Classifying Workplace Jargon: See What Fits in These 7 Buckets

Are you a workplace jargon offender? Chances are you've dabbled in some key phrases. As often as jargon is used around the office, thus far there's been little effort put into its categorization. I'd like to change that.

Jargon is on my radar, so round back to see how I've taken a deeper dive into its more specific classifications. Below are seven buckets in which to dump your favorite jargon. Go ahead, see what fits and then leave a comment with your jargon additions.

Let's Paradigm-Shift How We Classify Jargon

  • Jargon as acronyms. Examples: KPI or PTO. This type of jargon is fairly straightforward. Do you find yourself tossing around certain obtuse phrases like call of business or laughing out loud? Why not focus on only the key letters and invent yourself a catchy acronym. The time savings alone will make it WYW.
  • Abbreviated jargon. Examples: biz dev, ed cal or reorg. Talking out loud takes time, and if I've learned anything from the corporate world, it's that time is money. Just like with jargon as acronyms, you can save valuable time and speak to impress by truncating multisyllabic words. Totes.
  • Jargon as verbified nouns. Example: parking lot. As in, to parking lot, as in to place an idea on hold for an indefinite period of time. (This particular phrase is also a polite way of saying I think that's a bad idea or You're derailing this meeting.) Verbified nouns can also be used in their original noun form (putting this one in the parking lot), but you'll demonstrate the most jargon prowess when you switch up the part of speech right there on the fly.
  • Jargon as nounified verbs. Example: sanity check. As in to get a sanity check. Nounified verbs turn something actionable (like getting something checked) into a conceptual thing. Is a sanity check a thing? What about a point runner? (That's the guy running point.) They are now.
  • Metaphorical jargon. See three sub-types below:
    • Concept-based metaphorical jargon. Example: end-of-lifing aka EOL (also a verbified noun and an acronym). Death metaphors are rampant in the workplace. But killing and murdering aren't nearly as polite as end-of-lifing, so it makes sense that the coming-to-a-close concept is often turned into workplace-friendly metaphorical jargon. (See below also.)
    • Imagery-based metaphorical jargon. Example: sunsetting (also a verbified noun and a death metaphor). Speaking of getting phased out, wouldn't it be nice if we EOL'd sunsetting? Imagery-based metaphorical jargon uses an image rather than a concept as a replacement for whatever you're indirectly trying to speak of. Think also of phrases like brain dumping or clear as mud.
    • Definition-based metaphorical jargon. Example: litmus test. This type of jargon not only highjacks a word or phrase that already has a specific definition, it uses that definition as a metaphorical stand-in for something completely unrelated. Litmus test is a great example. A real litmus test determines relative acidity or alkalinity based on pH levels. A DBMJ litmus test is meant to determine future success or failure based on a "test" that uses a single factor as the basis for that judgment. Clear as mud, right? Need another example of definition-based metaphorical jargon? Consider feedback.

As much as I love jargon – and classifying it – I'm sure I'm missing other leading jargon categories. Keep me honest by contributing your thoughts in the comments. And if you really want to move the needle, help add to my classified jargon examples. Until then, I'll head back to the drawing board.