but less sophisticated in a way that it could be improved further to shorten running time. I’m afraid I’m not sure what that has got to do with coffee. So the report was too long?

    I’ve heard scalable often during the past year in my native tongue in my work environment. If an activity is scalable, it isn’t merely able to run on the testbed but can be “copied” towards a serial production.

    Level set? Do they mean equal mindset when they use it?

    Data aggregation is data acquisition or data collection, isn’t it? If that’s right, then disaggregated data would be data that was somewhat lost again or dispersed. So how can it actually mean data that has been already processed by sorting it?

    This has been an interesting topic every time you have written a blog post about it. And I won’t seemingly disregard that by a “fair enough”.

  16. Discodavid26 Says:

    Agree with 90% off your list George …… but shocked more by “fair enough “ making your list then anything though … 1. Because it’s less offensive in my book then most off the rest off your list and mainly 2. Because it’s sounds so British English instead off “American English “ and as a Brit/Englishman I’m surprised it’s being used by American now … maybe with a American accent it’s more offensive ? I guess the world is getting smaller as the Australian English equivalent of “fair enough “ would be “no worries “ and that’s getting used more often in the uk “for sure”
    … doh … for sure is a contender in itself!

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