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?


Welcome to Snark Central

Two deflated figures huddle around a desk, eyes down, shoulders slumped.

This scenario accompanies a common ritual within the confines of my boss’ office: the marathon conference call.

It was during one such experience that the thought first came to me: What if we created a system to keep us actively engaged in these phone discussions, especially during those listen-only segments dominated by folks with a tendency to drone on and on and on?

Enter Snark Central, an ad-hoc exercise of writing down each business cliché, jargony phrase or ridiculous witticism that a colleague might utter (intentionally or otherwise).

It started as a lark to pass the time and make calls easier to endure, but quickly escalated into a full-blown game of dutifully logging these pearls of wisdom.

Before we knew it, we had completely filled out the front and back of the official Snark Central Logbook (a piece of notebook paper) and enlisted our teammates to join in on the fun.

The list soon became so unwieldy that I suggested our team vote for our 10 favorite phrases and whittle it down to the Snark de la Snark.

With so much rich, diverse content, there was no clear winner in our poll, but here were some favorites that exceeded garden-variety-cliché status:

– “Roll out the popcorn cart.”

– “The Washington Post smell test.”

– “News, not schmooze.”

– “Skillanthropist.”

– Make sure your stuff bubbles to the top.”

– “That’s capital ‘C’ communications work.”

– “Don’t give me coy and ominous quotes.”

– That’s where the fuzziness comes in.”

– “Down to the wire, but not over the wire.”

– “Jet it over to me.”

– “I have a buckedtload of questions.”

The beauty of our little experiment is that it’s an equal opportunity offender. These gems emerged from all ages, both genders, and numerous regions of the world. In that way, Snark Central actually exceeded my original intentions by illuminating the reality that we all say some mighty odd, inane, ludicrous, and sometimes illogical things.

In a strange way, I like to think that snarkiness actually helps bring us all a little closer together.

For that, I’m eternally grateful. And likely to hang onto your every word, so watch what you say.