I’ve Got a Catch Phrase…How ‘Bout You?

I find it amusing whenever I observe that someone has a favorite catch phrase. You know, it’s one of those personal buzzwords/phrases that (s)he involuntarily favors and repeatedly inserts into conversations.

Sometimes it’s a simple filler word, as in “um” or “like.” Often it’s a more full-fledged anchor phrase, a la “Quite frankly.”

One of my co-workers (let’s call him Frank) loves to insert “sort of” into every verbal nook and cranny. Another (we’ll call her Betsy) has an affinity for “At the end of the day” (which, unfortunately, is an expression that has crept its way into many a current lexicon).

True to form, I have created a pseudo-game out of identifying and charting these individual catch phrases (after all, man can’t live on Snark Central alone…)

Amusing as that exercise has proven to be, trust me when I admit that it becomes much less enjoyable upon discovering that you rely on your own embarrassing catch phrase and hadn’t realized it.

Turns out mine is “You know.” Those two inane words infiltrate far too many of my statements.

When first confronted with the reality of my verbal addiction (following an intervention-like encounter something along the lines of, “Mike, you have a problem…”), I initially denied it…as most addicts do.

But upon further reflection and analysis, I realized it was painfully true. And there are few things as frustrating as knowing you cling to a throwaway phrase and are unable to halt its transmission before it passes your lips.

I believe I’m making some progress toward controlling this habit. But clearly, it’s not going to be easy to scrub these unnecessary two words from my speech.

Guess that’s just the way I roll. You know?


Best, Mike


I get a kick when I see the in-vogue e-mail closer Best, (as in, “Dear So-and-So, Thanks for the info. Best, Mike.“)

Because this one-word phrase is used so readily, I’ve learned to tune it out. But I sometimes wonder what precise message it’s intended to convey to its recipient.

Here are a few possible meanings for “Best,” that are worth considering:

YOU’RE the best. [Of all my friends/family/acquaintances/colleagues, YOU lead the list. Congratulations. Well done, top-shelf e-mail buddy.]

I’M the best. [Let’s not beat around the bush, I’m pretty awesome. In fact, I believe I’m the penultimate e-pal and want to make sure we’re both clear on that point.]

EVERYONE I meet is the best.” [Because I’m feeling extra generous, I hereby bestow “best” status on all of creation.]

THIS MESSAGE is the best.” [Pay close attention to this virtual document, my fine friend, as it’s chock full of greatness.]

I’m quite hip.” [The actual meaning of this word really doesn’t matter. What’s most important is that you are connected with someone who is downright hip and trendy – and communicates accordingly.]

I wish you the best.” [OK, so this seems like the most likely meaning for the word. But is there a time period it’s intended to cover? Just the exact moment it’s read, or throughout an entire day? Or is it a wish with no expiration whatsoever? Really hard to know.]

I must admit I’m pretty impressed by the efficiency of a sign-off statement boiled down to a single word of four measly letters.

It’s even more efficient than my preferred one-word e-closer: “Thanks,” (or if I’m feeling extra cheeky, “Thx,“)

Now I’m starting to wonder what I’m thanking everyone for: Reading the message? Staying awake? Not bashing me with a snarky reply? Breathing?

Guess a little ambiguity never hurt anyone.



My Proposal for 12 New Business Clichés

My junior year of college, I lived next door to the master of clichés. It seemed like every time Neil opened his mouth, out spewed at least a couple tired phrases. Just for fun, my roommate and I used to try to out-cliché him:

“I think I failed my calculus exam, but you can’t cry over spilled milk, because that’s the way the cookie crumbles – and heck, it’s no skin off my nose.”

You get the idea.

Amusing as Neil’s reflex was, it also sensitized me to the fact that clichés were just throwaway phrases, the victims of their own fame. Meaningless, but so darned fun!

The business world is chock full of clichés – from “thinking outside the box” to “win-win situation” to the ridiculous “paradigm shift.”

Weary of these expressions, I think it’s high-time to unveil a new crop of business clichés (for the new millennium).

Here are 12 nominees for your consideration:

Wall envy: The inevitable outgrowth of an open-plan workplace.

Meeting mirage: When a pointless meeting appears to be drawing to a close, only to be given new life by an inane participant.

Super-value proposition: Even better than the original.

E-mail diarrhea: A descriptive term for the steady stream of meaningless messages to your inbox.

Tossing the Facebook frisbee: Cross-posting on the Facebook walls of your co-workers during work hours.

Pink slip parade: Sort of like a ticker-tape parade, but much bloodier.

Nurturing a vulture culture: Allowing employees to pounce on the furniture and/or supplies of their recently laid-off co-workers.

Turbo-charged ascendancy: An employee who “earns” numerous promotions on the fast-track to the executive suite.

Grazing at the holiday trough: The tendency to pig out on all the edible goodies sent by vendors during the Christmas season.

Far-too-casual Friday: The patent abuse of a relaxed dress code.

Uninventing the wheel: Ignoring previously expressed wisdom to pretend the company needs you to develop it.

Elvis – and IT – have left the building: Where are they when you need them the most?

These phrases, of course, will only ascend to cliché status if you start using them – early and often.

I’d appreciate your cooperation, and I welcome additional nominees to add to the list. For inspiration, here are more business clichés than you can shake a stick at