A deep dive into the sea of corporate clichés

At the end of the day, does the albatross around your neck have a lot of tentacles? If you’re a jargon junkie, prepare to feast. If buzzwords give you a rash, get ready to itch.

A friend works in the legal department of a Fortune 25 company where, apparently, they communicate entirely in corporate-speak.

Here, alphabetized for your convenience, is the best list I have ever seen of corporate metaphors, catchphrases and clichés you would be embarrassed to utter outside a teak-paneled boardroom.

Bonus points to anyone who can use three or more of these in a single sentence:

A head shaker
A lot of people are in new chairs
A lot of tentacles
Act like you’ve been there before
Add things to the bag/give a bigger bag
Adding value
Air cover
Air time
Albatross around our neck
Ankle biters
Another bite at the apple
Apple orange banana
Are we playing baseball or cricket?
Are you on suicide watch? You don’t have any shoelaces.
At the end of the day
Back of the envelope/napkin
Ball of wax
Bastardize what I was told
Beat that up
Beauty contest
Belly buttons and doorknobs
Best horse to ride
Bio break
Boil the ocean
Booger in the sugar
Boogeyman in the closet
Bubble gum and duct tape
Buttoned up
Cake in the face
Call a spade a spade
Calling his baby ugly
Can’t put the horse back in the barn
Carrying the water
Caught with our pants down
Causing heartburn
Caveman math
Caveman view
Cheap-seat perspective
Circle back/up
Circling the drain
Closer shave
Controlling the thermostat
Corral the cats
Critical path
Cross to bear
Crossing the goal line
Cube rats
Daisy chain
Damn the torpedoes
Dead cat bounce
Deep dive
Dipping your pen in the company ink
Directionally correct
Do you guys work for [Head of Corporate Foundation]? Because all you do is give money away
Do you hear that sucking sound?
Dog-and-pony show
Don’t paint ourselves into a corner when we don’t yet know what the room looks like
Don’t spend too many calories
Don’t spike the ball
Don’t take your foot off the gas
Double hatting/wearing multiple hats
Dressing the pig
Drinking the Kool-Aid
Dry powder
Dumpster fire
Eat what you kill
Elvis has left the building
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while
Everyone’s had all their itches scratched
Finding the right dance partner
Fire drill
Fireside chat
Flag that for you
Fog a mirror
From a macro perspective
Get a piece of the action
Get our arms around this
Get some more color around this
Getting legs
Getting to the altar is one thing, but saying your vows is another
Give away the farm
Give someone the Heisman
Glide path
Go pound sand
Good enough for government work
Good guy vs. bad guy
Good hustle
Got out over their skis
Got undressed
Great white whale category
Ham and eggs
Hands are going to come out
He won’t get out of bed for that
Hearts and minds
Herding cats
Hockey stick
Holding pattern
How big is a breadbox/bread train?
How big is the nut we have to crack?
How does he mesh with the brass?
I didn’t catch the license plate of the bus you just threw me under
I don’t want there to be any space between the lip and the cup
I just want to milk the cow, not own it
If they’re showing up to the party armed, we should, too
If you’re gonna buy a sinking ship, you’d better be good at plugging holes
In his shop
In my back pocket
In the windshield, not the rearview mirror
In this volley
Invited to the party
I’ve got an appointment with the rest of my life
Jump on a call
Katie, bar the door
Keep my neck out of the noose
Kick the can down the road
Kill the goose that lays the golden egg
Land grab
Lay the sewers and power lines
Lead with your chin
Left pocket/right pocket
Leg of the stool
Let’s punt this one
Lift and shift
Lipstick on the pig
Lock arms
Long in the teeth
Long run for a short slide
Longest poles in the tent
Lots of moving parts
Make hay while the sun shines
Melting ice cube
Missionary work
Monday morning quarterbacking
Moral high ground
More ants at the picnic
Move the ball
Move the needle
My fellow American, I feel your pain
My name is above yours on the org chart
My voice fluctuates depending on my level of interest in what you’re saying.
No brackets
No sacred cows
Not a heavy lift
Not a stray cat
Not married to that approach
Not willing to expend the political capital
Opine on that
Opportunistic opportunity
Over a barrel
Pass the baton
Peanut butter spreading
Pick a scab
Pick your horse
Pie in the sky
Poke holes in this
Poke them in the eye
Pounding the table
Pressure test
Put something out there
Putting out fires
Raked over the coals
Razor/razor blade
Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic
Reduce windshield time
Riding shotgun
Riding the horses as hard and as long as you can
Rubber-stamp this
Say grace over this
See what sticks
Sell this up the food chain
Sharpen our pencils
Showing a little leg
Singing from the same hymnal
Sniff test
Socialize this
Somewhere between the Mafia and Blackwater mercenaries
Spitting bubbles
Squeeze the stone
Stalking horse
Stick a fork in it
String of pearls
Sucking wind
Swim lane
Table stakes
Take a first pass
Take a quick dive
Take a step back
Take this offline
Taken to the woodshed
Talking the same language
Tell someone who cares
That ain’t my circus, and those aren’t my monkeys
That dog will/won’t hunt
That has (no) legs
The harvest is ripe, the workers are few
The juice isn’t worth the squeeze
The laboring oar
The nice carpet people
Things on fire
Throw cold water on it
Throw up on it
Treading water
Trench warfare
Trigger pulls
Two elephants dancing
Two-trick pony
Value grab
Walk around money
War room
Wave the white flag
We want to be Switzerland
We’re down to the short strokes
We’re getting out of the blocks with a running start
Wet behind the ears
Wet my beak
Wheel house
Where the bodies are buried
Whose neck gets choked?
Whose ox is getting gored?
Wind down
Window dressing
Wizard of Oz approach
Working off the same song sheet
Wrapped around the axle

A version of this article first appeared on The Corporate Writer.


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