ask the readers: coworkers who got the meaning of words very, very wrong

In the comments on a post from last week, several commenters shared stories about coworkers misusing words in hilarious ways. Here are some examples (and, uh, I just realized all of these are adult in nature, so consider yourself warned):

  • “A coworker of a friend used the word ‘vajazzled’ about an upcoming meeting, thinking she was saying jazzed or something. People told her what it meant immediately, and she was immediately mortified but 100% glad people said something quickly or she would have continued to use it.”
  • “My dad worked on Obama’s campaign. He legit thought that ‘teabagger’ was the correct term used for someone in the teaparty. He didn’t know it was offensive. He didn’t know what teabagging was. I had to explain teabagging to my elderly father.” (Okay, this isn’t a coworker, but it must be included.)
  • “When working for a video game company I had to explain to a very kind older sounding woman why she couldn’t use an abbreviation of her name as a character name. It was something similar to Camila Townsend, and she had shortened it to ‘Cameltoe.’ The sheer level of awkward of having to explain that one.”

I know there are more stories like this out there, and I know the world will benefit from hearing them. Please share in the comments, and entertain us all!

{ 1,774 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Cat

    One of my partners once sent a client an email that said “I’m just glad this story had a ‘happy ending,'” complete with scare quotes. I don’t know if anyone ever got up the courage to tell him what it meant.

    Reply
      1. Emi.

        And even with the quotes … some people just put idioms in quotes, I guess so you know they know they didn’t invent the phrase, or something? It’s like “nails on a chalkboard” to me.

        Reply
        1. nutella fitzgerald

          I would have to give that one to the sympathy card in which someone wrote:

          Sorry for your “loss”.

          Reply
          1. Mookie

            I once got a (recycled) birthday card + $4 check from a relative who scare-quoted my name on the check and the word “birthday” in the card, but this is just unpleasant.

            Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      Cat, you seem to have a dirty mind. “Happy Ending” has long been used to describe the ending of fairy tales and stories of all kinds. If someone’s mind automatically goes to the more recent pornographic meaning first, well, that’s on them, but it’s pretty clear that your partner meant the G rated usage.

      Reply
      1. Cat

        This comment is needlessly antagonistic. Of course he meant the G rated version. It was unintentionally funny because of the quotes.

        Reply
                1. SirTechSpec

                  SOME OF US ARE AT WORK TRYING TO KEEP A LOW PROFILE OKAY
                  …though the rest of the comments make that pretty difficult too. This post is gold XD

  2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    Not a coworker, but a good friend of mine growing up was a bit of a nerd for very obscure, possibly apocryphal meanings of words.

    She learned that ‘twit’ referred to a pregnant goldfish (?) and decided she was going to craft her own word so she wasn’t continuing to impugn the intelligence of gravid fish. The easiest way, in her eyes, was to sub out the vowel.

    Thus, as a 10-year-old, in front of her fifth-grade teacher, she jokingly called me a twat.

    Reply
    1. Gen

      An american student on my degree course pronounced ‘twat’ so it rhymes with hot rather than hat, so she decided that the British pronounciation was the PG version and used it constantly

      Reply
      1. Jules the 3rd

        wait, you mean the British pronunciation rhymes with hat? I could have sworn I’ve heard it rhyme with hot in Midsomer Murders….

        Reply
          1. Jules the 3rd

            16 years of BBC mayhem… I checked Urban Dictionary – British usage rhymes with hat or hot, probably by area; US rhymes with squat, but in my particular dialect hot rhymes with squat anyway. So we’re both right.

            Reply
                1. tigerlily

                  But that doesn’t change the vowel sound, does it? Both have an “ah” sound. Sk-wAHt and hAHt. Or do people pronounce squat different than I do?

                2. Kathryn T.

                  The way I pronounce those two vowels, they are subtly different. The vowel in “Squat” is represented by the “ɑ” symbol in IPA, while the vowel in “hot” is the “ɒ” symbol. The second is slightly darker or more covered than the first. If you keep going in that direction, you get the “ɔ” vowel as in “ought.”

          2. Anlyn

            If you like low-intensity procedurals, you should. It’s a relaxing little show, similar in style to Murder She Wrote. In fact, I mentally call it the English Murder She Wrote, because of the sheer number of murders that seem to occur in little old Midsomer County. :)

            I miss Jones.

            Reply
                1. Merci Dee

                  That’s what I’ve been saying for years! It’s like the Angel of Death rides around in that woman’s coat pocket! If you’re a friend of Jessica Fletcher, you’re either destined to die, or to be accused of murder. I don’t see how she still has any friends.

                2. Anon and alone

                  Actually a friend of mine is of the opinion that she did the murders, that’s how she was able to solve them so easily. Whenever we see a DVD of the show, we call it “Murder, She Did”.

            1. Lissa

              I love low intensity procedurals and am looking for new stuff to watch…thanks for the recommendation, that sounds right up my alley!

              Reply
              1. Rose

                Lisa, watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix. Like “MSW” but set in the 1920s with some innuendo & sophistication.

                Reply
            2. Chameleon

              Hell, I still miss Troy.

              And yes, Midsomer County apparently has the murder rate about five times higher than Chicago. Also, if you know someone who has been murdered recently, get the hell out of town or you might be next!

              Reply
              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

                I’ve always said that if Rosemary and Thyme ever took a gardening job in Midsomer County the body count would be astronomical.

                Reply
            3. FCJ

              Joooooonnneeeees. He was in a great short film. YouTube “Tarot Mechanic.”

              My boyfriend and I (Americans) call it “British People Killing Each Other” and come up with scenarios and theories about what everyday life in Midsomer must be like with all the murders all the time.

              Reply
        1. ABC123

          It’s a bit too rude for Midsomer Murders, anyway… At least the way I’ve heard it used (and that was always rhyming with hat).

          Reply
          1. Elsewhere1010

            I would love to retire to Midsomer County. Sure, there are weekly murders, but only one per town within the county. The upside to the mayhem is that there’s always housing stock coming onto the market, the cost of lodging can be quite low.

            Reply
            1. ABC123

              I’m always thinking that those charming old cottages must be terribly drafty and expensive to heat. But then again, it’s pretty much always summer.

              Reply
        2. Nobody Knows My Name

          I cannot imagine that word being used on Midsomer Murders! It’s a COZY, for God’s sake! (Which episode?)

          Reply
        1. Gen

          I’m in Yorkshire and had never heard it pronounced with an o until university *shrug* it might well be regional then but no one else on the course seemed familiar with the other pronounciation either, they kept asking her what she was trying to say.

          Reply
        2. Ramona Flowers

          Brit here. Can confirm we pronounce it to rhyme with hat. I’ve not ever personally heard anyone pronounce it to rhyme with hot.

          Reply
          1. socrescentfresh

            American here who briefly lived in the UK. The first times I heard it, it did rhyme with hot, in a song by an English artist who needed the rhyme to work. So until 30 seconds ago I thought that was the correct pronunciation. Better I learned that late than never, I guess.

            Reply
          2. AnnaleighUK

            Boyfriend legitimately thought for the longest time it rhymed with ‘art’ but English is not his first language and as I am rather broad of Scottish accent sometimes, I can drawl the ‘a’ without thinking and it does rhyme with ‘art’. Cue one very confused Frenchman when he actually heard the correct pronunciation on a night out.

            Reply
          3. AMD

            Julie Andrews’ reading of her audiobook mentions her not knowing what the word meant, and it definitely rhymes with “hot” when she says it.

            Reply
        3. Sarah from Long Island

          I am a Brit in the USA… Dual citizen. Accents vary all over the UK, just like in the USA. I personally have only heard this word rhyme with fat/hat/pat. I am *most *familiar with West Yorkshire, Liverpool, Leeds. Manchester, Portsmouth, London and Wales as far as speech goes…. All having their own distinct accents. Again, never heard that word, uttered from UK lips, rhyme with not or squat.

          Reply
          1. Night Cheese

            There’s an episode of a UK sketch show called “Big Train,” which starred Simon Pegg, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, and Catherine Tate – who calls someone a “fat-handed tw*t” and it rhymes with “that.” You can find it on Youtube.

            Reply
      2. LizB

        I once had to tell off a coworker for calling another coworker a twat in front of the elementary-aged students we were working with. Her defense was, “I didn’t know what it really meant, I just thought it was British!”

        Reply
        1. Typhon Worker Bee

          I’ve heard Americans say the same thing about not realising what “wanker” means, then using it in inappropriate situations!

          Life would be so much less interesting without these quirkly little linguistic differences.

          Reply
            1. Specialk9

              Ha, “bugger” startles me constantly. A weird regional quirk where I recently moved is to call *babies* buggers, like I guess little bugs. When a clean-cut clean-speaking clergyman called my *baby* a sodomizer, I was taken aback. I mean, I guess in a decade or two he might be into that, but it seems to be TMI for his mom. Oh wait, you meant he’s a cute little lovebug.

              Reply
              1. gladfe

                I’m from such a region! I still have so much trouble taking people seriously when they use it as an actual insult. No matter how many times I hear it, it sounds exactly like hearing an adult angrily call another adult a cutie-pie.

                Reply
              2. Julie Noted

                Whereas in Australia, bugger is the very mild swear word you use to express frustration or disappointment without “really” swearing.

                I once found myself hanging out with a group of seminarians, many of whom were from overseas. The latter subgroup were hotly debating whether “bugger” or “bloody” were the more offensive word until an Australian interrupted to advise “they’re both fine!”

                Reply
                1. ArtsNerd

                  When an Australian told me my outfit looked “daggy” and I looked it up I was so VERY offended… quickly learned that despite its origins it’s actually a mild term.

                2. GlenT

                  ArtsNerd, please don’t be offended. “Daggy” has gone through a series of evolutions resulting in its dictionary meaning being far from the intent of the term. “Daggy” originally meant dag-like, in the sense of an insult meaning unkempt, smelly pollution of a sheep’s wool around the anus. That’s what the dictionary will say. But it use continued on in meaning “unkempt” to approach meaning “unfashionable, no effort at attire or presentation”. That use now stands so far apart from its original meaning that if you ask most Australians they’ll only be familiar with the current meaning of the term. “Your outfit is daggy” might not even be an insult but merely intended as “unfashionable”. As with many Australian words, the tone and context determine the meaning (“you’re such a dag” ranges from declaration of war to affirmation of friendship).

            2. This Daydreamer

              I just recently learned, in the UK, that “bummer” is a very rude way to refer to a gay man. Here in the U.S., it just means that something is mildly unpleasant. Oddly enough, I think most Americans would say that something “sucks” as a synonym.

              Reply
                1. yixen

                  It’s less common than the more usual ‘bumming’ to refer to the, ahem, ‘act’ rather than the person, but yep, it is in use in some dialects here.

            3. Mine Own Telemachus

              I find “bummer” even more hilarious. I had trouble getting that out of my vocab when I lived in the UK (I’m American).

              Reply
            4. Ramona Flowers

              I recently discovered my colleague had no idea what sod was short for. Didn’t think it was in any way rude.

              Reply
              1. mcbqe

                I don’t believe ‘sod’ would be thought any way rude to most Australians or Brits – it just describes a difficult or troublesome person. You might even (semi)affectionately call someone a ‘dopey sod’ as a vague equivalent to a ‘silly fool’. Most would likely think the origin of the term in relation to a person would have come from the agricultural meaning of sod (a clod of mud/turf) – very few would even consider that it was short for what you suggest!

                Reply
        2. Connie-Lynne

          I had a male acquaintance with a similar problem once. He refused to believe me that it was hugely offensive in parts of the USA “because I’m American and I’ve never heard it.”

          Reply
        3. SusanIvanova

          The Absolutely Fabulous cast and crew were rather amused at what got bleeped on US television and what went through – from the British perspective, the naughtier words were the ones left intact.

          Reply
      3. StrikingFalcon

        How offensive is it in British usage? Because I’ve heard it in the US pronounced to rhyme with hot, and it’s not noticeably more offensive than twit. It just carries more of a connotation of “annoying” rather than “foolish”

        Reply
          1. paul

            ….I always thought it meant ass. As in “they’re being a horse’s ass”.

            Apparently I’ve been wrong a long time, judging by this thread

            Reply
            1. tigerlily

              I feel like it means both? Or at least – it is a euphemism for a woman’s crotch, but you mostly call someone that when they’re being a paticular kind of idiot. Just like other euphemism’s for genetalia carry specific meanings. You’re saying something different when you call someone a c*nt vs calling someone a p*ssy – but either way you’re using a euphemism for vagina.

              Does that make sense?

              Reply
              1. Mookie

                Yep. It’s like the differing registers associated with ‘d*ck’ as a pejorative. For some Anglophones, it’s a synonym for ‘assh*le,’ for others a fool.

                Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          Oh man. US, Pacific Northwest, it is *hugely* more offensive than twit. It may be a tiny bit better than the cu.. word, but not much if at all. (For basically the same reasons.)

          Reply
          1. Gaia

            PNW here. It doesn’t tend to illicit the visceral anger that the C word does (note – I won’t even write that one out) but twat is really, really not okay at work.

            Reply
        2. Specialk9

          Really f-ing offensive! Swap out the c-word for equivalence.

          Also, “fanny” means the same thing in the UK, rather than in the US, a grandmother’s way of avoiding saying something crude like “butt” or “bottom”. Hugely offensive to many Brits, which is funny bc Americans use it when they are working hard to have clean language.

          Reply
          1. Electron Wisperer

            I believe I have told the story of my friend from Glasgow (Important, detail that), and his comment that, having moved to London at age about 12 or so, he got on better in school once he figured out that “Alright you ‘aud cunt!” was NOT a term of mild respect in an inner city London school unlike an inner city Glasgow one!

            I know someone who while working a gig in the US came out with “Keep an eye on this will you? I am just going outside to smoke a fag”, got quite the looks while gigging a gay club (The English translation involves consuming a cigarette)….

            My own finest hour was in a theatre bar during a show build, “Right, first thing tomorrow, you guys hang the blacks while I go and pick up some readheads and blonds for the film crew”, I have no recollection of saying it but was apparently overheard by a punter, and it sounds like a reasonable set of instructions for that stage of the job so I probably did come out with it. Translation out of UK stage terminology “Tomorrow morning you guys get the black curtains hung up, while I go and hire some 500 and 1,000W lights for the film crew”.

            Fanny gets very different meanings across the pond, and walking into a stationers in NYC and asking for a “Rubber” gets you odd looks until they suss out that you mean an “Eraser”.

            Reply
            1. Quickstepping Matilda

              I heard a story from a former dance teacher (from England), about her relative who moved to the US, and got a job teaching high school. Apparently she accused a couple of kids of cutting class “to go suck on a fag in the parking lot,” which caused much hilarity.

              Reply
          2. radiator

            haha, when I was in the states someone said “i’ll just go get my fanny pack” before we went out. I thought it was something medical, like some kind of vaginal ice pack! I was like that is just TMI!

            Reply
            1. Mental Mouse

              I learned fast to call it a “bum bag” when I was taking a cross-country tour with a bunch of British and European au pairs.

              Reply
          3. Floundering Mander

            My 60-something Midwestern aunt got quite a few odd looks and giggles when she shouted to my 7-year-old nephew “get your fanny over here!” in the middle of Waterloo station.

            Reply
    2. RVA Cat

      Robert Browning infamously used it in his 1841 poem “Pippa Passes.” He assumed from the context in a medieval manuscript that it meant a nun’s hat – let’s just say medieval folks weren’t Victorians….

      Reply
    3. twig

      I was almost that kid.
      I just thought it would be fun to make my own word and liked twit, and changed out the vowel for an o: Twot.
      I was a teenager, though. Fortunately a more savvy friend enlightened me after only a week or two.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I am related to a younger person I’ll call Sue who, in her naivete during her early teenage years, used the word “c-u-m” on Facebook as a stand-in for come (the normal usage of the word, like “Hey you should come over.”). She was trying to approximate textspeak, I think; those early posts were so slangy they were hard to read.

        I alerted Sue’s mum to the error and she had to explain it to her. Her mum told me later that Sue said, “OMG I wondered why all these boys were laughing and making remarks!” Sue’s mum and I nearly killed ourselves laughing over this.

        Reply
      2. Two Pi Man

        When I was still a youngling, I was trying to write a silly poem to tell my mom, and I needed a word that rhymed with “muck.” I wracked my little brains but couldn’t think of anything, so decided I’d have to invent a word that rhymed with “muck”. I’m sure you can guess what word I “invented”…

        Reply
    4. Rhodoferax

      Weirdly enough, I’ve heard an urban legend that a ‘twat’ is literally a pregnant, or possibly just female, goldfish.

      Reply
    5. INTP

      So amazing how much one phoneme can change a word. I taught English to children on an island that happened to have a lot of sharks. They always wanted to know the English word and talked about sharks a lot. Only, they would often mispronounce that last little consonant and chase each other around being “sharts.”

      Reply
      1. Anonicat

        A clean version of this: my niece once told us about a kid at daycare getting in trouble for “saying a square word.”

        Reply
  3. Former Diet Coke Addict

    I had a coworker who confused the words “monogamy” and “monotony” a lot. Then when pressed, said “you know? Monogamy, the same thing over and over and over again!” Which I suppose was technically true but definitely not the intention.

    Reply
    1. CoveredInBees

      I had a bunch of those as a kid because I was a voracious reader and my parents encouraged me to read anything that held my attention, regardless of the intended audience for the book. Context is often a lot more malleable to a child than an adult could ever imagine.

      Reply
      1. Jeanne

        I had that problem. I still pronounce some words wrong because of learning them just through context in reading when I was young. I was allowed to read anything that the school library had.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Hahaha, same here. My mum gave me special permission to check out books from the adult section at the town library. I would get the meaning of words but I didn’t know how to pronounce them. I though Potomac was PAWT-o-mack and 1di0t was EYE-DIE-ote.

          Still have that problem sometimes, actually. So it can be embarrassing when I read something I wrote aloud because I will actually use words I can’t say.

          Reply
                1. Anonymous because work

                  I thought it was pronounced “aw-ree”… it was one of the casualties of me learning most of my vocabulary as a kid from reading books. I said it out loud one time and my brother cracked up laughing and eventually composed himself enough to tell me how it was supposed to be pronounced.

          1. Sandra wishes you a heavenly day

            determine: DEH-TER-mine.

            But my mom and I read aloud so she was able to correct me before I let that one loose.

            Reply
        2. Minnock

          Me, too! I would read ANYthing as a kid. One summer, I announced to my mother that I was going to make all the Whore’s Dovers. She looked horrified. Then she saw the cookbook I was reading.

          Reply
          1. Bobbin Ufgood

            I thought that receipt (which I pronounced ree-sept) and “ree-ceet” were two different words for the LONGEST time — like until I was in college *headdesk*. I also thought that approximately meant exactly because you actually can’t really tell from context in a sentence –try it.

            Reply
              1. radiator

                Me too! there was a Horrible Science book called Chemical Chaos which I did a talk on at school calling it chay-ows, with a hard ch, all the way through. I was astounded to learn that it was the same word as chaos, I thought chayows was a chemistry word!

                Reply
            1. oranges & lemons

              I had the same thing with “segue”–one day I thought to myself, it’s strange that there are two words with the same obscure meaning, “segue” (pronounced “seeg”) and “segway”. I wonder why that … oh.

              Reply
            2. Whimsy and Forest Fires

              That was me with “indict.” I think I was in high school before I finally realized why I’d never actually seen “indite” written down or heard “in-DICKT” spoken.

              Reply
          2. Elemeno P.

            This was me with “rendezvous.” I thought the “ren-dez-vuss” was a different thing from a “ronday-voo.”

            Reply
        3. valc2323

          I also still occasionally mispronounce words even though I can spell them and know what they mean, for the same reason! Our rule was that I was allowed to read anything I was big enough to pick up (and I realized many years later, could reach) on my parents’ bookshelves — two full rooms, 14 foot ceilings, floor to ceiling bookshelves on an entire wall.

          This resulted in, shortly after reading Lord of the Rings at age 12, picking up Bored of the Rings. Whose headline character is Dildo Bugger. And mom wasn’t home, so I asked dad why it was funny… to his credit, he explained, in medical terms, with a straight face. And I’m sure howled about it with mom later.

          Reply
    2. sapphire1166

      Just last month my husband said “Hey, why are our daughter’s initials wrong on this hat? They’re in the wrong order”.

      I replied, “They’re supposed to be like that. It’s a monogram”

      Husband: “What do mammograms have to do with any of this??”

      Reply
  4. Kristinyc

    I have several coworkers who say “antidotally” when they mean “anecdotally”. As in, “This didn’t come up in our research, but antidotally we’ve learned that parents prefer…” I cringe every time I hear it but to happened too many times to correct them at this point!

    Reply
    1. Collarbone High

      I once worked with an editor who Did Not Know What He Was Doing, and he’d say this all the time to reporters who did know what they were doing to try to sound smart. “I’d go with an antidotal lede on this story.” So cringeworthy.

      (For those who don’t speak journalist: an anecdotal lede is when you open a story with an anecdote.)

      Reply
    2. Nolan

      In a similar vein, my boss pronounces the word “frustrating” as “fustrating”. We don’t work in the same office anymore, so I only talk to him once a week now, but when our desks were 15 feet away from each other it was maddening.

      Reply
      1. many bells down

        As a preschool teacher, I had a 3-year-old who would pronounce it as “far-us-tar-ated”. “I am very farustarated with this toy!”

        Same kid also told me once that “I call popsicles ‘pocky-pos’ because I can’t say popsicle.” Kids are great.

        Reply
        1. Steph B

          My daughter for the longest time pronounced ‘boats’ as ‘butts’. We drove past a marina once and I couldn’t stop laughing.

          Reply
          1. Red Monster

            Hah. I had a friend who, when he was a kid, called fire trucks ‘fire f*cks’. That still makes me laugh.

            Reply
            1. Ktbob

              My oldest, as a toddler, would leave out the middle “l”s in words. Which made it awkward upon loudly pointing out clocks and flags.

              Reply
              1. Elemeno P.

                I was reading books with a friend’s sweet toddler who had the same issue. I was howling with laughter and his dad poked his head in and said, “Oh, is he showing you the clocks?”

                I crocheted him a little rooster with clock arms instead of wings for Christmas.

                Reply
        1. Payroll Lady

          OH GOD! I hate this! Way too many people pronounce it with an L instead of an R. In fact, there is a particularly famous family who have a show on TLC where the Mom, who was once a pre-K teacher, says it ALL.THE.TIME! That, and when people say “Lie-barry” instead of Library make me physically recoil!

          Reply
      2. Squeegee Beckenheim

        I have a coworker who does this too! He only uses it once every couple of weeks, but maddening is definitely the word.

        Reply
          1. wealhtheow

            Many years ago I had a co-worker who said, among other things, “supposably”, “fusstrating”, and “liberry.”

            That last one was the cringiest for me, because we worked in periodical circulation so this person was talking to librarians all. the. time.

            Reply
      3. valc2323

        When I lived in New England, a regional variant was “flustrated”, which I found kind of endearing – a combination of flustered and frustrated. They go together so frequently!

        Reply
    3. Kitten

      I had a Project Manager mentoring me once who had the most amazing technical skillset. But he kept writing ‘as a pose to’ for ‘as opposed to’ and I never figured out how to correct him politely.

      I was working up the courage to explain it to him before he had to run a presentation in front of the Board, but the presentation got cancelled, so I never got the chance.

      I really hope someone else told him because he was wicked smart and really knew his stuff. It used to make me cringe though!

      Reply
          1. Ego Chamber

            Am I being judgmental when I say that everyone I know who does this are people who don’t read, but picked up these idioms from friends/family/media/etc/whatever? (“Ratchet” is a next-level example of this phenomenon.)

            Reply
            1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!

              Ratchet is a real word…I think…a type of tool. Are they trying to say “wretched”?

              Reply
              1. Salyan

                …and then there are folks like me who learned to say ‘sprocket’ instead of ‘socket’ by mistake, and now continue to use the incorrect version because it’s more fun to say! ;-)

                Reply
                1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!

                  Well, Mr. Spaceley’s company made them! Anyone else watch the Jetsons as a kid…? :)

          2. MsChanandlerBong

            THANK YOU. I have been reading books by a new-to-me author, and TWO of them have used “chock up” when they meant “chalk up.” I think the publisher used MS Word as a proofreader instead of hiring anyone, as all of the errors in the book are real words, just not the spellings appropriate in their contexts. For example, they had an employee sitting in her “cubical” at work instead of her cubicle. I feel like writing a letter and telling them I’ll proofread for free if they just give me a free copy of the book!

            Reply
      1. Dee C.

        Oof. I briefly had a boss who wrote in nearly every email she sent to me that she and I needed to “touch basis” on some subject or another.

        One of my current boss’s favorite phrases is the idiom he believes is “flush out” and the rest of the world knows as “flesh out” (as in a concept, an outline, etc.). Not toooo egregious, but he says it every. Darn. Day.

        (Why do people who get idioms wrong always do it with such confidence and enthusiasm, though?)

        Reply
        1. Dee C.

          Oh! One more that nearly made me die of secondhand embarrassment. I was at a conference not long ago and one speaker’s presentation relied heavily on the idea that a particular tech platform was quickly achieving feature parity with its bigger competitor. Which he referred to as “feature parody,” on every last slide and handout.

          Reply
        2. yasmara

          Interesting- I do think there’s a use for “flush out” too, but it’s to expose/discover not to elaborate on.

          Reply
          1. Garland Not Andrews

            I’ve seen it used in referring to hunting, as in, using a dog to “Flush Out” the pheasants.

            Reply
        3. Peter

          I have gotten into all-out arguments with colleagues, both past and present, on the “flush out” versus “flesh out.” Glad it’s not just me!

          Reply
          1. yasmara

            “Flush out” comes from hunting – you flush out game so you can shoot it. I feel like I run across it in the context of mysteries or police procedurals – they are always wanting to flush out bad guys from their hiding places.

            Reply
  5. AlexandrinaVictoria

    My team were explaining the word “hangry” to our boss. He stated that he didn’t get angry when he was hungry, but he did get grumpy, so he must be “humpy.”

    Reply
  6. KTM

    One of my coworkers was giving a practice presentation to a group of us prior to an upcoming technical conference. Part of the subject matter was a hydrophobic surface (a material/surface that’s designed to repel water). He had it printed in text correctly on the slide but when he was talking about it he said it was a ‘homophobic’ surface! He didn’t notice his own slip and continued on in the presentation while we were kind of wondering what the heck happened. Someone had to awkwardly bring up his slip of tongue afterwards. Thankfully it was internal and not at the conference…

    Reply
    1. This Daydreamer

      And, of course, hydrophobia is quite a different concept in biology.

      And thank you for the reminder to schedule my cat’s annual checkup.

      Reply
  7. moink

    I work for a British company in Germany and am the only native English speaker on the team. Once, I had to explain to my manager why the much older male colleague in the UK insisted she not use the acronym FANNY for a project, but wouldn’t tell her why. She then called all the people in the project team and was very explicit about giving them the translation.

    Another colleague called someone’s outfit “slutty” when he meant “sloppy.” The two words have the same German translation.

    Reply
    1. LizB

      Fun fact: “slutty” and “sloppy” used to have basically the same meaning in English as well. They emphatically do not have the same meaning anymore.

      Reply
      1. msmorlowe

        A friend of mine had older parents, and her mother would call her a slut if she hadn’t cleaned her bedroom…

        Reply
        1. Not Australian

          My mother’s definition of a slut was someone who left her washing out on the line overnight. I think the word they’re confusing it with is actually ‘slattern’…

          Reply
          1. Jay

            My mother’s definition of “slut” was a woman who smoked cigarettes outside on the sidewalk. She was horrified once NYC passed its no-smoking-indoors law. All those loose women out on the street, dressed just like everybody else….

            Reply
          2. fposte

            No, it actually predates “slattern” in that usage. “A woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance,” says the OED.

            Reply
        2. only acting normal

          My mother still uses it like that too (e.g. “I haven’t vacuumed all week, I’m such a slut!”) To be fair that used to be the meaning, but really really isn’t any more!

          Reply
    2. moink

      Remembered another few : Germans use the verb “pimp” in the sense of “to make extravagant” (like “Pimp my Ride”) and are often unaware of its other meaning. This has made for some confusing propsals to pimp various products, projects, etc.

      I also have had to explain the slightly salacious connotations of “hump day”.

      Once at a conference a different non-English native presented about his “Adaptive Sampling System” and repeatedly used the acronym. No one said anything.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        On the flip side, I worked with someone who insisted on pronouncing GIZ as “jizz,” rather than gee-eye-zed.

        Reply
          1. Lily Rowan

            Sorry, it’s the abbreviation for the German international aid organization, like USAID or DFID in the UK. (My colleague and I are both American.)

            Reply
      2. Emi.

        Wait, “hump day” is salacious? I thought it just meant you’re “over the hump,” as in the worst is over.

        Reply
            1. Anonicat

              Tonight we’re gonna make love.
              You know how I know?
              ‘Cause it’s Wednesday
              And Wednesday night is the night we usually make love

              Conditions are perfect.
              There’s nothing good on TV – conditions are perfect!
              – Business Time by Flight of the Conchords

              Reply
        1. Persephone Mulberry

          I think it’s more of a “snickering like a 12 year old” interpretation rather than salacious in and of itself – sort of like the road signage that calls them “speed humps” instead of “speed bumps.”

          Reply
          1. Snork Maiden

            When I went to Britain we had a quiet giggle about the first “Humps for 10 metres” sign we encountered

            Reply
          2. Falling Diphthong

            I live in New England, and have never figured out the difference between speed humps and speed bumps. I’ll encounter both on one drive–I can’t swear they are on the same road in the same town, but it feels that way.

            Reply
            1. nofelix

              I can enlighten you: speed bumps are smaller, around a few feet across. Speed humps are longer.

              Generally, when driving over a bump your front wheels will clear it around the same time your rear wheels first hit it. When driving over a hump however, all wheels will be on the hump at the same time before you cross it, leading to a gentler rocking motion.

              Reply
        2. DaniCalifornia

          We say this all the time. It’s hump day to me (and those who I’ve interacted) has always meant what you described. Wednesday. There’s even that commercial with the camel saying it. I don’t think it’s salacious.

          Reply
        3. An AAM Fan

          I honestly think this is the meaning most people give it. You’re climbing the hill until Wednesday, and it’s all down hill after that.

          But, honestly, it seems like *anything* can be turned into a sexual innuendo. And, yes, I do know what “hump” means in other contexts. I’m 100% sure, though, that most people I know who use the term “hump day” do not mean it that way.

          Reply
      3. Ramona Flowers

        I once decided not to apply for a job as an Advice Session Supervisor. They abbreviated it right in the ad and I just knew I wouldn’t get through the interview without laughing…

        Reply
        1. strawberries and raspberries

          Oh my God, my first temp office job when I was 19, there always used to be mail for “[Company Owner’s Name] and Ass.” and I always used to bust up laughing, like every single time. SO IMMATURE but like JUST WRITE ASSOCIATES IN FULL.

          Reply
            1. Lauralyzer

              Many years ago I became an assistant manager at a women’s gym, and my boss would refer to me as the “Ass. Man.” and even address notes to me that way … *eyeroll*

              Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            I worked at a company at one point that had character limitations on email addresses and wanted clear, quick group names.

            Sales and Marketing was s&m@….

            I never, ever saw an email that included them without either giggling or having to fight down a giggle. Luckily I was not *on* the s&m team, so I didn’t see them very often.

            Reply
            1. NCKat

              Hahaha!

              Many years ago we had an HR system that imposed character limits on position titles. The convention was to put the function first, then the title. For example, an HR manager would be entered as “Manager HR”

              You can imagine the fuss than ensued when analysts saw their titles as “ANAL ” listed in our company intranet site. Of course I giggled like mad at the time.

              Reply
              1. Coalea

                A company I used to work for used abbreviations in their time reporting system, so my time sheets would indicate that I spent the majority of my days engaged in “anal” (aka analysis).

                Also, my classmates and I had to explain to our (non-native English-speaking) professor that “CLIT” was probably not the best abbreviation for his comparative literature course.

                Reply
                1. LJL

                  A former colleague wanted to name the center where I worked to the Center for Learning and Instructional Technology. It wasn’t until I made him spell out the acronym that he turned beet red, giggled, and said “Oh, no, we can’t have that!!”

              2. Lissa

                The college I work at uses abbreviations on class schedules, and it uses the word “Method” to indicate if it’s a lecture or a lab. So a lot of student schedules have “METH LAB” written on them.

                Reply
                1. Specialk9

                  Oh wow, this made me laugh till I got tears in my eyes. Student meth labs… Very enterprising of your school!

                2. So Very Anonymous

                  Academic friend said his university had a department (can’t remember which one now) that taught an analytic methods course that got abbreviated as ANAL METH.

              3. SusanIvanova

                The 8.3 filename limits resulted in some significant giggling when the Unix file named “emulation” got truncated to “emulatio”.

                Reply
              4. Chaordic One

                I used to be the admin in the HR department at one of my former employers. We had this one contractor who was kind of difficult to deal with. Her paperwork was almost always late, sloppy and incomplete and it resulted in a lot of extra work for me. I had to nag her to get it turned in in the first place, and most of the time I had to send it back to be done correctly.

                Shortly before I left that job she returned some of her paperwork in an envelope addressed to:
                “Chaordic One, Administrative Ass”

                I really think she did it on purpose.

                Reply
            2. travelandi

              I used to work for a company called S&M (the owners initials). Thankfully it was so long ago I no longer need to include it in my resume.

              Reply
              1. save me from the job portals, srsly

                I’ve been applying for jobs in academia recently, and seen a lot of drop-down menus where you can list your position as ‘Ass Prof’…

                Reply
          2. oliviacw

            One of my early jobs was titled “Computing Information Systems Associate”, which was too long for the HR system so I was listed as “Computing Information Systems Ass”. This was pointed out to me multiple times by people, so I finally upleveled it to HR and requested that it be changed to “Computing Info Sys Associate”. (I think they eventually settled on “Comp Info Systems Assoc” for some reason, but at least it wasn’t “Ass” any longer.)

            Reply
          3. Ama

            We used to see a lot of “Ass. Professor” in academia, usually from staff or students that were new to the environment. Interestingly, if they did get a comment it wasn’t usually for the entendre but because “Ass.” doesn’t tell you if it is an “Assistant” or “Associate” Professor and some people get *very* touchy about the difference.

            Reply
          4. eee

            we had a presentation at work the other day about screen reader compatibility. The woman presenting included “don’t shorten continued, it sounds bad on a screen reader.” Moment of silence as everyone mentally pronounced cont. out loud.

            Reply
            1. The yellow dog of workplace happiness

              As a screenreader user, I can attest to this. A contributing factor to this is that most screenreader users progressively train themselves to cope with faster and faster speech. I still have to pause for a second when navigating through menus when I pass over the “Your account” option.

              Tangentially related, I’d like to discourage people from masking profanity. It’s very jarring and distracting when you’re listening to something and you hear “he couldn’t give a s h asterisk t what I think”. I often have to go back and reread word by word, then letter by letter for the weird word only to find it was a regular word that’d been munged. Either that or just having to go back and reread because by the time my brain figures out what it was, I’ve now missed the next sentence.

              Reply
              1. yasmara

                Super interesting – I never thought about screen readers having a hard time with masked profanity and I’ve done accessibility & screen reader training…probably because we wouldn’t swear in technical documentation (no matter how much it might feel like we should). A lot of people probably do it so they won’t be caught by filters, but now I will be more aware of the potential impact on screen readers!

                Reply
          5. Lefty

            As a Resident Assistant in a large dorm at a state university, I once had to explain why referring to our group as the “Resident Ass. Faculty” would be concerning, especially when the parents of freshman were sent to the “Resident Ass. Faculty” office.

            It was also incredibly funny when our director urged us to really own our work as Resident Assistants, “Show them what a Resident Assistant can do here. Embrace your role as an R.A! Grab your RA-ness with both hands and show it to the world!”

            Reply
          6. Garland Not Andrews

            A few years ago I interviewed at a CPA’s office. The business name was Name Name CPA and Associates. When the senior partner Ms. Name Name stepped out of the room, the junior partner told me that Ms. Name Name was the Name Name, she (junior partner) was the Ass and everyone else were the Oh Shits! I worked there for one tax season. Fun place!

            Reply
        2. Christmas Carol

          I was once employed as an Account Services Specialist, but after a while they deleted the Services from our department name.

          Reply
        3. That would be a good band name

          This reminds me of when the online grading system at my son’s school abbreviated assessment by just leaving off the last four letters.

          Reply
        4. zora

          One place I worked one of the admins always abbreviated Assistant as Ass. instead of Asst. It drove me insane, but I was just a temp there so I didn’t want to say anything.

          Reply
            1. Elle Em En Oh Pea

              I saw one of those black and neon lettered signs advertising for retail jobs… including Ass Man.

              Reply
        5. Elizabeth West

          That reminds me of that book Up the Down Staircase. The principal’s bureaucratic assistant, J.J. McHabe, would sign all his memos “J.J. McH, Admn. Asst.” The teacher characters started referring to him as Admiral Ass.
          The abbreviation is forever ruined for me. :’D

          Reply
      4. Tiny Orchid

        Someone I know worked at a Fortune 100 company, and was heading up a new department. The name “Advanced Server Systems” got through several levels of review before he decided it needed to be changed due to the acronym.

        Reply
        1. Teach

          Teacher here: the files that follow kids from year-to-year are called “Cumulative Records” and teachers often verbally shorten that to sound like “kyoom folders” but I have to write out the full term on emails and to-do lists because I have a dirty mind.

          Reply
          1. anonanonanonymous

            I definitely did a double-take the one time I saw “Check ****’s cum file” on my to-do list, even though I wrote it myself the day before.

            Reply
        2. Attie

          “ASS” is the legit generic name for aspirin in Germany. Printed in large font on the package and everything. (“acid” is “säure” in german so ASA turns into… yeah.)

          My local supermarket sells a frozen package containing both fish balls and meat balls. They ring up as “ASS BALLS” on the receipt.

          Reply
    3. Lily Rowan

      Oh god — years ago, I was the youngest person in a team at work brainstorming the name for a new program for young women. Someone suggested “Outside My Box,” and it was really starting to catch on with the group, and I finally had to say that there were slang connotations to “box” that they wouldn’t want, and it was SO MORTIFYING.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        In a piece on innovation and change, I saw someone use the phrase, there are lots more pitchers than catchers and sort of run with that metaphor of pitchers and catchers throughout the planned presentation. We had to suggest that maybe not.

        Reply
    4. Polymer Phil

      I heard a funny story from a British friend about an American making this mistake in the UK. In American English, “fanny” is a cute term for “butt,” innocuous enough to use in front of children. In British English, “fanny” is a vulgar slang term for female genitalia!

      Reply
      1. many bells down

        There’s a lingerie shop in San Luis Obispo, CA called “Fanny Wrappers”. An employee once told me that British and Australian tourists are absolutely amazed that we can just write that on a big public sign and no one blinks. They’d line up to take photos of it.

        Reply
        1. Gen

          I was horrified (as a Brit) to get a misdirected email about ‘feedback on your Jiffy Lube experience’ to my work email. Apparently it has something to do with cars (I think?) but it triggered our filters so that was a fun conversation with IT

          Reply
          1. Chimingin1x

            You are right, it’s a chain of quick car servicing shops specializing in oil changes for the most part (although they’ll change out a number of other vehicular fluids too).
            Jiffy = quick, i.e. “Be done in a jiffy!”
            Lube = oil + other motor lubricants

            They are just about everywhere in the U.S.

            Reply
            1. Treecat

              My Australian husband gets a HUGE kick out of “Roto Rooter” and any other plumbing service with “Rooter” in the name. Root/rooting is an Australian slang term for having sex.

              The “root for the home team” line in “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” also reduces him to fits of giggles every time. He’s lived here since 2010.

              Reply
              1. Indie Accountant

                There’s a clothing and leather goods brand in Canada called “Roots”, and their products have the name and logo (a beaver!) prominently displayed. I’ve heard that Australian tourists get quite a chuckle from it. It’s an expensive brand, too, and has been around for decades.

                Reply
            2. starsaphire

              The town where I lived about fifteen years ago got a new Jiffy Lube on a semi-vacant corner. They painted it to match the business that shared the same parking lot…

              …which was a very disreputable massage parlor that got mentioned in the Police Reports all the time.

              We never, ever ran out of jokes about that. :)

              Reply
              1. JulieBulie

                Right, but what is the British meeting? Why is “Jiffy Lube” so shocking? Is “Lube” the problematic word?

                Reply
          1. Floundering Mander

            I knew a guy who was in a band called “Sofa Kingdom”. It took me a long time to work out the joke.

            Reply
        2. INTP

          I learned the UK meaning when I said to a group of fellow travelers that I might pick up a fanny pack for the beach. Their first thought was NOT a small waist pack for carrying a phone and money.

          I have also learned not to talk about being “bummed” or mention that something “bummed you out” to UKers, lol.

          Reply
          1. Floundering Mander

            I had this brilliant business idea that I would sell bum bags at music festivals in the UK full of feminine hygiene supplies (and maybe condoms, ibuprofen, etc.) that you might have forgotten to bring with you. Of course they will be called Fanny Packs, but I figured that in the context of a music festival this will be seen as funny and hip and lead to more sales.

            My British husband was unimpressed with this idea.

            Reply
      2. DDJ

        Yeah…my friend’s Mom married someone from the UK and the first time we met him, one of us mentioned something about a “fanny pack” and he was absolutely gob-smacked. So then he explained to us that we didn’t want to use that phrase, and that “bum bag” would be more appropriate. But we were sputtering because “No, fanny means bum! You know, like “Oh I gave her a little tap on the fanny. Nothing dirty!”

        And so he, of course, turned to my friend’s Mom and asked, “So, can I give you a little tap on the fanny?” and winked. And we were mortified.

        Reply
        1. Ego Chamber

          When I was a kid in the 90’s, “fanny pack” never made sense because everyone I knew wore them on the front—and then I learned the UK definition of “fanny” and it all made sense (and then I found out they were called “bum bags” in the UK and I was so confused again).

          Reply
            1. redwitsch

              In Czech we call it ledvinka, which literally means small kidney and in context it can be translated as kidney pack, because it is worn where your kidneys are. 8D

              Reply
    5. Dan

      You may have the same issue with people speaking American English, because I had to google what inappropriate meaning “fanny” might have. In the US, it’s an old term for “butt”, as in “fanny pack” but isn’t used much any more… at least not where I live.

      Reply
    1. Eats, Shoots and Leaves

      I once made the mistake of telling my much older aunt that I was going to go lay down. Nope. She immediately responded, “You are not going to lay down; you are going to lie down. Remember that you have to lie down to get laid.”

      I think my young teenage self blushed ten different shades of red. On the plus side, I never (ok, rarely) mixed up “lie” and “lay” again. I also spent the rest of her life threatening to put “Here lays dear Aunt Emma” on her tombstone.

      Reply
  8. Gen

    An older manager know for hating swear words loved to call foolish people ‘berks’ for about three decades before someone explain that ‘berk’ is (via rhyming slang) a synonym for c—. She had hysterics

    Reply
              1. Mookie

                Hmm? Apart from US Americans, I’ve never heard anyone pronounce Berkeley but with ɑːr. (For the purpose of the slang, though, it’s as you say.)

                Reply
        1. Catalin

          Please note, (Cockney or other) rhyming works in long form: i.e. Berk= Berkshire Hunt =Thing that rhymes with the SECOND or LAST part of the slang.

          Reply
        1. many bells down

          I could not believe they used “quim” in that movie. I guess it kept the rating from being R? And probably most people didn’t know what Loki was saying as it’s pretty archaic. But I choked on my soda, “he just called Black Widow a whiny c***?!!”

          Reply
          1. Anlyn

            Yep, the director admitted on the commentary that’s one of the reasons why he chose it. Very few people had ever heard of it.

            Reply
            1. Lauralyzer

              I had the SAME shocked reaction. And it still rocks me when I re-watch the movie. Then again, that’s an appropriate response to the scene.

              Reply
              1. Blue

                It was super jarring for me, too! I studied 18th century sex work in graduate school, so while I was used to seeing it my historical sources, I had literally never seen nor heard it used in a modern context. The friends I was with hadn’t heard it at all.

                Reply
                1. Ego Chamber

                  Ikr? I’m only familiar with the word from Victorian pornography (but I suppose if anyone’s going to say it in a modern setting, it would be Loki).

                2. Drew

                  I first ran across that word in high school senior English during a unit on the Canterbury Tales. We were reading and I stumbled over that word and looked up to ask my teacher what it meant. When I saw the utterly horrified face she was making, and heard a couple of my better-read (or at least better-guttered) classmates snickering, I knew it was naughty, but I still had to go to her after class to find out WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANT because I wouldn’t let it go.

                  She handled it very well and I promptly added it to a list of words I would never, ever, ever in my life use. (It was a long list. Then. I’ve since loosened up considerably.)

                3. Nic

                  So I had to, and just googled it. Wiktionary indicates that it may be related to queme, meaning “to please” from Old English cweman “To gratify, satisfy, please”.

                  That…er…tickles me pink. Pun intended.

                4. Jennifer Thneed

                  OT, I know, but please tell me more! Were you studying sex work in a specific location? Or of a specific type?

                  (I haven’t seen the movie, but I do know the word, probably just because I’m a word geek and grew up reading old stuff for geeky fun. Oh, and I worked at the Ren Faire during formative adult years. :) And unrelatedly, I’m currently listening to Count of Monte Cristo. Fun stuff.)

              1. yasmara

                Oh wait, maybe it was Canterbury Tales! I took a series of British Literature classes in college so we covered it in order (by time – early to later) over the course of a couple of semesters.

                Reply
      1. Schnapps

        There’s the “How to Train Your Dragon” Netflix show. The place they live is called “Berk”. And they are the Dragonriders of Berk.

        Reply
        1. Susan Calvin

          Is it? How curious – I’ve only ever seen HtTYD in German dub, and was under the impression the place was named Berg, meaning mountain, because it’s, you know, a little mountain sticking up out of the sea I guess? I was actually wondering what it was called in English, because Berg in German works as a place name the same way that Shire does, but I didn’t think Mountain sounded likely.

          Er. Sorry for the tangent.

          Reply
      1. Becky

        It is actually quite common that when words are borrowed across languages or dialects, that associated taboos do not follow the word, so a word offensive in one culture is not offensive in a different culture, even if they, nominally, speak the same language.

        Reply
    1. Perse's Mom

      Huh. I’m familiar with it from tabletop gaming of all things where it was used to simply mean idiot/fool/impressively naive. Even Miriam-Webster just flags it as idiot or fool.

      Reply
  9. Mike C.

    To be fair with the “teabagger” comment, even members of the movement called themselves that for the first few days until someone told them what it meant, so it can happen to any of us!

    Reply
    1. frog

      Yeah, thanks to them I had to explain to coworkers at two different companies why the Tea Party’s use of “teabagger” to self-identify was so amusing.

      Reply
    2. Ego Chamber

      The way I’ve heard the story, they were incited into doing that by some IRL trolls who had infiltrated their protest groups and started saying it (I can’t decide whether that’s better or worse than if they came up with it themselves).

      Reply
    3. Jiya

      And that’s why I, too, had to explain the true meaning of “teabagging” to my parents when we were watching The Daily Show together at the time. Horrors.

      Reply
  10. Amber T

    Ooh I’ll do one for myself! My mom always used the phrase ‘hooking up’ to mean ‘meeting up with’ or ‘getting together.’ While it’s not something I often use, it’s something I also picked up on. I’ve always understood that the phrase also meant… what it actually means, but I also thought my way was commonly used. There were a few times I would say “we should hook up with Teapots Inc. to discuss” or “Boss should hook up with Client to go over…” I’ve stopped myself 99% of the time, but it still slips out.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Summers

      I’ve heard it used both ways and, honestly, I say things like “We’ll hook up later.” or “I’m hooking up with Willow later at The Bronze, wanna come?”
      I don’t even think about and I intend to continue using it. Cause I’m a total rebel. I don’t need no stinkin’ rules.

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        I’m wondering if it’s a regional thing, but in my specific region now, it has been pointed out to me that it does not mean “meeting with.” Oops.

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        actually, it also used to just mean “hang out together” or “flirt.”

        It morphed into meaning “have sex” later–it was a confusing time, because it kept showing up in the stuff I edited or read in order to keep current with slang, and it was REALLY confusing. Especially when teenagers or pre-teens were using it, and the context sort of didn’t make you think “yep, sexual intercourse.”

        It came about as a way to talk about sexual activity (of many differing intensities) without having to be specific.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          At my college, a “hookup” usually just means a drunk makeout, which some people refer to casually enough to totally scandalize their visiting friends.

          Reply
        2. Sparkly Librarian

          I remember scandalizing an adult by using it in the “met and socialized with” sense, as a teen. It seemed perfectly straightforward to ME in the context of the story (I wasn’t having sexual escapades while on tour with my school group in another state, and if I had been I wouldn’t have casually mentioned it to this grownup!).

          Reply
      3. Breda

        Yeah, this is something that I think is perfectly fine both ways – it’s pretty clear which meaning you intend. But maybe it is a regional thing, as Amber T suggests.

        Reply
      4. Catalyst

        I just want to say, I am a Buffy fan as well, and I love that you used a Buffy reference in your comment along with your name! :)

        Reply
    2. Isben Takes Tea

      My mom did this too! I finally told her that there had been a cultural shift in the usage and that she needed to stop saying members of our Girl Scout troop would be hooking up later!

      Reply
      1. Ama

        Ah, the shift in cultural usage. I remember the summer my siblings and I had to beg my mom to stop referring to flip flop sandals as “thongs,” after she yelled across a parking lot to my youngest brother to “please get my thongs out of the car.”

        Reply
        1. Katie Sewell

          Ohh, yes. I went on a short-term mission trip with a very conservative organization as a very conservative teen, and was shocked to receive a packing list that included “thongs”. They meant flip flops for the showers. We asked them to update that for the next team.

          Reply
    3. D.W.

      I definitely saying “hooking up”. I believe the context should be more than enough explain what I’m saying. If I say, “Jeff and I are hooking up later at the Taqueria”, you should know I mean we’re going to grab a bite to eat.

      That being said, if I think about it before I say it, 80% of the time I will say “link up” as to not ruffle any feathers, but I think it’s perfectly fine to continue using either.

      Reply
    4. Alex the Alchemist

      I used to do this. My mom knew of the other meaning. I just recall saying to her, “Yeah I’ve been hooking up with this guy from my class” in the sixth grade and her COMPLETELY freaking out because what I said and what she thought I meant were NOT matching up AT ALL.

      Reply
    5. Artemesia

      When we moved to the south I discovered that ‘hook up’ was the phrase used for car pools and kid pick ups at school; always; they had a rules for hook ups, a hook up line and the phrase was commonly used for other sorts of non sexual meetings as well as in ‘we’ll hook up later.’

      I think the campus use to mean casual sex actually came later.

      Reply
      1. yasmara

        Yeah, I’m a GenXer and I have just noticed recently that I really need to stop saying “hook up with” as a substitute for “meeting up in a nonsexual sense.” I started typing the phrase, “maybe we can hook up later” in a text and the light bulb went on – that was not at ALL what I meant (happily married old lady 2 kids, 2 cats). Luckily, I caught it before I sent it & now I’m self-policing verbally more carefully!

        Reply
    6. HighOnPoker

      My mother tutored SATs. When I was in high school, she called me down to introduce me to one of her students who was going on the same upcoming youth group trip with me. My mother said, “You two should hook up there.” We both had to explain to her what that meant. A bit awkward, and we never did get to hook up, despite my mother’s best efforts.

      Reply
  11. Valentina

    A couple years ago my manager submitted my yearly evaluation, describing at length my interactions with various stakeholders. Only she’d consistently spelled it ‘steakholders’.

    Reply
    1. Lady Jay

      Oh, I have a couple like that! I have students who write papers about gender roles, only they spell it consistently as “gender rolls” – it gives me visions of blue-and-pink rolls in a bread basket! :)

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        I will never have a gender-reveal party for my babies, but if I were to, it would include pink and blue gender rolls.

        Reply
      2. Ashie

        An event planner at OldJob invited craft vendors to our location at Christmastime and put out flyers inviting everyone to our first annual “Holiday Shopping Bizarre”

        Reply
      3. nonymous

        Well if you grade by hand, it might be worth drawing the cartoon to help them remember. Or a quick doodle on the whiteboard/slide deck if your classroom management is open to levity. A good giggle all around my be an excellent memory prop.

        Reply
      4. CrazyEngineerGirl

        Okay, I just spent an embarrassing amount thinking about the different kinds of gender rolls… traditional gender rolls, modern gender rolls, split top gender rolls, whole wheat gender rolls, buttered gender rolls, sourdough gender rolls… Help! I can’t stop!

        Reply
        1. So Very Anonymous

          Possibly also a sushi option? “Yes, I’ll have a California roll and a gender roll, please…”

          Reply
    2. Snark

      I’m just imagining someone walking through a hallway in a cube farm, very matter of factly carrying a large porterhouse with them to various meetings.

      Reply
      1. Pickles

        Cracking up in my office alone at this! I should go shut the door so I can snort quietly without the neighbors hearing.

        Reply
        1. NotThatGardner

          ack! yes, that too! i don’t know if i’m just an insufferable snob (see my voila vs…. in another part of comments) but man, that stuff gets to me. spell check does not equal context check!

          Reply
      1. This Daydreamer

        Their are alot of those. Its defiantly annoying. I have a manger at work who speaks English as a second lanaguage and its hard to keep quite about some of her typos.

        I love her to death and she really is very intelligent. But I have to bite my tongue when she reminds everyone to rinse out cans to avoid getting nets.

        Reply
        1. Anonicat

          One of the reasons I love my boss – English is his FOURTH language – is that he regularly swings by my desk to ask about some new Australian idiom he’s heard. He’s just delighted by the quirks of language. “Flat out like a lizard drinking – haha, zis is perfect!”

          Reply
          1. Becky

            I once did some editing work for a woman who spoke about 4 languages, Hungarian being her native language, and explaining which English prepositions you can or can’t use in certain situations and how different prepositional phrases can have slightly different meanings was HARD!

            Trying to say why in a specific sentence you want to use “care for” vs “care about” vs “take care of” was mostly just me stumbling through saying–“no this one is the right one, though I can’t explain why”.

            Reply
        2. Julia

          I see there/their/they’re and similar misspellings from native speakers much more often than from non-natives. I guess because us non-natives had to learn the actual rules and know that they’re means they are etc.

          Reply
    3. Typhon Worker Bee

      Love it!

      My favourite typos from grant proposals: “the leaders of the different groups will use pier-to-pier communication methods” – um, Semaphore flags?

      and “security breeches”

      Reply
        1. Sailor Veela

          I have a shirt from Splunk that just says “Drop your breaches.” I get looks every time I wear it.

          Reply
    4. Specialk9

      Steakholders. Am I right in thinking that to this day, when someone uses the term stakeholder, you imagine someone standing there, arm outstretched, with a big ole slab of meat in their hand? Lol.

      Reply
    5. Interrupting your regularly scheduled Anon

      Going super anon for this in case my SIL or brother ever come here (they’ve heard it). My mom was trying to get something done in our town (I think get a stop sign installed at a dangerous corner) and phoned city hall. She called to talk to the town prosecutor, but that’s not what she called him. In her defense, it DOES start with a P and sounds similar, but I’m pretty sure he was not amused to be called the crude term for a “lady of the evening” (with an “r” on the end).

      Reply
      1. Interrupting your regularly scheduled Anon

        *Sigh* That’s what I get for not reading all the comments. My mom asking for the town “Prostitutor” is not new. Oh well, it was funny to us.

        Reply
  12. AnnaleighUK

    A former co-worker got ‘incorrigible’ and ‘encouraging’ very mixed up, so our department head was very confused when he received an email from her saying about me ‘Ani is an incorrigible trainer and I am glad she has been incorrigible when working through some of the more challenging aspects of the role’. I just about died. I hope I was encouraging and not incorrigible!

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      IN a similar vein, back in the day I mixed up ‘notorious’ and ‘famous.’ I actually oddly did not know the negative meaning of notorious and thought it meant very famous. I embarrassed myself memorably.

      Reply
      1. Owl

        Dusty: “What does that mean? Infamous?”
        Ned: “Ah, Dusty! Infamous is when you’re more than famous! This guy El Guapo is not just famous, he’s IN-famous!”

        Reply
        1. many bells down

          I was called “infamous” in my high school yearbook. I still have no idea why; I was a drama geek but otherwise known as “that weird nerdy girl”. And I didn’t know the guy who wrote the article.

          Reply
          1. Lissa

            I’ve heard “infamous” used in a slangy/cutesy/joking way to mean ‘well-known’ before. I think it’s similar to how people say “my partner in crime” to mean significant other.

            Reply
  13. Lionheart26

    When I worked in Vietnam, I had to explain to our business manager why it probably wasn’t a good idea to call the “Sales & Marketing” team “S&M”

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      and when working on a weddings publication, we couldn’t shorten “Save the Dates” (though on web posts, I’ve written it as “StD”)

      Reply
      1. H.C.

        That abbreviation is more common than you think in nonprofit industry, especially amongst staff involved with planning fundraiser events. My colleagues didn’t even blink an eye when the director yelled across the open office about getting those STDs out pronto!

        Reply
          1. Geometric Percolator

            My coworker had to submit timesheets under the STD category while she was on parental leave.

            I mean, yes, technically, that is the original STD….

            Reply
      2. Kristobel

        The best part is that it is the same number of syllables…’save the date’ and ‘ess tee dee’…you’re not saving any time!

        Reply
      3. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        After working in payroll for the last few years, I no longer flinch when someone is off work due to STD (short term disability).

        Reply
        1. Anonicat

          Our lab assigns study participants an ID made of a number followed by their initials, eg 1000XY.

          There are a surprising number of people with the initials BM or BO.

          Reply
        2. yasmara

          At a former job, my husband’s department was Strategic Technology Division…they kept it. I snickered every time.

          Reply
      4. Kimberly

        Schools use Std as an abbreviation for students. Had to explain to principal why that was a bad idea. Not as bad as one I had later that insisted Thomas Jefferson single handily wrote the Declaration and Constitution. The man had never read the Federalist Papers. He told me they were a fraud manufactured by liberals.

        Reply
    2. Amber T

      We frequently refer to individuals by their initials, and often start emails with “AB & CD” (whatever the initials are of the individual(s) on the email). I was copied on an email chain where someone was responding to two individuals that started with “BD & SM.” I don’t know if anyone said anything, but their names were spelled out in later emails. Still, it stuck around in the chain and I laughed every time.

      Reply
    3. Jules the 3rd

      There’s a school in North Carolina, called the North Carolina School of Science and Math.

      The school administration has been trying to stop alumni from calling it S&M for *decades*. I think once some of us grew up, SnM did become more popular, but S&M is still very common.

      Reply
      1. MAMaS

        I went to the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science. All the alumni call it MAMaS, but the administration is no fun and tries to get us to use MAMS. (Not as amusing as S&M, of course, but legislating acronyms seems to be a common practice.)

        Reply
        1. Kristobel

          I went to the Alabama School of Math and Science (ASMS)! Not funny, unfortunately. Although a lot of students did call it “ass-mus.”

          Reply
        2. Nic

          I went to the Louisiana School for Math Science and Arts (LSMSA). Neat to see someone who went to a similar school!

          Reply
      2. Lies, damn lies and...

        The Virginia state tests are the Standards of Learning or SOLs. I’m hoping someone did that as a joke.

        Reply
        1. Any Moose

          I used to work for an attorney. At one point he had a note tacked to the wall that said SOL with a date. I asked him what it meant. He said “statute of limitations.” I said I thought it meant “shit outta luck.” He laughed and said “same thing!”

          Reply
        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Oh my god, I remember cracking up over those in high school. “If you don’t pass these, you are one!”

          Reply
        3. Ama

          A few years back, the NYC subway system extended the “M” subway line, with the M replacing the J train at several stops. To save time and money they changed the signs by putting stickers of M line decals over the J train symbol at the relevant stops. The day after the signs changed, people started posting pictures of the stop where this change made all the signs read “FML.”

          I’ve never seen anything in the subway get fixed so fast.

          Reply
        4. Typhon Worker Bee

          There’s a store in Vancouver that used to be called “SOL CONVENIENCE”. There was a picture of a sun on the sign, but still. Last time I went past they’d changed the name, unfortunately

          Reply
      3. mousie housie

        There is a professional organization in Canada of music educators that until fairly recently went by the name of Canadian University Music Society. They tried to salvage the abbreviation by appending the French version, but CUMS – SMUC almost made it worse..

        And the kicker – the professional journal review was called CUMR.

        Quite a group of innocents!

        http://www.muscan.org/en/about-us/history

        Reply
        1. Long time lurker

          The academic journal of the National Academy of Sciences is PNAS. Pronounced how you would expect.

          Reply
        2. Withans

          The Cambridge University Music Society suffers a similar problem. And anecdotally, I heard that the Cambridge University branch of what was then called the Naval Training Service was pretty pleased with their acronym. The Netball Team was less happy…

          Reply
      4. Demon Llama

        On the other hand, I’ve always wondered if the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons actively chose a name that shortens to BAAPS. But either way, it makes me so happy on such a basic level.

        (Which I now realise may not mean much to readers who don’t know that “baps” is a British term for breasts.)

        Reply
      5. Annie Moose

        I went to a school district that was the BR Area Schools (very very small town, so I’ll leave the town name as initials). For some strange reason, they never used the acronym on letters home.

        Then we got a new superintendent and we were all intensely amused at the first couple letters sent out from his office, using the acronym. Mysteriously they reverted to using the full name after that.

        Reply
    4. Ramona Flowers

      I worked for a university that had a Student Central Advice Team. If you don’t know what that acronym is also a word for, note that it is not remotely safe for work. It involves bodily excretions, shall we say.

      Reply
      1. Jillociraptor

        Yeah, my hometown is in a county that begins with the letter S, so our local bus system was called “SCAT” — S. County Area Transit. :/

        Reply
      2. Specialk9

        Really? Scat is scandalous? I thought it was a mild biology term for animal poop, of the same level of “poop”. Not true?

        Reply
        1. AMD

          I believe that generally scat is a mild biology term, but is also a term you would use if looking for fetish material involving it? Not 100% sure, but I think that’s why it’s mildly scandalous.

          Reply
      3. nonymous

        In grad school our coursework and other major milestones were approved by our Program of Study committee. Somehow it seemed appropriate for higher ed degrees to require authorization by the POS committee. I don’t swear much in front of parents, so my mil gave me a few raised eyebrows.

        Reply
      4. Annon for this

        Try being kinky and having to sit through a psychology lecture on CBT! I have no idea how I kept a straight face.

        For those that are wondering, CBT is cognitive behavioural therapy and cock/ball torture.

        Reply
    5. moink

      There is a technique in my field called Particle Image Velocimetry but I read a lot of articles discussing sex and every time I read PIV I think penis in vagina.

      Reply
    6. Allison

      I work in talent acquisition, and last week I had to stifle a giggle when my manager shortened it to “T&A”

      Reply
      1. JaneB

        There’s also a Cambridge University Music Society… and apocryphally a university in northern England undergoing rebranding had to scrap about 20,000 sheets of headed notepaper when someone pointed out how the abbreviation for City University of Newcastle upon Tyne looked

        Reply
        1. JaneB

          And my favourite university world acronyms – FEC – full economic costing (usually written feck or fek, there is a milder form of f-u-c-k derived by transcribing the Irish pronunciation…) – is a very frustrating paperwork exercise entirely meriting the acronym, and when serious men from the finance team in suits lecture us on having insufficient FEC capture it makes me giggle

          The second one is Faculty Approvals Panel. Getting emails inviting me to a FAP day or asking me to “sit on the Maths FAP” amuse me hugely especially as most of my UK colleagues have no idea there’s a nsfw meaning to the abbreviation…

          Reply
          1. msmorlowe

            Jsyk, ‘feck’ isn’t the Irish pronunciation of the other f-word: we have both and feck is a milder form, like how people say ‘ship’ or ‘sugar’ instead of the other s-word. I’m not 100% on its origin, but it likely comes from the Irish word ‘feic’ meaning ‘to see’ and was borrowed as a swear. It’s at about the same strength as ‘arse’.

            On using Irish words, my little brother once asked our father if ‘focal’ was a swear word (it means ‘word’). Dad says no, bro runs away and he just hears him scream ‘focal off!’ at our brother.

            Reply
          2. Don't turn this name into a hyperlink

            Now I’m imagining a scene from Father Ted where Jack is running a University Senate meeting…

            Granted, he could probably get the party crowd to stop by and get engaged just through using most of his other vocabulary too, so maybe that’s not really a bad thing

            Reply
        2. Purple snowdrop

          I didn’t believe that story about what is now Northumbria university for years but apparently it’s true. There are pictures on the forum skyscrapercity. But seriously!!!

          Reply
          1. Floundering Mander

            Why oh why did they change it? As a person who has adopted Gateshead as my hometown I can imagine the locals loved it! LOL.

            Reply
    7. Geillis D.

      My children’s school was getting ready for Valentine’s Day dance, and the organising committee sent all volunteers an email regarding the upcoming Grades K-4 VD Dance. Luckily this got corrected quickly.

      Reply
      1. Nolan

        There’s a diner I used to frequent, it’s named after the town it’s located in, and that name starts with V. So it’s the V____ Diner, aka the VD.

        Reply
    8. AP

      All time favorite: couple coworkers are telling a story and someone says “It’s just awful- they live in squalor”. Another person, known for her occasionally accidental misuse of words, totally seriously asks, “Where’s that neighborhood?”

      Reply
    9. Mischa

      There is a private Christian university in Kansas called Friends University. FU is pretty great on its own, but the school used to be called Friends University of Central Kansas. I can’t imagine the sweatshirts sold well there.

      Reply
      1. Michigan Sara

        There is a school called Finlandia University in northern Michigan. Good ol’ FU. Their hats (with just the initials) were VERY popular at the other university across town.

        Reply
        1. Miranda

          Yes, though not until they changed their name to Finlandia, it used to be Suomi up until 2000 (I went to the university across the Portage canal, it’s technically a different town) FU is in Hancock, the not as interestingly acronymed one, MTU is in Houghton. (also, dang I feel old realizing that 2000 was 17 yrs ago) We students guessed the name change was due to a desire to sell more university apparel.

          Reply
  14. Nee

    I had a coworker who used to use the word “flagrantly” all the time to mean “very.” Like not trying to be hyperbolic either – she was dead serious and would say things like “The view from my office is flagrantly tempting,” “this client is being flagrantly polite.” It was bizarre and uncomfortable.

    Reply
      1. NaoNao

        I guess because “flagrantly” has negative connotations. Like when you’re “flagrantly” showing off or you’re “flagrantly” breaking the rules. It indicates a purposeful, dramatic show offy move.

        Reply
    1. OhNo

      There was a student in a few of my grad school classes who used “per se” to mean anything from “you know what I mean”, to “if you get my drift”, to “do you understand?” It was always tacked on to the end of a sentence, and never once did I hear him use it for it’s actual meaning.

      Like your coworker, he was dead serious, and the rest of us found it bizarre. Judging from his occasional smug expression when we were all trying to parse his sentence, he thought he sounded terribly smart. I don’t think anyone ever corrected him, because he used it that way right up until our last semester.

      He also spelled it “per say”.

      Reply
      1. Sparkly Librarian

        How aggravating! A coworker in my former job was very fond of “criterias” — the single form (rarely occurring) was of course “a criteria”. AUGH.

        Reply
        1. Demon Llama

          Did you ever correct her? Because I just… that is like fingernails down a blackboard to me and I know its petty but it hurts my eyes… so if you managed to point it out nicely can I borrow your script please?

          Reply
        2. HireThisLady

          Oh, I had a boss who used “criterias” and “curriculums” all the time!

          Most frustratingly, however, was how she used “brain freeze” in meetings to mean “I forget something.” She obviously wanted to avoid saying fart in a meeting, but apparently thought that brain freeze was a normal substitution for brain fart. No one ever corrected her, but I always saw people looking at her hands to see what she was eating/drinking and getting confused.

          Reply
          1. HireThisLady

            The atmosphere in my office was such that people actually started using her odd phrasings rather than correcting her because she was so easily offended. Coworkers actually used “notate” to mean “to note” rather than simply using “note.” They would ask me to “notate on that invoice the date we received it.” It drove me crazy! Most of the odd wording came from people trying to sound smarter than they were without educating themselves.

            Reply
            1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian

              My boss uses “notate” all the time! Also “orientate”, which while technically a real word, it’s never used anywhere around here (area of US) and everybody else uses “orient”.
              Going from “orientation” to “orientate” certainly seems logical, but American English often isn’t…

              We’ve had an ongoing list of funny ways she says things (some are from her Arkansas origins, some are just a logic path her brain follows), and sometimes she’ll ask us when we last updated it, haha.

              Between her and another high-level employee, I get lots of opportunities to use my English degree, despite working in medical. I edit all our formal and outgoing communications.

              Reply
            2. Not So NewReader

              Partition vs. Petition. I could not get a coworker to hear the difference in the pronunciations.

              Reply
          2. Specialk9

            I don’t know, I figure the percentage of people who have studied Latin enough to know the -um/a singular, -a/ae plural thing is becoming rare. It seems like it may just be time to let it pluralize in a less elitist way. (NB: I won an actual medal for Latin, so I’m grouping myself in the elitist camp.)

            Reply
        1. CM

          It’s funny, my husband’s beloved grandmother did this too. Makes me realize that context is everything — I would be so annoyed by a coworker who punctuated their speech with inappropriate “per se”s, but found it endearing when she did it.

          Also, this thread is teaching me all sorts of bad words from other languages!

          Reply
      2. JeanB in NC

        Someone needs to print up little cards, like business card size, that say: You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means.

        Reply
      3. Typhon Worker Bee

        They did this in a South Park episode, and my husband I did it ironically for a while

        (We recently started noticing exactly how many South Park references we use when we’re talking to each other. It is A Lot).

        Reply
        1. Drew

          “Honey, do you mind doing the dishes?”
          “Screw you guys, I’m outta here.”

          My sister once tried to get my mom to watch the South Park movie with her. My mom made it precisely 25 seconds into “Uncle F*cka” and turned it off. This was Christmas, so I was also home, and Mom looked at me and said, “Can you believe what your sister was trying to get me to watch?” Mom wasn’t thrilled when my first question to sis was “How many times have YOU seen it? I’m up to seven.”

          Reply
  15. Leelee

    I have two that immediately spring to mind:
    1. A co-worker proclaimed she was going to “go totally commando in the office”. She meant “kamikaze”… She wanted to make big changes in her department.
    2. My boss OFTEN says “we need to get them down on all fours” when discussing someone she wants to get to agree with her. I did mention to her that maybe she means “square them away” instead but she just looked puzzled at me.
    Still, it livens up the day.

    Reply
    1. Gen

      Oh gods I had a manager who used the second one but absolutely meant the rude version. It was just way of saying that we’d get a good deal D:

      Reply
    2. bridget

      I think your boss was making a variation of “on all fours” to mean that something is totally, not partially aligned. I don’t use it with PEOPLE (yuck), but will sometimes say something like “this case isn’t completely on all fours with our situation, but has some helpful similarities.”

      Reply
      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yes, I was going to say, in the legal field, people use that expression (but applied to cases, not applied to people).

        Reply
      2. CM

        I’m curious, where is that saying common? I’m a lawyer in the northeast US and I’ve never heard that. I would interpret it as a particularly aggressive statement saying you need to make the other party submit.

        Reply
        1. Noah

          I’ve seen the term being used in the legal context reasonably commonly in both California and the Wisconsin/Illinois/Iowa areas.

          I’ve heard it used outside the legal context, too. I think it’s a reference to a table.

          Reply
        2. mrs__peel

          I’m a lawyer in upstate New York and I’ve heard that phrase a lot, but *only* applied to case law, as Bridget says (i.e., one case being on all fours with another).

          I’ve never heard it applied to a person or an opposing party. (And, yeah, that would be very gross, given the implications).

          Reply
    3. Former Retail Manager

      I am trying not to sound like a psycho laughing out loud at my desk in a completely quiet office….HILARIOUS!

      Reply
    4. Tinker

      Re kamikaze, know your audience. I had a boss who when we were visited by a Japanese supplier told him his pricing was so high it was “a war crime”. The response was a completely placid, “could you please explain, I don’t understand “?

      Reply
      1. Boop

        I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would use that term except to refer to actual, you know, war crimes. Given that war crimes are generally acts so heinous the global community has decided they should not be condoned, using it in this context is incredibly trivializing. It’s a problematic term, no matter the audience.

        Reply
  16. whatshername

    I had to sit through an hour-long meeting yesterday in which the word “fantabulous” was used. More than once. In reference to work procedures.

    It wasn’t misused, per say, but IMO too juvenile for work. And the person using it was a C-suite executive in his 60s.

    Reply
    1. Kathleen Adams

      I actually love the word “fantabulous”…but there is no such thing as a fantabulous work procedure. There just isn’t.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        While we’re on the subject, “per se” doesn’t mean “exactly”; it means “through itself,” i.e. by its nature and in all circumstances.

        Reply
            1. Emi.

              Just not “by itself” as in “alone.” I don’t sit per se when I’m feeling antisocial, for instance. :)

              Reply
    2. Boop

      I saw a presentation from a potential vendor who repeatedly used the word “automagically” instead of automatically. The first time it was somewhat amusing, then it became Way Too Much and a bit patronizing.

      Reply
      1. nonymous

        yes, in work setting I find “automagically” has to be used in a very self-aware context. Like, “What did they think? That XYZ procedure happens automagically? Grumble grumble grumble” But if I’m not venting, I’ll switch it up to “Clearly, they were engaging in magical thinking”. IMO the word “automagic” has connotation of “voila for stupid audience” otherwise.

        Reply
      2. Nic

        I’m a big fan of “automagically”, but like nonymous said it has to be used with self awareness. I picked it up when working for a video game company’s customer service department, so it worked. It did take a bit of care to drop when I moved out of that.

        Reply
        1. yasmara

          Oh yeah, both automagically and administrivia are so jargony and pretty common to hear from directors/execs where I work. I despise both of them. I’m a project manager, so hearing “administrivia” just makes me feel like my job is being demeaned.

          Reply
    1. Lance

      Much as there would be some split meanings, I feel like this wouldn’t be so uncommon among people in general.

      Reply
      1. Edith

        Yeah, it still annoys me when my mom says she got hammered at work, meaning she had a very busy and stressful day. But she’s not misusing the term. It just sticks out to me since the meaning shifted so drastically between generations.

        Reply
    2. Jillociraptor

      It would take a lot for me to function in that workplace without constantly singing “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.

      Reply
  17. Marzipan

    The time someone at work referred to an underwhelming occurrence as a ‘damp squid’ is one we remember fondly.

    Reply
    1. LizB

      What phrase were they trying to use? Because I really want to start referring to underwhelming things as “damp squids” from now on, that’s hilarious.

      Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Never heard this before! I can totally see the logic of hearing it as squid. And even using it correctly – if I were a squid, just being damp would be disappointing for sure!

          Reply
          1. This Daydreamer

            She has a lot of fun with language. Just about every “made up” word and most of the names have deeper meaning. Makes the books even more fun.

            Reply
      1. fposte

        Can’t tell if you’re joking there, but no, it’s not the correct usage–the correct usage is “damp squib,” meaning a firework whose effect is hampered by dampness. No cephalopods involved.

        Reply
    2. AnnaleighUK

      This made me spit my tea. Genius. I’m stealing this phrase for the next time we have a really underwhelming work event.

      Reply
    3. Kathleen Adams

      Shouldn’t it be “damp squib” (squib with a b, not squid with a d), meaning “damp firecracker”? Because shouldn’t all squids be at least somewhat damp?

      Reply
            1. Kathleen Adams

              Which reminds me of one of my favorite language jokes. It shows a very, very sad person and says “Forever disappointed that a group of squids isn’t called a ‘squad.'”

              Reply
        1. Kathleen Adams

          It – “damp squid” – does sound really natural, though. I had to repeat the correct word “squib” to myself several times to make sure I wasn’t making it up!

          Reply
        2. Nancie

          If the squid was merely damp, I think that would be sort of disappointing. At least for the squid, which would probably prefer to be completely water-soaked.

          Reply
    4. President Porpoise

      There’s a great episode of ‘The IT Crowd’ that uses that joke. Damp Squid should be Damp Squib, fyi.

      Reply
  18. Lindsay

    I work in the member service area of an organization that collects dues for membership. I can’t tell you how many people tell members they’re “in the rears” when they’ve fallen behind on their dues payments…

    Reply
    1. Nic

      One of my OldBosses did this! Or talk about us getting our competition “in the rear”. He’d pound one fist into the other while saying it, which made it all the more awkward!

      Reply
  19. Lady Jay

    So, I teach English, mostly college level but for a short while at HS level. We English teachers like to read (duh!) and often read older books, which use words that have since taken on a “blue” meaning. A fellow HS English teacher told a story about a summer she spent working at camp, and during lunch one day, she leaned over the table, and told a story about how So & So said something really fiercely & firmly. To describe this, she said that he “ejaculated” his words!

    In my college level classes, I regularly teach poetry that uses the word “queer” to mean “odd” and my students always get a giggle out of it. I also teach a play about a murder mystery. The wife (who winds up being the murderess) is asked whether, when her husband was killed, she woke up; she replies, “No, I sleep sound.” My class was doing a read-aloud, and the kid who was reading the wife’s part accidentally misread that line. Instead of saying what was written, he read, “I sleep around“.

    Reply
      1. strawberries and raspberries

        Yeah, I remember reading The Invisible Man or something like that at age 11, and there’s a sentence like, “He paced across the room, ejaculating” and I was like WAIT WHAT

        Reply
        1. AndersonDarling

          I remember a Sherlock Holmes that used “ejaculated” in that sense. In another story, Holmes apologized for “knocking up” Watson…as in, knocking on the door to wake someone.

          Reply
          1. Lauralyzer

            Oh yes I remember someone asking me to “knock me up” before heading out that evening …!! To make it more confusing, the request came from a male to me, a female. He did explain, when he saw how confused I was!!

            Reply
        1. Sandra wishes you a heavenly day

          I still say I am fizzily and emotionally exhausted sometimes, thanks to Ngaio Marsh. Out loud, when I’m alone, not in the workplace.

          Reply
      2. Landshark

        Same! I learned the older meaning first and used it in my writing… in sixth grade… that they asked us to read to the class… I still get residual cringes over that haha

        Reply
    1. Tiny Orchid

      There is a line in one of the Harry Potter books – “Ron ejaculated loudly” – and it always makes me snicker when re-reading it.

      Reply
    2. Fake old Converse shoes

      It was mentioned in QI (a BBC quiz show)! The guests’ giggles made me laugh more than the word itself.

      Reply
    3. OoohLaLa

      A Jury of Her Peers perhaps?

      I once read aloud an old book to a handful of middle school students. Of course the main character’s name was “Pussy”. It slipped once and the kids never looked back.

      Reply
    4. SarahKay

      Oh, yes, I can remember a children’s school story from about the 50’s where a fete was being organised. In it there was the glorious phrase of “Miss Wilson was busy overseeing the men’s erections”.

      Reply
    5. Chameleon

      I remember a very naive and innocent camp counselor telling the story of the Little Dutch Boy. She didn’t understand why we all laughed when she talked about him putting his finger in the dike.

      Reply
    6. Orca

      Ah, memories of when my middle school friends group learned “boner” used to mean “mistake” and proceeded to completely replace saying “my bad” with “my boner”…

      Reply
    7. Snork Maiden

      In elementary school we had to read aloud a chapter on Louisbourg. For some reason, one of the popular kids read it first as “Lousenburg”, despite the teacher’s enunciation, and the rest of the class followed suit. So we had an entire 45 minutes reading aloud about Lousenburg. The teacher made a few half-hearted attempts to correct it but then decided to cut her losses and finish up some other work while we were busy listening.

      Reply
    8. ArtsNerd

      Once in high school I had to read a passage from Macbeth aloud, the one where Lady Macbeth says “pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums.” I was so stressed out about saying “nipple” without giggling that I came to that line and said… “niggle.” I was really thrown off that none of my classmates reacted (in hindsight, no one was listening, of course.)

      So I suffered through the rest of the speech in an anguished, redfaced, tortured attempt to not burst into laughter at my error, utterly alone in the hilarity of it all.

      Reply
  20. LizB

    I had a manager who thought the word “redact” meant the same as “revise,” as in “We’re waiting for Marketing to send us the redacted version of the brochure” == “the revised version of the brochure”. The first few times he said it, it was plausible he actually would have meant “redact” (we were talking about legal documents with confidentiality concerns), so I didn’t correct him… and then when I realized he was using it more broadly, it was too late. And then one of my coworkers started doing it too! It was contagious!

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      It does, though–he may well have seen it on a list of synonyms for “edit” or seen it used that way. I have.

      From the Merriam-Webster website:
      Definition of redact
      transitive verb
      1: to put in writing : frame
      2: to select or adapt (as by obscuring or removing sensitive information) for publication or release; broadly : edit
      3: to obscure or remove (text) from a document prior to publication or release

      Reply
        1. Specialk9

          I’ve never heard redact except in a security sense – redacted of sensitive or classified information. It definitely doesn’t mean just edited!

          Reply
  21. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    Genital for congenital. As in, the person was discussing congenital disease but very earnestly kept (misspeaking) and saying “genital birth defects.”

    Reply
      1. Samata

        I remember a crawler on the TV screen of a bar we were in said “Pubic Hearings Still Underway….” for a good 10 minutes before it was changed to “Public hearings….”

        Reply
      2. valc2323

        I work in public health.

        Most of us have customized our Word dictionaries to always flag “pubic” as an error, after learning the hard way…

        Reply
        1. Anonicat

          I have a similar set-up in my email for retards, because have you ever noticed how close t and g are on a keyboard?

          Reply
          1. yasmara

            OMG this reminds me of the worst one ever – my husband’s boss years ago once called him “retarded” but apparently not meaning in a pejorative way (is there any other??). I guess he was trying to say something about Husband’s development was being slowed down by XYZ factors? That boss was so weird and awkward – I was alone at the company picnic while Husband took one of our son’s to the bathroom and the other son was riding a pony. Boss came up to me and started talking to me without introducing himself or giving me any sort of context like, “Hi, nice to meet you I’m your husband’s manager.” He eventually wandered off & when my husband walked back he asked me what his boss had said to me – I was shocked to figure out who this weird guy was who it felt like was semi-hitting on me! I try not to diagnose people, but regardless of what was going on with him he needed some serious retraining in social skills.

            Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Oh man, the number of public presentations I’ve seen where the text on the .ppt or public announcement reads “pubic” is kind of unreal.

        Reply
    1. a

      I used to work in technical writing and frequently saw “congenial defects” instead of “congenital defects.” They were the really nice, happy defects, I guess!

      Reply
  22. Murphy

    This was just a slip rather than an actual misuse, but I overheard a coworker going on a walk say, “I just want to spread my legs a little.” She immediately corrected herself to “stretch” and then laughed about it.

    Reply
    1. AMT27

      I once ran out for coffee with a coworker, and we were discussing how cold it was (winter in Ohio!) – I was wearing a dress but no tights/hose and she *meant* to say something like ‘how are you not freezing, your legs are bare!’ – but what came out was ‘how are you not freezing, your legs are open!’ Said very loudly in the office lobby LOL

      Reply
    2. Dangitmegan

      When I was in grad school I was working late one night alone in the department and my advisor came in to chat and meant to say that a change he was making would allow me to ‘spread my wings’ but misspoke and said ‘spread your legs.’ Awkward.

      Reply
  23. Nottoday

    I work with someone who always says bang wagon instead of band wagon which surprisingly comes up more often than you would think. And another says work ethnic rather than work ethic.

    Reply
    1. Emi.

      I once received a Christmas card from a very nice old gentleman on my paper route, complimenting me on my good work ethnic.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        Reminds me of the strangest rant I ever read online where the person claimed that people were violating her “ethnic standers.”

        Reply
    2. D.W.

      Oh, no, has someone brought the latter to their attention? I got a good laugh at it, but that could also be mistaken for a racist joke.

      Reply
    3. Anonicat

      I edited a scientific article where the study population was ethically Han Chinese. All the way through the article.

      Reply
  24. Rachel - HR

    More a mispronunciation but we had a director that was giving blood borne pathogens training and would repeatedly say “vagina-al” secretions instead of the correct pronunciation of vaginal.

    Reply
    1. DouDou Paille

      Not sure if the person was from another English-speaking country, but in the UK/Australia/South Africa it’s pronounced “va-JINE-al”

      Reply
  25. ZenCat

    Not my story but a friend’s about teabagging…

    For whatever reason (and I do this too, not at work) people at my friend’s work kept putting their used teabags on the back edge of the sink instead of throwing them away (I KNOW that sounds abnormal but it’s not where I’m from). The big boss was getting super irritated and wandered out of the break room loudly asking “Please stop teabagging the sink!!” My poor friend had to explain to this deeply religious man 40 years her senior why everyone sat in horror and a few people laughed. He’d asked in front of everyone “what is so funny? It’s NOT funny” and my friend had to usher him back in to his office to explain.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca in Dallas

      Haha, that happened on Sex and the City! Charlotte’s husband was leaving teabags around the kitchen and she was complaining to her friends about it. She said, “We have a teabagging problem.” Samantha: “Oh, just breathe through your nose.”

      Reply
      1. Anion

        My husband and I say that line to each other all the time! (“Oh, I understand. Just breathe through your nose.”)

        *Clarification: We do not say it to each other in a dirty way, we say it when talking about funny misunderstandings etc.

        Reply
    2. Kat

      An older colleague of mine thought you teabagged someone when you left the teabag in the cup. This came to light when me and another colleague heard her explaining to the new hire ‘Kat likes you to take the bag out but John doesn’t mind being teabagged as long as you let him know so it doesn’t hit him in the face’ . The minute me and the other colleague within earshot made eye contact we were gone. Eventually we controlled the laughter enough to suggest she look the phrase up on urban dictionary when she got home

      Reply
  26. VDZ

    I work in advertising and my company has run a number of smoking cessation campaigns. One of our sales reps kept referring to them as “smoking sensation” campaigns as if we ran ads about how amazing smoking is. I’m not sure if he actually knew the difference. No one corrected him and he’s since left the company.

    Reply
  27. cornflower blue

    This is timely!

    Yesterday, when discussing the culmination of a year-long initiative, my manager gave a heartfelt speech thanking us for all the “blood, sweat, and crocodile tears” we put into the project.

    Reply
    1. Look, a bee!

      Oh man! That’s actually hilarious! I love the idea that he’s just being super sarcastic like ‘yeah thanks guys for the hard work*

      *fake enthusiasm’

      Reply
    1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

      I grew up hearing that one. I managed to remove it from my vocabulary, but it’s common here.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        It’s like de-peeling. Bananas have a peel already, if you peel them wouldn’t you have a double peel? I feel like that one is running afoul of a word with very different meanings.

        Reply
      2. Emi.

        I’m sympathetic to this, because you’re taking the peel off, like how taking the wrapper off is “unwrapping.”

        Reply
      1. Ninja

        But that’s correct, surely? A hem is sewn up; if you want to take it down, you unpick the stitches – you wouldn’t “pick the stitches.”

        Reply
  28. Instruct Not Destruct

    We hired a vendor to create training materials for us. The first round of deliverables was great but the pictures they chose featured older models when we were aiming for something closer to a hipster. My boss, who’s french, tried to communicate that the models needed to be funkier, what she actually wrote was “We need the images to be kinkier”…

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      OMG, this reminds me of my coworker who said “kinky” whenever she meant “hinky.” Another would use “kinky” to mean “not quite squared” or “round peg, square hole” because she’s only heard it used to refer to hair texture and wasn’t aware of its other meaning.

      Reply
      1. Instruct Not Destruct

        It seems kinky is just one of those words. When I asked my boss where she’d learned that word in a ‘funky’ context she said the first time she’d heard it was when another coworker of ours described her afro as kinky. My boss assumed she was referring to the stylishness of her hair rather than the texture. It was the sweetest, if most misleading, of misunderstandings.

        Reply
      1. Instruct Not Destruct

        Within 15 minutes we received the world’s most restrained response explaining that maybe this particular conversation isn’t well suited to email and they would send a meeting invite. They later confessed to debating whether or not they should ask for examples.

        Reply
  29. LibrarianAG

    When I started my first full time job, I had a coworker with a name similar to Ted Watkins. He was a conservative and religious man. We were in orientation and exchanged personal email addresses amongst ourselves and other new hires. I guess his middle name started with a “W” — so his email address was twwat @ whatever.com. I didn’t say anything since I was new to the working world and didn’t know how to approach it, but I still remember it 11 years later!

    Reply
      1. Snickerdoodle

        I’ve now got the song Rattigan’s henchman sing in The Great Mouse Detective stuck in my head. Except now it’s “To shartigan!”

        Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      I knew an Amy Ryan who was the only person who successfully pushed back against the first initial, last name convention.

      Reply
      1. Fenchurch

        When I was a high school-aged lifeguard, the director of our parks and recreation department was S.harter. She was also horribly incompetent.

        Many laughs were had at her expense.

        Reply
        1. Stephanie (HR Manager)

          We did first two initials of first name and first three of last name. One person ended up ANALB. So not OK.

          Reply
        2. evilintraining

          We have a donor with the last name Sharting. The giggles persist in the Development Department…

          Reply
      2. Rache

        A friend’s work email followed the same lines – she’s boner@… OF COURSE it’s the only nickname she goes by to this day.

        Reply
        1. Rache

          AHHH.. .and I nearly forgot the best use of this!! I was doing massage for an event (I’m also an LMT) – it was for college sports. I was talking to my friend (also Boner’s friend) and a topic came up and I just blurted out that we needed to call Boner and tell her! The room went completely quiet and then the giggling started. Laughing til tears fell, even though it had taken me a few seconds to realize that not everyone would know the context. :) Of course I did call her later and tell her that she now had a group of college guys anxious to meet someone that would willingly take on that nickname.

          Reply
      1. Bagpuss

        There was a glorious incident a few years ago on live radio when a (very serious and well respected) BBC presenter mispronounced (then) Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s surname. It’s not often you hear a senior politician referred to as a C**t on breakfast radio…

        Reply
      1. AMPG

        My college’s email server in the mid-90s had a rudimentary IM feature where you could check to see if someone was online and then message them. The command to check their status was FINGER [username]. We all enjoyed that.

        Reply
    2. finman

      My friend’s mom was offered an official email address from the Arizona Bar Association (trying to coordinate email addresses) and she was given C.McCrack@bar.az…. She asked them to use her own email address instead

      Reply
    3. GovSysadmin

      At my college, they changed the algorithm for generating email addresses to just be your last name or a truncated version of your last name if it was available. There was a poor guy with the last name of Sakashita whose e-mail got truncated by dropping the last a.

      Reply
    4. Nic

      I had a coworker at OldJob once who had a name like Carmen Munbath. They used Firstinitial.LastName@ email at that job, and specifically changed the spelling of her name to Karmen to avoid something similar. That didn’t stop everyone from knowing and many from giggling.

      Reply
  30. Gwen Soul

    ooh just on Monday we had a coworker giving a talk where obesity was part of the issues. he said if people stopped Netflix and Chilling maybe obesity wouldn’t be so bad. I am about 90% sure he didn’t know what he meant.

    (The same coworker also was giving a presentation on OBGYN and mentioned women coming in to be examined “stem to stern” you could see all the women squirm)

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      It took me a long time before I figured out that it means “to have sex.” I thought it literally meant, “hang out at home and watch movies.”

      And I think it did at first–but the ever-present dirty mind pushed it right over into meaning “sex.”

      Reply
      1. Emmie

        Me too! I used to say it at work when people would ask me about my weekend plans. I said it once to my nieces and nephews who awkwardly explained it to me – after laughing a bit!

        Reply
      2. SusanIvanova

        Absolutely! “Chill out” is older than I am, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think the phrase means “veg out and watch TV”. I’m still not quite sure how the “having sex” definition even fits – sex and TV are not things that generally combine well. Your attention is going to be divided to the detriment of both activities :)

        Reply
        1. Drew

          Yeah, and when you say “Shut up and concentrate, the good part’s coming up,” they’re still not sure what you mean.

          Reply
        2. Kitrona

          I think it’s more a matter of plausible deniability. “We were just watching something and then… well… we didn’t *plan* it!”

          Reply
    2. Augusta Sugarbean

      *googles term* Huh. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about dating anymore. I’d spend a lot of time being surprised.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Wait: what is the stem and what is the stern in his analogy?! Does he think reproductive anatomy and the GI tract are connected or the same??

        Reply
        1. CoveredInBees

          It is a nautical expression for “thoroughly”. Still not a great time to use it, even to someone who is well0-acquainted with it.

          Reply
    3. No, please

      I once went to my doctor because I’d been having some terrible periods. He asked if a student could sit in and I said ok. He had the student taking notes via tape recorder. I could hear his notes and he repeatedly used the term “break through breathing.” I was a teenager and my mom was with me. We both had a good chuckle when we left about my constant, sudden breathing.

      Reply
    4. Sunny Day

      When my parents got Netflix my dad kept saying this… “we’re just gonna netflix and chill tonight”

      Reply
    5. IWasAChristmasElf

      The leader of a political party in my country was quoted in the news saying the liked to “netflix and chill” in his spare time. It was unclear in this interaction who knew what that meant and who didn’t. Though my boyfriend knows him socially (we’re in a very small country, people tend to know politicians) and thinks it was almost certainly intentional on his part. My mother was horrified to learn what that meant.

      Reply
  31. Indie

    Damp squid is excellent! My sister’s colleague said “Going off on a tandem” instead of “going off on a tangent” – my sister explained the true phrase, and it’s mathematical origins. Her colleague listened intently and replied “Nah. It very obviously means going off on a bike ride”..

    Reply
    1. cataloger

      I like the idea of “going off on a tandem” to mean you went off on a tangent, but others went with you!

      Reply
    2. Sled dog mama

      Oh I would die. In my world a tandem is a device used to treat uterine or cervical cancer with radiation

      Reply
  32. Chickie Manages It All

    Fun topic!

    A friend worked with someone who would say, ‘that will never pass mustard with the regulators.’

    I worked with someone who (when it was cold outside) would say, ‘it’s nipply out today.’

    Reply
    1. Shortie

      Chickie, your former coworker may be my husband. He says “it’s nipply out”–on purpose–every day of the winter and sometimes even on cooler than average summer days. He thinks it is hilarious to mispronounce words on purpose, and that is one of his favorites.

      Reply
  33. CatCat

    In 2007 , I was working for a real estate agent. She was the top agent in the company, but was not internet savvy. Someone had shown her a video tour/slide show on YouTube as a possible marketing tool. She was soooo excited about it and called a meeting of her staff. She gathered us in her office and excitedly said, “You guys, you guys, have you heard of the Blue Tube?!”

    Reply
    1. Worker Bee

      This reminds me of when Michael Scott says “I’ve got to make sure that Youtube comes down to tape this”

      Reply
  34. Buffy Summers

    Not necessarily work, but at my church we have a very enthusiastic young man who often handles the welcome and he’s taken to saying, “We are Jacked Up that you’re here today!” when welcoming newcomers. I capitalized b/c that’s kind of how he says it…with emphasis.
    Now…maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always heard “jacked up” used as a way to describe something that’s not right or broken. Like, my car is so jacked up it’s gonna cost a fortune to fix. Or when someone does something wrong, we might say, “Wow, that was really jacked up.”.
    So, when he welcomes newcomers, I always giggle a little because I’m picturing us all being really “Jacked Up” and it’s quite hilarious.

    Reply
    1. Lily Rowan

      Except on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, they use it to mean dolled up — when they go to put a veil and whatnot on a customer, they say, “We’re going to jack you up!”

      And I always think, you keep using that word…

      Reply
      1. Floundering Mander

        Yeah if someone told me they were going to jack me up I’d start running, because in my frame of reference that means they are going to beat me up.

        Reply
    2. Jules the 3rd

      Jacked up = extremely enthusiastic is actually common in my area (Southern US), though there’s a strong connotation of the enthusiasm being fueled by drugs (cocaine / meth).

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        so funny! The opposite of what usually happens

        The usual: Ordinary meaning becomes scandalized (hook up; Nexflix and chill)

        This time: the scandalized become tame (jacked up, meaning “under the influence of drugs,” becomes merely “excited”)

        I guess these two trajectories happen all the time, but it’s always funny to me.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Oh that’s interesting! My friends (not southern) all use it to mean hungover/worked over or akin to being under the influence and not in their right minds. So it sounds like same origin, different trajectory.

        Reply
      1. Buffy Summers

        I would die. I think I would just fall over dead right there. It’s so bad but that would be the best thing ever.

        Reply
    3. cornflower blue

      I also hear it used to mean someone is into weightlifting and has a lot of muscle definition. I’m picturing your church greeter doing deadlifts to welcome parishoners.

      Reply
    4. Typhon Worker Bee

      My ex-boyfriend’s family had a dog called Jack. I heard a story about how the dog once jumped onto the table during a big family BBQ, causing my ex’s mum to repeatedly shout “Jack, off, Jack, off” in front of dozens of relatives and at least three neighbours.

      Reply
  35. KelJohnson

    I work on a project team that had meetings called Transition & Activation. They shortened it to, yep, T&A meetings.

    Reply
  36. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

    It’s not incorrect, per se, but it was awkward. After a long time of trying to make things work, a coworker had to talk with her boss about how another coworker was causing serious problems. Boss acknowledged that it was an uncomfortable discussion and encouraged coworker to be candid with her, saying “I don’t want you to feel like you’re fingering Jane…”

    Reply
  37. Gail Davidson-Durst

    This isn’t nearly as hilarious as the examples, but I’ve noticed our India office seems to have fads for “fancy” words. Last year “component” was very big – one person used it 5 times in a 30 minute call, and lately people have been using “bifurcate” to mean “divide,” even when it’s into many more than 2 parts.

    We have a coworker who’s from Nepal and doesn’t know American slang. He said to a female coworker “How big is your box?” referring to the Otterbox on her phone. She and I fell into hysterics and then had to explain why.

    Reply
    1. Trig

      A lot of fun words come out of our Indian office. They know the +ation rule for making a verb a noun, so we get things like “upgradation” a lot.

      Reply
          1. An Inspector of Gadgets

            Oh it works, for sure. It’s very common in Indian English vernacular but until/unless you’re expecting it, catches English-speakers from other places off guard.

            Reply
          1. EuropeanConsultant

            I’ve learnt it from my French boss. I’ve always believed it was an English copy of a French word.

            Reply
          2. Mimmy

            My favorite is “needful” – my husband works with an offshore group from India, and they often end their emails with “do the needful”. Now, hubby and I say it to each other, lol.

            Reply
            1. Nic

              I was going to mention this. I really like that phrase! It assumes that the other person has the background and good sense to understand what needs to be done without you having to condescend to telling them!

              Reply
    2. Emilia Bedelia

      Someone I email in China used the word “cacography” (it means a typo) in an email to me recently, which amused me deeply. I had literally never heard that word before – whatever Chinese-English dictionary she’s using is a pretty thorough one!

      Reply
      1. Proofin' Amy

        The author of the Spellbreaker trilogy, Blake Charlton, is dyslexic. His main character is basically magically dyslexic, and his distortion of text-based spells is referred to as cacography.

        Reply
  38. Alex the Alchemist

    I’ve mentioned this in the comments before, but not in detail so here goes: Last summer I was on a white-water rafting trip with the young adults of my church (so not technically work-related, but still funny). I was in the same boat as my pastor. We had brought sandwiches, water, granola bars, etc. for food. When we started eating, my pastor said, “Man, I really wish we had some cake right now so we could be like that one song! You know, we’d be like CAKE BY THE RIVER!”

    He was referencing DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” and that led to some very awkward explaining that the song wasn’t really about cake.

    Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      I’d have followed up that conversation with a rendition of the cake bit from MacArthur Park. Mostly because I crack up every time I hear it.

      Reply
    2. Cleopatra Jones

      Haha, my mind immediately went to Cake by Rihanna.
      Let me tell ya, folks. It is not really about birthday cake.

      Reply
  39. Rogue

    Not co-worker, but a relative uses the word “ideal” in place of “idea” and says “you’re not being have” instead of “you’re misbehaving and “wrench it out” instead of “wring it out.”

    Reply
    1. Iris Eyes

      Arg that would make me scream in my head, and possibly out loud.

      The using of regular words without realizing their slang meaning is funny and tbh I find it offensive when someone says you can’t use this word the way its been used for year/generations/millenia because some part of the culture has decided that now it means X.

      This though, I wouldn’t spend much time talking to that relative.

      Reply
    2. Adlib

      I sometimes say the “being have” with my cats, but obviously, I’m not being serious. If your relative is being serious, that’s hilarious yet annoying.

      Reply
    3. mirinotginger

      Full disclosure, I use “being have” because I think it’s hilarious. I mean, according to the rules, it should work, but it doesn’t and I use it all the time with my husband and my parents. However, I would never use it to someone who wasn’t in on the joke, as it were

      Reply
  40. Amber Rose

    This is more just me being juvenile, but I worked for a land surveyor for a couple years. Plots of land are marked by either iron posts, or wooden ones. Wooden ones are extremely rare and hard to identify, since they tend to decay.

    Anyways, with that bit of background, my boss came in excitedly one day announcing, “Fergus has wood! Everyone come see Fergus’s wood so you know what it looks like.”

    Reply
    1. OoohLaLa

      I’m in the environmental field and we lost one of our hand augers. One of my co-workers was trying to figure out where it could be and was quite dismayed because he needed the hand auger for a job. He yelled out “how am I supposed to do Tim’s (our boss’ name) hand job now”.

      I almost peed myself. Tears were definitely rolling down my cheeks.

      Reply
    2. CollegeAdmin

      If you’re juvenile, I am too. I’m going to be breaking out into giggle fits all day just remembering that.

      Reply
    3. Anonymous Pterodactyl

      This is amazing. I would have died of laughter.

      A couple weeks ago I needed to talk to a coworker, so I knocked on his door and asked “Do you have a sec?” He gestured me in, and I checked the time on the clock to make sure neither of us needed to go to lunch shortly. Then my unchecked mouth said, “Oh, it’s only 11, you have lots of secs.”

      …whoops.

      Reply
      1. This Daydreamer

        Oh, gods, that’s hilarious. I hope your boss was the type to laugh and not the type to be offended.

        Reply
    4. OlympiasEpiriot

      In the construction biz, there are soooo many opportunities for double entendres.

      I recall a t-shirt from a scaffolding company with the name on the front and Erection Specialist on the back.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        A utilities company which used to supply just power ran an ad a little while ago to announce their expansion of services in which they said they had been waiting years to tell people “we give you gas.”

        Reply
      2. Gazebo Slayer

        Here in Boston there’s a chain of hardware stores that sells T-shirts, aprons, boxer shorts, and other attire that say things like “Got wood?” “Get hammered,” “Get nailed,” “Get plastered,” et cetera.

        Reply
      3. This Daydreamer

        There used to be a business in my town that refinished furniture. They were called The Happy Stripper.

        Reply
    5. Elemeno P.

      I attended building development meetings with my former boss. He and I could not make eye contact during the meetings because we’d both start laughing every time they mentioned how big the erection was getting. We are 12.

      Reply
  41. Marzipan

    Oh! Oh! I just remembered!

    A colleague once referenced me in a meeting, intending to say that I was ‘on the ball’. Unfortunately due to a momentary slip what she actually said was ‘on the game’. The entire meeting was reduced to tears of hysterics and I couldn’t actually speak when it got to my update.

    Reply
      1. Marzipan

        To spare everyone else’s internet search histories, ‘on the ball’ is switched on, on top of things, that kind of thing; while ‘on the game’ refers to prostitution.

        And it was quite a large meeting.

        Reply
        1. paul

          I’ve never heard that, and I thought I was up on slang and whatnot.

          This thread is making me feel like Grandpa Simpson!

          Reply
          1. JeanB in NC

            I’m pretty sure “on the game” is British – I see it used all the time in my British detective books.

            Reply
    1. fposte

      Heh. Which probably would have gone completely unnoticed in the U.S., so your colleague just picked the wrong country. (I’m finding this thread revealing in very country-specific ways to come a cropper.)

      Reply
      1. CM

        “Come a cropper” is the worst insult in Hungary. It references a physical act that is so disgusting I can’t even describe it here.

        (OK, I made that one up. )

        Reply
        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          According to my brother, who spent two years in Hungary on a Mormon mission, the linguistical equivalent of “go to hell” in Hungarian is “go to France.” Really cracked me and my sisters up, as we’d all studied French in high school and college.

          Reply
  42. Ruthenium

    So, my bestie works at Starbucks. You can order a chai latte with a shot of espresso, and if you use the unofficial name “dirty chai” most baristas will know that’s what you mean.

    One day a girl comes in and says to my friend: “I want to order…oh, what was it called…a Dirty Sanchez?”

    Everyone at the bar went DEAD SILENT. She looks at them all and says “What? What did I say?”
    My friend: “I…I can’t really tell you. But what you want is called a dirty chai.”
    “What did I say?! Please, you have to tell me!”
    So they did.
    And the girl turned neon red and left as fast as humanly possible.

    …if you don’t know what a Dirty Sanchez is, I really don’t want to be the one to tell you. Plus I don’t want to get banned on my first comment, if I haven’t sealed that fate already.

    Reply
    1. AnonymousAndroid

      I didn’t know what that was either, but apparently it was the title of an old British TV series. Which got renamed in the US, probably because of the other meaning…

      I am now very glad of private browsing.

      Reply
        1. overcaffeinatedandqueer

          Well, I’m trying to break the habit because the other day, the barista looked at me and goes, “I showered this morning and I don’t swing that way?”

          Reply
    2. desktopfrogjamie

      There is a taco chain based in Austin that has named one of their tacos dirty sanchez. .. . it’s delicious. And I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

      Reply
      1. Drew

        Oh. they DEFINITELY do. They also sell a fried cookie dough dessert called “Little Nookies.”

        I may eat there often. Too often. Entirely too.

        Reply
    3. geecee

      In response to a small scheduling mix-up once, we got an email apologizing to us for the “incontinence”.

      Reply
    4. Miles

      There is a Mexican restaurant in town that has a cocktail called the Dirty Sanchez. All the other cocktails have normal names, then there’s that. I don’t know if they don’t know or what, but although it sounds good I have never ordered one because I refuse to ask for one.

      Reply
  43. Snark

    When I was in grad school, we had this lab tech, LT, who simply could not even when it came to acroynms and got hopelessly confused about anything but plain English descriptions of whatever. This was, let’s say it gently, not exactly conducive to being an effective assistant to overworked persons who use a lot of shorthand to talk about what they’re doing and what they need.

    I used a process called PCR – the polymerase chain reaction – to amplify trace environmental DNA samples for sequencing. LT simply…could…not…learn…the acronym. He called it PTO, PTR, DTR, VTR, and every imaginable slight variation on PCR, but almost never PCR and even when he successfully deployed it, it was clearly by accident. 16s rRNA sequences got called 15s, 17s, 16c, and DNA and RNA were used interchangably. HiSeq got called Hi Sex, Hi Sax, and Hi Sic. And when I asked him to order more 515F-806R primers (for example), he just got a look on his face like he’d been clubbed with a two-by-four and hadn’t fallen down yet.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Summers

      I am utterly exhausted after reading that post and trying to imagine how I’d do trying to remember all that. :)

      Reply
      1. Jeanne

        You’d do fine. To most scientists, it becomes a natural language. I’m sure your marketing or accounting or customer service has a language. I worked as a chemist in pharmaceuticals and we had our own things too.

        Reply
    2. Nye

      As someone who works with all of those things, this is both hilarious and kind of sad (for the poor tech). And reminds me that I have to prep some libraries for HiSic4000 sequencing…

      Reply
    3. Lora

      Hah, had Bio-rad made the PCR song yet? Or the GTCA song?

      “PCRRRRRR when you need to detect mutaaaaations….PCRRRR when you need to recombiiiiiine….PCRRRRRR when you need to find out who the daddy iiiiiis (who’s your daddy)….PCRRRRRR when you need to solve the crime”

      Reply
          1. Windchime

            OMG that is hilarious and I’m not even in the industry. I love how they are all so EARNEST about the whole thing.

            Reply
    4. Thursday Next

      How did that person function as a lab tech? PCR is not an obscure term in a biology lab and DNA vs RNA is kinda fundamental to the field…
      (And given the prevalence of English as the lingua franca of science these days they most likely would have heard those terms in English even if they went to university in a non English speaking country)

      Reply
      1. ArtsNerd

        Yeah, I’m not even close to a scientist (see username) but I’ve known DNA vs RNA since puberty and even had an introduction to PCR in high school. This is baffling to me.

        Reply
    5. Chameleon

      This is pretty minor, but I did my grad school in a lab that worked on a malaria parasite called Plasmodium yoelii, pronounced “yo-El-ee-eye”. We had one intern who constantly pronounced it “YOW-lie” and I just saw my PI cringe every time he opened his mouth.

      Reply