boss responds to every email with “calm down,” my office is overrun with buzzwords, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss responds to every email with “calm down”

I am a woman and am very reserved in my work life. I work as a sales assistant to our sales team, so me keeping a cool head is very helpful (I think).

I have an issue with my interim boss. My new boss should be starting soon. This was an issue before we started working from home, but now that the majority of communication is email, I find myself grinding my teeth on the daily. Essentially, the interim manager responds to every email from me with, “Calm down.” That is, without fail, his first line in every email. Even if he is copied on an email to me and I respond to someone else, he will tell me to calm down. He does this whether I am bringing up a concern (“I think X will happen”) or just asking a question (“should X be like this or that?”).

I have no idea how this started, but now it happens daily. He must think this is funny, but I hate it. It’s not funny. But I don’t know how to tell him to cut it out. It seems like it has gone on too long. Is there a script I can follow to get him to stop, or do I wait until my new manager is hired, sees this on an email, and ask him to address it?

Your manager is an ass. “Haha, let’s pretend a woman is hysterical, and not take anything she says seriously! It’s hilarious!” Whether or not he intends this to be sexist or realizes how gendered it is, it is; women have been told for centuries to calm down as a way to dismiss them on things big and small.

Go talk to him in-person (or call if you’re not in-person) and say this: “You have been responding to all my emails with ‘calm down.’ Why are you doing that?” … followed by, “Could I ask that you stop? It’s demoralizing to hear that in response to every work-related communication I send.” Or if you prefer, “Could I ask that you stop? Maybe you’re not aware of this, but there’s a long history of women being marginalized in this way.” (Personally I would also add, “I know you strive to support women and would never want to inadvertently reinforce something so sexist” because I enjoy watching people feel obligated to live up to a compliment they don’t deserve … but if he’s a certain kind of ass, that will just egg him on, so you have to know who you’re dealing with.)

Or if you don’t want to deal with this guy, you could indeed wait until your new boss starts — but at that point, don’t wait for him to notice it and address it, because who knows how long that might take. Instead, once he starts, ask him to put a stop to it.

This is sexist and gross.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My office is overrun with buzzwords

I’m one of my office’s word nerds — copywriters, editors, etc. A few of us have noticed that recently, buzzwords have picked up like crazy among our colleagues. Lately it feels like senior management’s entirely vocabulary is only buzzwords. In a presentation last week, for example, a director said that a “new piece of work is a runway to manifest our brand value proposition.” What does that mean?

Now my peers are using the same buzzwords in presentations, and they’re seeping into meetings and conversations. Another example that makes my eye twitch: Suddenly everyone is using the word “solutioning,” as in, “Thanks, Matt, for solutioning our IT request.” You know. Like a detective solutions a murder.

I’m all for language evolving, but morale is poor right now and there’s been a lot of water-cooler griping about senior leaders acting inauthentically. I think buzzwords may be contributing to this. When senior leadership’s talking a lot but not saying anything, it doesn’t make anyone feel that what we do has much real-world value.

Part of me wants to address the issue head-on. I’m one of two staff members who train our organization on brand tone of voice, and jargon is one of the things we ask people to avoid. Shouldn’t buzzwords be treated the same? So it might be okay for me to bring it up to the team as a tone of voice reminder — “remember, we want to communicate like human beings, even to each other.”

The other part of me doesn’t even want to couch it in “tone of voice.” I want to shake everyone out of work zombie mode. I’m sick to death of conversations that don’t mean anything and waste everyone’s time. Am I overthinking this, or is it something I should address? If so, what’s the best way to do it?

Buzzwords and jargon are annoying, and they can indeed obscure people’s meaning and make listeners wonder why the person won’t speak plainly. But if you’ve got a cultural problem with people feeling your leadership is inauthentic, it goes way beyond buzzwords — and you’d be focusing on a symptom rather than the core issue. That’s not to say the overuse of buzzwords isn’t contributing to that perception; I’m sure it is. But it doesn’t sound like you’re part of your organization’s senior leadership, and so you’re probably not well positioned to do much about it. You can certainly edit the hell out of this language when it appears in written communication or materials meant for the public — but it doesn’t sound like you have standing to make it a major campaign beyond that. (If I’m wrong about that and you are in a senior position with a lot of influence, then by all means go for it. But you need that standing in order to really push on it effectively.)

That said, there are undoubtedly opportunites to take it on case-by-case. There are probably times when you can say, “Why are we suddenly saying ‘solutioning’? Can we stick with ’solving,’ in the interest of sounding like normal people?”

3. Can my current boss block me from moving back to my old job?

I was hired to work at a nonprofit in January to run a youth volunteer program, I worked very hard to turn around the failing program and made some headway with collaborating with other departments. In March, COVID-19 caused us to have to work from home, and my city defunded the program for the remainder of the fiscal year. To keep me within the organization, they offered me a new position with our after-school/summer camp program. I was less than thrilled, but I worked diligently with my new direct reports and began to enjoy the work we produced. My supervisor likes the work I’ve been doing and has integrated me into her team. Last week, my city decided to overhaul the volunteer program and funded us for half of our usual allotment. I was excited because I believed I would be able to go back to my original program.

However, my current supervisor is being difficult and doesn’t want me to go back. She refuses phone calls and ignores emails from my original boss, and when higher-ups got involved she called and asked what I wanted to do. I told her, “I want to go back!” My supervisor said they have a meeting today regarding my status and that she only made this call as a “professional courtesy.”

I’m frustrated, to say the least. My original program is my passion and I love the work I do there. Can my current supervisor block me from returning to my original program? Why don’t I get to decide?

It depends on the priorities in your organization, and to some extent the politics there. It’s possible your organization will decide it wants to keep you where you are — either for good and legitimate reasons or because they want to keep your current manager happy. (That second option sounds bad and sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s something like, “The X team is already strained from overwork and instability and if we move Jane, things will be even worse … so we need her to stay where she is currently for the good of the larger picture.” Other times, though, it’s more like, “We can’t deal with any of Lucinda’s drama if we move Jane, so just give her what she wants.”)

In any case, blocking someone from moving is generally very short-sighted , since it typically means the person is likely to end up leaving anyway — but this time they’ll go outside the organization.

If I were you, I’d call your old manager and talk to her directly. Tell her you’re concerned your current boss is blocking your return. Sometimes in a case like this, simply being very clear about your preferences — and about how strongly you feel — will be enough to get the move approved. Other times it won’t. One option to put some pressure on them is to hint (or say outright) that you’re not likely to stay long if you’re not permitted to move back, but there’s risk to that (especially right now, with lots of jobs getting cut) … so only do it if you’re not bluffing and feel confident it won’t get you pushed out sooner than you’d want.

4. Can I tell my coworkers I’m leaving before I tell my boss?

I am getting ready to resign from my job of 10 years. I am struggling with the fact that two of my coworkers, who are good friends, will hear this news from my boss instead of me. Is it ever appropriate to tell coworkers about resignation plans yourself?

Sure, absolutely. Professional protocol says you should tell your boss first (partly out of courtesy and partly so she’s prepared to answer questions or concerns from coworkers about logistics), but there’s no reason you can’t tell those two coworkers yourself immediately afterwards. There’s no convention that you have to wait for your boss to announce it, unless you and she explicitly agree on that. If the norm in your office is for departure announcements to come from managers, you can still discreetly give those two coworkers a heads-up.

For that matter, you can also give them a discreet heads-up before you’ve even talked to your boss, but I’d only do that if you absolutely trust them to keep it to themselves until it’s announced publicly.

5. Is moving within the same company job-hopping?

I’m wondering if moving around in one company looks like job hopping, and how to make it look less job-hoppy if possible.

I’m a few years out from graduating and I’ve had an interesting, albeit hodgepodge, job history. I was planning to negate some of that with a longer, three-year stint at my most recent company. Unfortunately, my first role in the company made me miserable so I switched to a much better role in a completely different area after 1.5 years. I’ve been in that role for a year but am now facing a reorg that will mean another new title and new team for me, although my role description is staying relatively the same. I will only be in this new role for a few months before moving back to my home country and starting a new job hunt.

Would it be okay to list the last two roles as one line like “Office Manager/Coordinator” (assuming those were my real titles)? Should I leave off the new title all together? Am I worried for nothing and does the fact that I stayed with the company for the full three years make it not job hopping? … Maybe recruiters will think I got promotions/transferred to better roles?

For what it’s worth, I’ve received amazing reviews from my manager and colleagues who say I’m a “star” employee. I’m generally good at interviews, but my job history is getting harder and harder to explain and I’m worried the job hopping will get my resume thrown out before I even get the chance.

Nah, since this was all at the same company, this isn’t job-hopping. Job-hopping is about frequently changing companies; if you’re moving around within the same company, that’s not going to set off alarm bells. Within reason, of course — if you switched internal roles every few months for years without having an explanation for it, people will wonder if managers passed you around like a hot potato, and also how much you really learned in any of those short tenures. And if you had, say, five roles over two years that were all wildly different from each other, that would make it harder to show any progression or clear trajectory. But otherwise, you’re fine.

(And since it always comes up when job-hopping is discussed: Job-hopping isn’t about a series of short-term contract roles either. It’s about a pattern of quickly leaving jobs that were intended to be longer-term.)

{ 615 comments… read them below }

  1. Lena Clare*

    Oh number 1, I’m sorry. This is so awful!
    Please use the script Alison suggested, especially the undeserved compliment, and then let us know how he responded!
    What a jerk.

    2. The new buzzword doing the rounds where I work seems to be “granular”. What?! I also personally dislike “going forwards”. I feel like you only really need to clarify the direction you’re going in if it isn’t forwards, like sideways maybe…

    1. Colin*

      I often think that “going forwards” is the short, polite way of saying “this is the way it should have been done all along”.

      1. NotEyesButMind*

        That is 100% how I use that phrase. ‘Going forward, please make sure that you [do this thing that I want to snap at you about but I am determined to stay professional].’

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          Yep. In my organization, “going forward” is usually code for “someone effed up and I had to step in and fix it, but we’re leaving the past in the past and moving on”.

      2. linger*

        … though it would be even shorter to say “in future”.
        I am sorely tempted to redefine buzzwords in my own head, e.g.
        granular adj. Like that high-fibre breakfast cereal that your grandmother swears by, but which is about as appetizing as kitty litter.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          I genuinely overheard a desk-based coaching session (yay open plan) that used “in future” which was interpreted as “at some undefined point after today”. Said coach switched to “going forward” for the avoidance of doubt.
          (Person being coached was desperately unsuited for the role in myriad other ways but that almost malicious compliance attitude stuck out)

        2. Sylvan*

          “In the future” might not seem necessary unless “in the past” is also an option. Plus, you could say “from now on.”

        3. fhqwhgads*

          I don’t find “granular” to actually be all that buzzwordy, but I guess it depends on the usage. If you’re talking about data analysis for example, there is a need to know how granular it should be. That’s just a normal phrase.

          1. Koala dreams*

            That’s the thing with buzzwords, the people who use them all the time feel they are normal. I’m not that familiar with data analysis, it’s possible it’s useful jargon in that case, but as an outsider it first makes me think of granola (maybe with raisins) and then as a “fancy” word for “more detailed”.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              I’ll grant it’s probably not “plain language”. I’ll agree that it’s jargon, but not that it’s a buzzword, if that makes sense.
              If I have different datasets grouped by country or state or city or postal code, those are different grains. My examples are listed from least to most granular. It’s not interchangeable with “more detailed”. There’s a narrower context in which it makes sense to specify granularity. “How granular” doesn’t mean “how detailed”; it’s more like “what is the smallest unit you can get down to”. If someone is using granular as universally interchangeable with “more detailed”, I’d say they’re misusing the word.

            2. Clorinda*

              Jargon IS plain language within a discipline. Lawyers use legalspeak because those words and phrases have very specific, necessary meanings, for example. If a doctor says distal phalange instead of toe bone, that’s because he or she is being exact about the bone in question. Jargon only becomes obectionable when it’s used vaguely or out of its discipline.

            3. no apples today*

              Granular isn’t a buzzword. It’s terminology for a specific process within tech or analytics. Buzzwords are usually, at their core, technical terms that non-tech people try and make work outside the tech world.

              Just because non-tech people decided to adopt some tech terminology and force feed it into their marketing/non-profit/admin roles doesn’t mean they’re not legitimate terms to use.

              1. Courageous cat*

                I’m very confused. Your second paragraph describes exaclty what you described as being a buzzword in the first paragraph.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  Just because other people use them doesn’t mean they’re not legitimate in tech circles.

          2. Ross*

            Yeah, I tend to use granular, but only referring to the level of detail provided in data analysis. I tend to spend a lot of time talking about data so it comes up a lot. Anything non-data related is use ‘detailed.’

        4. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, my worst infection (bad ideas involving blind cystic acne and a handheld vacuum cleaner) resulted in “granular flesh,” so that’s where my head would go if I kept hearing granular as a buzzword.

      3. Mookie*

        That or, less often, signaling the scheduled end of one phase and the beginning of another, accompanied by a fresh set of procedures.

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        To me, “going forwards” is shorthand for two coexisting concepts–the first is “starting today” or “starting now,” and the second is “because we can’t fix the past.”

        1. Environmental Compliance*


          I do tend to use “going forwards”, but it’s always actually meaning this.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            It’s only two words, and there’s only so much context they can dredge up, but something about that pair seems to acknowledge that the past was screwed up or wrong.

            It’s one of those phrases where I can offer my non Anglophone friends learning it is my condolences…

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Unrelatedly, your username (if I’m translating it correctly) is perfect for this thread.

        2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          The “because we can’t fix the past” is the key for me. I see it the same way: it’s designed to stop kvetching about what happened previously and literally move the discussion forward. Not everything can have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, sometimes you just need to change things “going forwards.”

      5. Autumnheart*

        We use “going forward” to indicate “we don’t have to go back and change any completed work, but make sure new stuff includes the new thing.”

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          Yeah, us too. Sometimes it does mean “someone effed up but we’re going to be pointedly polite about it”, but often it does just mean “let’s try out this new practice”.

    2. RedinSC*

      The thing is, don’t you see the boss saying “Wow, you need to calm down” when LW 1 says this to the boss? I think that’s exactly how he’s going to react. Be prepared to go to your new supervisor once s/he starts.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Absolutely, so the LW needs a script that would address this scenario.
        “Fergus, I AM calm and I don’t find this funny at all.”

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          Or ”Fergus, this is a very regular thing; is something about what I’m asking about or saying leading you to feel I’m somehow upset or hysterical?” then demand a very in-depth chat about the matter. Get him outline very clearly how, other than ”I noticed that the teapots were delayed going out to customers last week” one would say ”I noticed that the teapots were delayed going out to customers last week”? Fascinated to find out actually. Perhaps I too have led people into thinking that I am a sobbing mess when I ask things or mention stuff!

        2. Taniwha Girl*

          Most of the responses encourage some kind of convincing of the boss that OP is actually calm. In my experience this just gives the sexist more power and reinforces their position as the “objective judge of emotions.”

          What if OP took a different direction in response to “Calm down”:
          -ignore it utterly
          -“Chill out.”
          -“Well I was calm, but now I’m not.”

      2. Amy Sly*

        Yeah. That’s the problem with “calm down”: it’s hard to complain about it without the person doing it thinking that it’s justified.

        I’d suggest “Is there a reason you think I’m upset/worried/panicking?” and “Why are you telling me to calm down?” Maybe this boss is a misogynistic prick; maybe he’s just such a bad boss that he takes any questions or concerns as personal attacks on his leadership (and being an interim manager could definitely contribute to insecurity). Either way, challenging him to explain why he’s doing it gives you cover; you’re not accusing him of sexism or of being a terrible boss, just trying to understand what he’s doing. Preferably, ask him in person the next time you see him for some other reason, so that he can see in your body language that you are perfectly calm about X issue and his strange email habit.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have never known anyone who uses ‘Calm down’ except in extreme circumstances as anything but a misogynistic prick. This is a classic sexist put down. And designed to rile someone up so they are not calm as they flail at the person dissing them.

          Hope the OP follows Alison’s advice and that it works. Its repeated use suggests though a guy who really loves tormenting women and then standing back with innocent eyes.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              … “Boss, I already am calm. Does your process require getting me worked up so you can calm me down and then we can get on with addressing the issue at hand?”

              1. pancakes*

                There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that that’s his process. Alison’s script is more direct and I’d stick with that instead.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that that’s his process.

                  Quite true and on-point.

                  Alison’s script is more direct and I’d stick with that instead.

                  Also quite true. All I wanted was a laugh at the absurdity of it. (Although I have worked with people who will create a problem to solve if their instructions reference solving a problem that hasn’t arisen, rather than just skip that step.)

            2. Wintermute*

              I cannot think of a single, solitary instance in the entire history of the basic concept of agitation when the phrase “calm down” has actually, in fact, calmed anyone down.

              I am sure that in ancient Sumeria it was still a code word for “I would like to start an argument now, please”.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                Yeah, I was just going to say, literally no one has ever been calmed down by being told to calm down.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            Yes, this completely.

            So don’t rise at all, just ask with great concern about what made him feel you were riled up, really exhaustively go over and parse out your exact words – bring up emails going back weeks if you can be bothered – and earnestly pick through them, trying to let him ”coach you”. Labour it until the subject is so dead it’s dust. Then labour it some more. Make him explain, mansplain even.

          2. Nanani*

            The people telling women to calm down ALWAYS think women shouldn’t have been talking in the first place. It’s really “shut up” under a concern-trolly fleece.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, definitely don’t fall into the (gaslight-y) traps of saying “I AM calm”, etc, even though every atom of your being will want to – that will just prove to him that you’re not calm. Instead, be quizzical in a concerned, medium-low-energy way, and ask him what specifically in your wording seems un-calm to him. And if he does give an example, ask about the last email, and the last one but one, and the one before that…

          Oh and… Keep all of those emails. In their own folder. You may need them.

        3. kt*

          I think I’d prefer this one, actually, rather than Alison’s script. Or, “Could you give me some details on what “calming down” means to you?”, or “Are you asking me to change my behavior in some way, or is this a verbal tic?” Or, “I’d be happy to calm down — can you rewrite the sentence, “Just a reminder that there is a new due date for TPS reports due to changes in federal reporting requirements” in a calmer way? I’d appreciate some examples.”

          Eh, my fantasy is actually just to respond to every email to him with “Calm down” and have it go both ways. With some bosses that would work — I would do it with my grandboss as I think he kind of appreciates some good insubordination. I would not necessarily with my boss.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          This is honestly a nightmare scenario for me and I am so, so sorry for OP1 that they are having to deal with this! It is so sexist and insidious because when you try to push back they act like you are just proving their point and eventually I *do* get upset an un-calm even though I wasn’t initially. As someone who gets frustrated fairly easily and is not good at hiding my emotions when I’m frustrated, I would not handle this well at all. It’s bad enough out in the world of personal interactions, but having to deal with this BS at work is awful.

        5. Nesprin*

          Yep! a confused “is there a reason you think I’m not calm?” is profoundly powerful.

        6. JSPA*

          I’d probably start my email as follows:

          Dear [name];

          In anticipation of your response, I assure you that I am calm, relaxed, and brimming with equanimity.

          I do, however, need to [know where the widget is / find out which budget this particular charge falls under / get some insight into the timing for final submission of the grant].

          placidly yours,


        7. QEire*

          The other one is “don’t be so sensitive.” Worked with a guy who used both liberally, and yes, he was/is a horrific misogynist. It’s classic coded language, and unfortunately it’s hard to prove the sexism behind it. Or maybe that was just my HR office…

      3. AKchic*

        I think emailing the request would be better. Have it in writing that the LW made a note of the “habit” and requested that it stop, and if he tries to say “I don’t do that”, then she can attach examples in a reply saying “… really?” with highlighted first sentences in every single one followed by “I’m not debating what comes into my inbox. I am asking you to stop sending me a phrase that is rooted in misogyny when there is absolutely no need to send it to me.”

        Yes, it’s aggressive, but really, he’s been aggressively misogynistic. By replying “calm down” as his opening line on every email, even when it doesn’t warrant a reply, he is setting a tone of dismissal and setting the LW up as a hysterical, emotional “girl” who needs to “pull herself together”, and some people may go back and reread her emails in a different way after reading his “calm down” reply to see what they missed and read it in a different tone themselves. He is undermining her and giving her emails an emotional context she never intended and making her out to be some kind of emotionally unstable person that needs constant reminders to manage her emotions (oh, isn’t he just a wonderful boss-guy for doing that?).

        It also ensures that if he keeps doing it, she has emails showing that she asked him to stop (and possibly why), so upper management can lay into him in the future.

        1. bleh*

          I don’t know how you have kept from telling him what a douchecanoe he is thus far. I’m enraged for you… Certainly not calm anymore.

          But, yes. The best option would be to write:

          I’m curious why you think I’m not calm. Actually, I’m not *that* curious. Whatever the reason, do cease from this habit of beginning your correspondence to me with “calm down.” I prefer “hello.”

      4. LW1*

        Hello! Thank you everyone for the helpful advice. I see a lot of good points that I will keep in mind. I do think this manager thinks he is “just being funny” because I am so reserved at work (especially in a sales team environment) and he is not realizing that he is being misogynistic. I have had a serious conversation about an issue I was having with a co-worker before, where he didn’t joke and handled the issue in a supportive way. So I was really lost with how to address it when the issue was with a joke he is making. But this is all really helping and I really appreciate it!

        1. RedinSC*

          Good luck!!!!

          Yeah, I can see where he thinks, “she’s so calm and mellow always…hahahaha, Calm Down! Hahahaha” But it’s not funny.

          Hope he stops.

          1. Autumnheart*

            I had a coworker who, after I was dead quiet all morning because I was working on a complicated thing, broke the ice with, “Pipe down over there!” But at least a) it wasn’t in writing, and b) obviously a joke.

            Telling someone to “calm down” in an email just insinuates that there was some kind of kerfluffle that happened outside of email, which the manager is referencing. But now there’s a paper trail of Boss telling LW to calm down all the time. I don’t see how an objective third party (like a new boss??) is supposed to see that as a joke and not as “LW is a troublemaker”.

        2. Mama Bear*

          I would tell him that he’s not being funny and that you want him to stop. if he was supportive in the past, use that example. “Boss, when I talked to you about x, you were very supportive and took me seriously, which I appreciated. I have a problem with you telling me to calm down, especially in front of others. Rather than make fun of my opinion, I want the kind of support you have shown in the past. If there is any necessary feedback, it can be handled offline, not in front of the entire department. If you are joking, please know it is not funny and I want it to stop.”

    3. TechWorker*

      Granular got banned at my workplace because no-one could decide what it actually meant?

      Eg there was something that you could split up into a few large blobs or more smaller blobs. It seemed to be that either could be described as ‘more granular’ so it was useless!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        If you can’t explain it to the computer, then don’t use it on me :p

        (Admittedly I have problems with my senses and ‘granular’ is a word that envokes a nails down the blackboard sound/grey static hiss/styrofoam taste to me…which means I’ll visibly flinch)

        1. Them Boots*

          Yeah, my mind goes two places with that word. Granulated sugar and, uh, GROSS WARNING, the texture of proud flesh (scar tissue in horses that sometimes has to be excised by the vet because it would otherwise compromise the muscles or tissues it’s forming in). So, not an appealing word for me! Not sure how it could be used in a business sense! Yuck!!

      2. LQ*

        I mean…if something was one giant blob then both a few large blobs and many smaller blobs would be more granular. It’s just a directional thing to make more blobs rather than less blobbing. I think part of it is people think that words have to mean what they want the end answer to be. 17 blobs exactly is granualar. But both 2 and 200 are more granular than 1. It’s directional.

        (Also I love mixing buzz words – ours is “transparency” with words that hurt people who are linguistic sticklers “see-throughitivness” because I’m a monster.)

        1. Aquawoman*

          See throughitivness? You ARE a monster :) I can deal with some buzzwords and jargon (I don’t mind granular or the use of calendar as a verb, which annoys a friend of mine) but “solutionize” is terrible and immediately made me want to grab a red pen and stab someone with it.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            “See-throughitiveness” would totally get a response from me along the lines of “and that’s why we can’t have nice languages any more.”

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            “Solutionize” is maddening, because we already have a perfectly good word for that. I’m all for shorthand where it’s helpful, but this particular term just makes it look like the speaker forgot the word for “solve.”

            1. Lady Heather*

              I’m ESL and I think ‘solve’ was the word that made us tweens all go ‘huh?’ and the word that we collectively couldn’t remember for at least a year and a half. We all knew solution – but not solve.

              But none of us ever tried to use solutionize AFAIK.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Not to sound condescending, but if someone who is clearly ESL invents a word that mostly makes sense, that’s a far different beast from a clearly-native speaker who’s trying to sound more important or more intelligent than they actually are.

                1. Lady Heather*

                  That’s true – solutionize is definitely ‘functional communication’ (and, hey, the purpose of language is to facilitate communications) even if it isn’t correct use of language.

                  (It’s a word that feels weird, though. And I think we might have tried solutize or soluvize.)

          3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            It sounds to me like a word I’d make up when screwing around with friends just for fun, or if I blanked on the word “solve.” But I cannot imagine it being used in anything but a tongue-in-cheek way!

        2. TechWorker*

          But would 200 blobs be more granular than 3000?

          (Maybe yes, in your view, but based on a sample of ~10 software engineers there wasn’t enough clarity for it to be actually useful :p wiktionary agrees it is ambiguous).

          1. Happy*

            No. 3000 blobs is more granular than 200. If x > y, then x blobs is more granular than y blobs. That was LQ’s point about how it’s directional.

      3. Quill*

        My gremlin brain wants to respond with “actually that’s a powdered analysis” (As in Granulated vs. powdered sugar) but that’s not an impulse that is particularly helpful at work.

      4. Works in IT*

        Here, “more granularity” has become our phrase for when someone did not follow the clearly written instructions we gave them the first time because they were “too vague” (interestingly they are the only person who has had a problem following said instructions).

      5. Sam.*

        I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect so many people to read “granular” as buzzwordy. I do use it in a work context, because I often deal with a lot of fine details, but I don’t associate it with work at all because it was already a regular part of my vocabulary? This is making me rethink some things…

        1. sb51*

          Ditto. It’s just a normal word for me, and doesn’t feel buzzwordy at all. Now, if you’re saying it in conjunction with wishy-washy abstract buzzword soup (we need to granularize our synergy…) then having a concrete visual metaphor awkwardly splatted into the sentence just adds to the horribleness.

          I have felt like this happens to me a bunch, and I’m also aware I have a large working vocabulary in English compared to a lot of my coworkers (who specialized earlier (I’m in a STEM field where elegant writing isn’t prized), aren’t native speakers, just don’t read a lot of varied literature for pleasure). I’m not trying to brag in saying that; it’s just a fact, and I enjoy knowing a lot of words and find linguistics and the development of language fascinating; several of my college friends went into linguistics professionally, etc. But it means I sometimes need to self-edit, which is easy if I realize I’m using something really oddball (I accidentally used “lacunae” in a work email. Once. That one I should have known better on. But granular feels much more ordinary*, and not something I’d think to self-edit out.)

          * It took me three rewrites to come up with a phrasing here I was happy with, because I was trying to do exactly that kind of editing on this post. My first draft, I said “common parlance” and realized that was a bit specialized/precious, but If I said just “common” it’s unclear if I’m meaning frequent or casting class-based aspersions, and frequent seems a bit strong for something that isn’t that often a word you need. Finally I settled on “ordinary”, but it took some time to try to do that editing.

          1. Autumnheart*

            Nope, same. “Granular” is a functional word in my workplace, and maybe I just have a love for jargon, but “solutionize” has a different meaning to me than “solve”.

            If your tool breaks and your IT team fixes it, they solved a problem. If you have a business requirement and you come up with a new process to address it, you created a solution. And if you love verbing words, you solutionized.

            Or I could be a monster for enabling jargon. :)

      6. JSPA*

        In its original usage, it means “at a finer grain, greater detail.” If you’re looking at it in terms of a fractal pattern or pseudo fractal pattern, the total length is increased (like how a coastline is much longer if you measure everything at the scale of a centimeter, rather than a meter).

        Also echoes the concept of looking at a picture so closely that it began to look “grainy” (i.e. the non-digital version of looking “pixelated”).

        It’s from the scientific term or stats analysis term, “granularity.”

        Often used in the negative, i.e. when there’s not enough detail or there are not enough distinguishing sub-categories to answer a particular question. For example, your data set is broken down by ZIP code, as a rough proxy for economic status or a rough proxy for exposure to the effects of being downwind from a point source of pollution. Someone asks whether it makes a difference how long a person’s lived in that area…or whether working outside of that ZIP code makes a difference. And you can’t do that.

        (This may or may not, strictly, be information you lack completely, but it’s information you can’t shoehorn into the study after the fact for Statistical Reasons probably not relevant here.)

    4. Mama Bear*

      For #1 I would address it b/c if he’s doing this in public, then he’s influencing how others see the OP and creating a situation where people will start to question her professionalism. I just watched a video where a trans woman talked about her very different experiences being a man vs a woman in a business meeting. Men are allowed to disagree and are considered “driven” and “passionate” and women are dismissed as being “overemotional”.

      Men, if you see this, speak up. I had a situation where I said something in a meeting and one of the higher ups said the same thing a few minutes later as if it was his idea. The man running the meeting said, “Like Mama Bear already said…” He’s very good at giving everyone a voice and treating women like professionals with a brain and it’s no wonder everyone wants to work on his team. Speak up for the overall good of the team.

    5. no apples today*

      I’m not sure why “granular” causes such horror? The whole purpose of wanting something to be more granular is to break it down into smaller detailed pieces rather than one broad assumption. I’ve used it in a couple of tech companies as a way to break down business or product requirements, and data analysts use it a lot when they’re analyzing results.

      Of all the buzzwords, I think “granular” is the most straightforward since it has an actual, tangible definition and result.

      1. kt*

        Yeah, in data sci it’s fine — you can click through with this button on the dashboard to get more granular results (by region, then by state….). I can see it driving ppl nuts in business just because it’s exported from a context in which it means something into a context in which it’s an allusion to an idea.

      2. buffty*

        I agree. Data analysis is a significant component of our work, and the use of “granular” seems appropriate. We are not heavy on buzzwords at all.

      3. JSPA*

        Yep. If people misuse it, or use it to mean the opposite, that’s on them. The word has a good, tight scientific analysis definition; one that’s commonly apropos in non-science settings as well.

        “I can’t guess what it means based on logic alone” or “the word also means something else if you apply it to food or to diseased tissue” is not an adequate reason to throw out a word that encapsulates a meaning that otherwise requires a sentence or paragraph of explanation.

        Even before the internet, there were dictionaries.

    6. Morticia*

      For number one, I’d be tempted to try: “I’ve noticed you start all correspondence to me with the words ‘Calm Down”. You do it so often that I’m wondering if it’s an attempt on your part to self-soothe. Are you okay?”

      1. LW1*

        He honestly might find that funny. But since I want the behavior to stop I would rather not joke back. Thank you for the laugh though!

    7. SusanIvanova*

      The CEO who ran our company into the ground was very fond of “as we go forwards”. The running joke was that there was a cliff edge in front of us, so maybe “forwards” wasn’t where we should go.

      1. Lady Heather*

        There is a youtube video to describe this – titled “Marching band from Animal House”.

  2. fhqwhgads*

    #5 reads like it’s three roles in two years at one company, unless something about 2 other roles immediately before these got edited out…

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I understood it that it’s really 2 jobs. First one they didn’t like or do well and so they were able to move to a different position which they are doing well in. It sounds like the company is reorganizing and the LW’s title is going to change but responsibilities and essentially job function is not changing or changing very little. So for example, the title is changing from administration assistant, to executive assistant.

    2. What's in a name?*

      I read it is three roles in three years, but the last two roles are similar and were only changed by a re-org.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      If you’re referring to when Alison says “And if you had, say, five roles over two years that were all wildly different from each other,” I don’t think that’s referring back to the Law’s actual job history. It’s just an example of how moving around within an organization can still have a job-hopping feel to it that you’d need to be prepared to discuss.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I swear the “, say, ” was not there when I originally made my comment, but yes that is what I was referring to.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I used to work at a company that was addicted to re-orgs. It was common for someone to frequently job-hop internally through no fault of their own.

    5. Mama Bear*

      I think it depends on the company. I worked for a federal contractor and had a new job every 6-12 months, depending on the ebb and flow of the work. On resumes, I headline with the company and years of service and then mention the roles (but not dates) below that as a summary of work.

  3. PollyQ*

    #1 — It’d be wrong to answer those emails with “Sorry, didn’t mean to panic you! I keep forgetting how easily you get upset.”, right?

    1. D3*

      I was thinking it would be fun, but probably also wrong, to think of something similar you could start doing in all your emails to him. For example:
      Wake up and smell the roses, Bob.
      It’s all quiet on the western front, but you should know…
      Wassup, dude!

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        “I am perfectly calm, but I want you to know…”


        “I am writing this email from a place of serenity and great inner peace, but I think we should consider…”

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          ”So about the X and Y project (oh Bob, sorry, meant to say, I am so calm and relaxed I’m *nearly* asleep) I wanted to just ask about the timeline for Y”.


          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            That’d be a temptation for me, too; to feign sleep and start snoring exaggeratedly when told to calm down.

            If called out on it, I’d just apologize and say “It’s the only way I could think of to get any calmer.”

      2. Quill*

        “Hi Bob, still waiting for that major news you keep trying to prepare me for by telling me to calm down. It’s been four months, I think you’d better just spit it out.”

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I like starting with “Don’t panic” for every one of these mythical emails. Not only does it make the point, but it has the added bonus of a reference to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

      1. Thistle Whistle*

        If you are UK based the “Don’t Panic” makes you think of Dads Army (an old TV show) which is even more apt in the circumstances.

        As soon as anything unusual happens one of the older characters runs around shouting “don’t panic”, completely oblivious to the fact that he is the only one panicing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          One line reply of ‘Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring’ ?

          I’d be soooo tempted.

          (Alternatively I’d get a scouser mate of mine to give chapter and verse on why saying ‘calm down’ all the time is kinda a negative stereotype anyway…)

        2. Cara F.*

          Well, if you are of a certain age in the UK, maybe! I’m in the UK and that’s not really a reference I’d think of.

          1. londonedit*

            Oh crikey, am I really ‘of a certain age’ now? Dad’s Army is 100% the first thing I think of when anyone says ‘Don’t panic!’ (and it’s an oft-used phrase in my family, along with ‘We’re dooooomed!’ and ‘Stupid boy, Pike’)

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              Dad’s Army was my grandad’s favourite, so I picked up all the phrases that way – I was born in 1982 and I would think of the quote straight away.

              1. londonedit*

                I was born in 1981 but both my dad and grandad loved Dad’s Army so it was a staple of my childhood!

        3. Dasein9*

          Wait! I’ve been a Douglas Addams fan for decades and never knew that was a reference to something else.

          This is as enlightening as the whole Pratchett/Gaiman homage to the Just William stories in Good Omens!

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Start the email with “Don’t Panic,” and sign off with “Do you know where your towel is?”

    3. Grey Coder*

      It would also be wrong to say “Hey boss, FYI your autocorrect seems to changing my name to “Calm down” in all of your emails to me. “

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        THIS X 100!!! Actually, what if.. just what if her name was Camilla or something, and this was the case?

      2. Quinalla*

        OMG, this is so perfect. I would be super tempted.

        OP, ugh this is so annoying and I think Alison’s script will get results for you. The only people I tell to calm down are my kids and I’m trying to break the habit because it NEVER WORKS and only makes them more angry and OMG this is such a misogynist (and also racist) thing. Reminds me of “Are you angry?” when you just tried to explain something that genuinely upsets you in a very calm and logical manner said in that tone of condensation combined with smugness and lack of empathy – you know the one – gets me riled up so fast. My response is always “I am now!!!!”

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Instead of “calm down,” which NEVER has that result, I sometimes go with something like “I’m having trouble following what you’re saying/I think you’re saying X, but I think I’m missing some of it. Could you back up a little?” (Meaning, rewind what you’re saying, not physically back up.)

          That makes it about me being able to understand what they’re saying, not about them being upset, and also implies that I want to understand, and I want to help them.

    4. Mookie*

      I’d start signing off Calmer Than You Are and just be done with it. At least it’s an ethos.

    5. WellRed*

      Is it any more wrong than what he’s doing? No, no it’s not. I love this, not the best solution, but I’m not sure it would blowback on OP either.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Hit send too soon – no, it wouldn’t be wrong. He either knows perfectly well what he’s doing, has such an extreme unconscious bias toward women that he automatically interprets anything a woman says in writing as “hysterical,” or maaaybe has some bizarre preconceived notions about the OP in particular. Calling him on this isn’t wrong at all!

      2. Essess*

        I agree. I would want to start all my emails to him with “Calm down” and see how he takes it. If he complains, you tell him that you assumed it was his preferred way to begin emails.

    6. SusanIvanova*

      Or “I’m sorry, but I just can’t help being enthusiastic about TPS reports”?

    7. LW1*

      These are all gold and gave me a good laugh. My manager would probably think they are funny too. I really wish he wasn’t using the specific phrase “Calm down,” or doing it so frequently because I would love to respond with one of these. I am tempted to ask him if he watches Letterkenny, and telling him that if he wants to make a joke that I am included in, to change it to “I’m going to need you to take 5-10% off the top there bud.”

    8. Curmudgeon in California*

      ROTFLMAO! Yes, it would be wrong, but if some jerk kept telling me to “calm down”, I’d probably return the tone and wording just to make a point.

      Seriously, being told to “calm down” just makes me mad, even if I wasn’t before, because it is such a gendered, patronizing and idiotic thing to say. I never hear anyone tell a guy to “calm down” like they do to female appearing people.

  4. nnn*

    I really want to ask #2’s co-workers what they perceive to be the difference between “solutioning” and “solving”. They must think they’re using “solutioning” for a reason, and I’m super curious what it is.

    I also want to somehow convince every single person in #1’s boss’s life to start responding to everything the boss says with “Calm down”.

    1. Vendelle*

      I would simply play dumb and ask them to explain what they mean. And ig the reply is anything like “you know, finding a solution to a problem”, I’d say :”Oh right, you mean SOLVING.” But I’m petty like that, if only in my brain.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        It is not a synonym to “solving.” It is a synonym to “trying to solve.” Emphasis is on the process, not the outcome.

        In my organize we use “solutioning” generally in a negative way, when we’re talking about jumping into an effort without thinking it through. “Let’s not start solutioning until we’ve done discovery.”

        1. Sylvan*

          What’s doing discovery, if you don’t mind me asking? It sounds like it might be research?

          This is all reminding me of a job where we didn’t think or brainstorm, we “ideated.”

          1. Elfie*

            Initial phase of an initiative, where you’re trying to find out what the requirements are. It’s Agile terminology, which (for those unaware of Agile) is a software development methodology that has moved into the realms of whole project lifecycle methodology now.

            1. No Tribble At All*

              Arrrrgh I’m just here to gripe about Agile terminology seeping into the rest of the company.

              1. LQ*

                Agile advocate are part of the problem. They think everything should be agile and not using Agile everywhere is the only reason agile projects ever fail. Shoving their words that sell books and do nothing else of value into the hands of executives who flail around using a few words before they are onto the next book with it’s shiny words.

                1. Not A Girl Boss*

                  If I had a dollar for every time a company tried to implement “daily stand ups” which rapidly become “daily hour and a half long status meetings” ….
                  I could retire and write an entire book about how knowing how using the buzzwords is not the same thing as effectively implementing a management concept.

                2. LQ*

                  If you do that you’ll need to create a few buzzwords so that the folks who want to implement your new managment concept of no new buzzwords have some buzzwords to use. And a certificate. You really need a certificate.

                  I am a part of 2 of those “daily stand ups”, 1 is usually about 5-7 minutes, which would be fine if I didn’t despise the reason for it. The other is 2 hour long meetings. Brutally long.

                3. Not a Girl Boss*

                  No no, not a certificate, belts! Because we are all kung fu fighting our way through the business world!

                4. Jules the 3rd*

                  m. yeah. Agile for not-projects. Don’t get me started, Alison does not need the all caps ranting.

                5. Uranus Wars*

                  Not A Girl Boss I recently implemented twice-per-week stand ups via zoom with my team. No more than 15 minutes and these questions:
                  1) What are you working on today?
                  2) What is ongoing/this week?
                  3) What is the status of important project and what do you need (if anything) from a support perspective to make sure things are on task.

                  Anything else we can cover in weekly meetings or they can email me about. It’s made life so much easier than endless banter and stalling techniques.

                6. calonkat*

                  LQ, I’ve been with working with our IT department on a project directly for 6 or so years now, and I think we’re on our 4th or 5th management style. I’ve given up. Now, they give me a link to the new shiny thing that’s going to solve the communication issues, or the new process that’s going to keep track of everything, I watch for a bit and note that most of the communication still goes on in email, and the new process brings buzzwords, but no actual change. I then ignore the new shiney.

                7. Not a Girl Boss*

                  Uranus Wars- in my experience, the most effective stand up meetings are based on exception management, not statusing.

                  We do not ask these questions:
                  1) What are you working on today?
                  2) What is ongoing/this week?
                  3) What is the status of important project (we do ask the second part if we need to)

                  We trust our people to be using their time wisely and working toward the priority deliverable. We trust them to escalate when they need help without the reminder. Providing information that is a status is green takes unnecessary time, and while often teams can stay on track at first, over time I’ve found that entropy takes over and it starts to devolve into a long winded “Its green but let me complain about how much work I had to do to make sure it was green” etc.

                  All we ask is:
                  1) Have there been any changes to the deliverable status since our last meeting?
                  2) If yes, what are your blockers? (what is getting in the way of your keeping on track?)
                  3) If you have a blocker, who do you need to coordinate with to resolve them?
                  …then we have a kind of second wave breakout meeting, where Joe said “I need Jill and Molly to help me resolve X Blocker” and the 3 of them go off and work it together for the next 15 minutes.

                  Now that we’ve gone remote and don’t have our whiteboard status bar to stand around, I have them all independently email me a status update once a week (an excel file with deliverable/owner/due date, and then they color in the status cells red/yellow/green). Then during the meetings I share my screen with the excel file, and we only talk to the red/yellow ones.

                8. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  It got easier for me once I realized “Agile” is a neologism that means “Wrong.”

                9. Uranus Wars*

                  Not A Girl Boss
                  Thanks for the reply! Your questions are actually what I am asking for, just worded differently. I wonder if I am just calling mine the wrong thing (ironically using a buzz word) – ours seemingly has gone from the in-office “let’s grab coffee in the and talk for 10 minutes”, literally standing up to some kind of scheduled team update.

                  Since we can’t really do a “hey join me on my walk to coffee” Zoom. I am struggling to help them feel good about the WFH situation (which they hate) and unknown return (that continues to get pushed – which we all appreciate from a safety standpoint).

                  I think what it comes down to is that they are really missing the “team” vibe, beyond that couple-of-times a week catch up.

                  And I am definitely ineffective as a manager with how to find a balance between what they need from me right now and what I need from them (they want more, I want/need less)

                  Your reply gave me a few ideas tho – thanks!

                10. Not A Girl Boss*

                  Uranus Wars – might I suggest a (completely optional) virtual coffee hour? We do this from 9-10 every Friday and work talk is strictly banned. That seems to have made a huge difference. Now, instead of spending all Friday aimlessly IMing each other to complain and waiting for 5:00, they seem to actually be more productive the rest of the day.
                  You could even just extend your ‘stand up’ meetings for 15 minutes afterward for an optional non-work chat. Which has the benefit of encouraging people not to linger in the ‘real’ meeting because they are eager to get to the ‘fun’ stuff.

            2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              “Discovery” has been used before/outside of agile in designing user experience, management consulting, and perhaps other fields as well. It typically includes figuring problems to be solved, defining project scope, identifying user needs, and perhaps other forms of research. It’s the initial learning phase of a project before building a product or solution.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                “Discovery” is also a standard term in litigation. It is the exchange of information after a lawsuit is filed but before trial. In big cases it can take years, and often is where the real fight occurs.

            3. Quinalla*

              It’s akin to identifying the problem you are trying to solve. So before you try to solve the problem, you have to know what the problem is. But yeah, Agile terminology is seeping in a lot of places.

              I think OP2 should find that Weird Al song “Mission Statement” that is just making fun of buzzwords, will make them feel better. I honestly don’t mind when folks use words to be more accurate, but when folks just use a buzzword and don’t know what it means or makes what they are saying more opaque, no thanks!

              1. Mal*

                ” identifying the problem you are trying to solve. So before you try to solve the problem, you have to know what the problem is.”

                Right, so what’s wrong with just saying this as is? It’s not a complicated phrase. Rather straightforward and common sense. Talking about ‘solutioning’ is unclear compared to this.

                1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  “Where are you on the project?”
                  “Still in discovery; probably through the end of the month”

                  This is common in many orgs/fields. It’s concise and meaningful.

          2. a clockwork lemon*

            Not sure about the original context but in the US legal field “discovery” is a term of art involving the process of investigating litigants’ claims and defenses during legal proceedings. So, you file a lawsuit, then open discovery, once discovery is done you can move forward with scheduling a trial.

            It’s definitely something that is “done” and if someone said “we’re discovering” instead of “we’re doing discovery” it would mean a very different thing.

        2. soon to be former fed really*

          Brainstorming sounds a lot less pretentious that solutioning. Problem solving is a process too.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            The point is that brainstorming is “good” and solutioning is a term that was invented to point out that brainstorming, done before the problem is fully understood, is a waste of everyone’s time. It’s *supposed* to sound pretentious.

        3. Not A Girl Boss*

          Yes, this, I was laughing so much at people trying to use “solutioning” as a compliment, because at my company it’s a put down.

          Not to go full jargon but it’s actually a rule in our meeting norms: no solutioning during stand up meetings.
          (Because then you end up with 5 people standing around while 2 people debate something to death, the point of the stand up meeting is to notify people that you need to get together to solve a problem at a later date).

          So, OP, maybe you can just tease them about the incorrect use and then it’ll lose its edge??

        4. MassMatt*

          I note that your (or your organization’s) definition is entirely different than the OP’s, where it was considered a positive and people were thanked for “solutioning”. If an invented word can mean both a positive and a negative, and/or adds nothing to the communication except more syllables, it should be rejected.

          Meaningless jargon obfuscates where it is supposed to clarify.

    2. JBI*

      In my industry, solutioning is where someone comes to you with a problem and tells you how they want it solved. The thing is, they may not know the best way to solve it.
      So often we have to find out what their actual goal is, not how they imagine it should be implemented.

      1. WellRed*

        This…doesn’t tell me what you mean though. If I’m translating right, it it problem solving?

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          I think JBI means the wrong person decides the solution. I have an IT problem. I can go to IT and ask for solutions or I go to IT and tell them how to solve it (probably the wrong way). So instead of asking them to problem solve, I dictate a solution, I am solutioning.

          1. ampersand*

            Yes, it sounds like the sarcastic way to say someone is helping, when they’re really not.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I think JBI means the wrong person decides the solution.

            In my personal dialect, “solutioning” definitely falls in line with “a solution in search of a problem.”

        2. JBI*

          “Solutioning” is telling someone how to do something when you don’t have enough information to have a useful opinion.

    3. Spencer Hastings*

      Isn’t “solution” often used to mean “product”? Or something specific that a company offers? I interpreted “solutioning” to mean finding a “solution” in that narrower sense when I read it.

      1. juliebulie*

        “Solutions” are usually bigger than individual products. They are a package of one or more products plus a service agreement and I don’t know what else, maybe installation and a t-shirt.

        Probably not a t-shirt. Not from my company. They are really stingy with swag. Our swag is more like snog (stuff no one gets).

        1. MassMatt*

          That is a common misconception. The exact origin of “swag” is somewhat unclear but it goes back hundreds of years to Middle English and is believed to have been taken from Scandinavian words meaning “bulging sack” or “loot”.

    4. me*

      I wonder if they’re using it as part of a joke to mock the buzzwords? That’s something I might do

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Private Eye (UK fortnightly satirical magazine) used to have a regular items in which readers could contribute their examples of solutions.

        So “Packing Solutions” were cardboard boxes and “Indian Meal Solutions” was curry.

    5. Grey Coder*

      OP#2, I see your “solutioning” and raise you “solutionizing”, which is pervasive at my work.

      1. paxfelis*

        Grey, to me, that sounds like someone is proposing that whoever is trying to solve the problem is saying they need more alcohol to come up with an idea that isn’t total garbage.

        I’m reasonably sure that’s not what it means. Please tell me that’s not what it means. Lie if you have to.

        1. Grey Coder*

          Context is usually something like “This meeting is not to solutionize, we’re just discussing the problem details.” Though the best usage was when a non-technical person said “the tech people seemed so quiet but it turned out they were solutionizing in their heads!”. (In other words, we were thinking.)

      2. Not a Girl Boss*

        I wonder how far you could keep raising this bar? You say solutioning, they say solutionizing, you raise it to solutionitizing, they have to take it to a solutionizitizing….

      3. Nesprin*

        I had a guy break out “If you’re not the solution, you’re the problem”- and the room broke out in giggles. We have a poster in the lab reading “If you’re not the solution, you’re the precipitate”

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Dead languages are sounding pretty good right now, aren’t they? I mean more so than usual…

      1. Quill*

        I take unnecessary and vindictive glee in propagating spurious latin plurals and singulars (a single raviolus, octopi, a singular broccoli floret is a brocculus, etc.) but even I draw the line at solutioning.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          I CANNOT WAIT to have an excuse to use brocculus and raviolus.

          However, I thought the plural of octopus was octopodes, because the root of the word is not Latin (I think it’s Greek?).

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, it is – both greek and correctly octopodes. :)

            But I absolutely will be a language gremlin all over everything at the slightest provocation. Partially it’s a propensity towards puns, partially it’s keeping people on their toes because the brain-to-mouth connection has never worked that smoothly, even before I tried to take spanish and latin at the same time.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              even before I tried to take spanish and latin at the same time.

              I’m not the only one! Did your Latin ended up with an Iberian accent, too?

              1. Quill*

                I got called into my professor’s office to explain why I turned in a quiz in “extremely bad italian.” (I had these classes back to back, I’m not sure how I survived.)

    7. kittymommy*

      If someone said “solutioning” to me not only would I internally question their intelligence but I’d probably tell them that isn’t a real word.

      1. ampersand*

        Same. This works until a word becomes so popular that it’s added to the dictionary, at which point I mostly want to cry. I realize that language is forever evolving—I just wish it evolved in a way I liked.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          When referring to English, “evolve” and “devolve” are both synonyms and antonyms. It’s similar to the situation with “cleave.”

          1. Quill*

            Cleave to and Cleave from are one of the many situations where the preposition carries the whole phrase.

    8. Artemesia*

      The workplace has always been full of people with a tenuous grasp of the language who use silly words to sound important. I hate things like ‘administrate’ when ‘administer’ is perfectly accurate, or ‘orientate’ when ‘orient’ is the word — ‘solutioning’? — I love Alison’s comment ‘Can we use ‘solve’ so we sound like normal people.

      1. Not a Girl Boss*

        My all time resume pet peeve is “utilize” which literally is not a ‘smarter sounding’ version of “use” but rather an entirely different word with entirely different meanings.

        [Utilize is to use something that is not normally used, or to use something for other than it’s design intent. So, no, you did not ‘utilize’ Microsoft word to… write word documents. But if Microsoft Word broke one day and you had to utilize a feather you found on the ground, fine but what a weird resume bullet?]

        1. Tisiphone*

          Right! I use my skills, I don’t utilize them. I’d rather make the statement that my skills are right for the job instead of some stopgap measure. Just a moment while I utilize this dime because I don’t have a screwdriver handy.

          My own pet peeve is “resources” to refer to sentient beings. No, I am not a resource. My skills are resources. Asking me a question isn’t using me as a resource, it’s using my knowledge and expertise as a resource. Resources are interchangeable. That tree is a resource. Any tree of the same type will do. One pound of iron ore is much the same as any other pound of iron ore. People are different and not interchangeable. And then one place I worked for went a step farther in the dehumanization department: human capital. UGHHHHHH!

          1. Not a Girl Boss*

            I do tend to find the tiny little definition of ‘utilize’ that is provided in most dictionaries to be inadequate. But there are plenty of subtleties and grammar rules that won’t be immediately apparent in a dictionary entry.
            I’m not saying utilize is categorically *wrong* but I do feel that it’s often unnecessarily utilized (hah) where ‘use’ would be a ‘more correct’ word. Kind of like the SATs where you have to pick the best fit – why would you use a longer word when a shorter one is a more precise/accurate choice?

            Merriam elaborates here:

      2. londonedit*

        ‘Orientate’ is standard British English, though – ‘orient’ is similarly irritating to me!

      3. an infinite number of monkeys*

        I agree, and I know it’s too late to do anything about this, but “gifting,” as a verb makes me wince. It’s “give.” The thing you give someone is a “gift.”

        But that ship has long since oceanized, so….

        1. londonedit*

          I also hate ‘gifting’ as a verb. Unless it’s in the context of sport – there’s a specific context in football where a team/player can be said to have ‘gifted’ the opposition a goal, by doing something particularly silly that practically hands the opposition a chance to score. I can cope with that. But not ‘My friend gifted me a gorgeous scarf for my birthday’. What is wrong with ‘gave’?

          1. juliebulie*

            Maybe it’s useful for distinguishing between “my friend gave me this scarf as a gift” vs “my friend gave me this scarf because she didn’t want it.”

            But I would use that first sentence rather than use “gift” as a verb. It just doesn’t sit right with me. (I’m not clever enough to come up with a tortured form of “sit.”)

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Also, “gave” could be temporary, i.e. lent the scarf. “Gift” is a more specific verb. This level of specificity might not be necessary in any given context, but it is a real distinction.

              1. londonedit*

                Maybe it’s cultural but if someone lends me something, I’ll say ‘my friend lent me this scarf’. If someone gives me a gift, I’ll say ‘my friend gave me this scarf’. I’d never say ‘my friend gifted me this scarf’.

        2. GWH*

          I hate the use of the word “gift” anyway, unless it is used in a more formal, legal sense (e.g. to leave a gift to charity in a will). When you buy someone something to show them you appreciate them, I call that a present. And only retailers insist on calling the paper you put it in “gift wrap”. Everyone I know calls it “wrapping paper”.

      4. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        Ugh, also “‘ask’ instead of request (noun). “That’s a big ask” makes me shudder. Also in my workplace we never talk ‘about’ things, we talk ‘around’ them. There are just so many. I have not heard ‘solutioning’ yet but I’m glad I have a heads up that it’s coming. Gak.

        1. Matt*

          To me, if you talk ‘around’ something, you are NOT in fact talking ‘about’ it – you’re avoiding it, like the proverbial elephant in the room, or at least not talking about it directly.

    9. Trout 'Waver*

      The one that drives me nuts is when people say “utilize” for every instance they should say “use”. It doesn’t make you sound smarter; it makes you sound like an ass. The words mean different things.

    10. MassMatt*

      Meaningless jargon and filler proliferates when people try to sound smarter than they are. Just as poor people have an idea of what being rich is like, dumb or poorly educated people have an idea of how smart people speak; they think it involves using lots of big words. If they don’t know any that apply, they add syllables to existing words, or simply more words Or, people think an old concept will sound new or unique with the added syllables. Thus we get “localize” or even “locationing” for “locate”, and “solutioning” for “solving” in the OP’s letter.

      It’s particularly common (and grating) government functionaries give press conferences.

  5. Scotty Doesn't Know (he's an asshole)*

    #1 is there anyone else in your team you could talk to this about? Someone at this asshole’s seniority level? Reason being, if he is telling you every day to “Calm down” I am not convinced you calling him and asking him to stop is going to go over well and would actually feed into his own sexist narrative of you being a hysterical woman (not warranted but in his mind it would be!) But if there was someone else you could speak to (preferably male) who could call him out for you or at least back you up, I think that would be helpful. Someone could even reply on the email thread, “Hey Asshole, why are you telling Jane to calm down? Am I missing something because her response was completely normal?” Then see how the asshole responds. Goes without saying but will say it anyway, you should be able to stand up for yourself and be taken seriously but this guy is awful and clearly doesn’t respect women.

    1. Heidi*

      I’d be interested in knowing if he does this to anyone else. Even if he only emails the OP this way, I suspect there’s other puerile and unprofessional behavior if you look for it. Documenting this kind of thing can help employers identify patterns of bad behavior and motivate them into some sort of corrective action.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Documenting will be very easy when you can show that every single email begins with “calm down” even the ones announcing cake in the breakroom.

    2. Squid*

      OP#1, on this note, I would definitely have a second script ready for if he responds to your request with “Calm down.” (Perhaps “I am calm, just a bit confused by why you keep saying that” in a serene tone of voice, even if you quite reasonably feel frustrated at that point!)

      1. EPLawyer*

        “I am calm” to an idiot like this sounds to him like you are gritting your teeth in an effort to remain calm. This guy will never see OP as anything other than someone not calm no matter what she says. He might be making a joke but … it’s not funny.

        I would try to talk to him only so you can go to someone over his head and say “I asked him to stop and got a you are overreacting it’s just a joke, can’t you take a joke” response. THEN higher boss can do something.

    3. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      I’m wondering if this guy feels like he’s in over his head as the interim manager and doesn’t understand the OP’s questions and communications that well. Could he actually be sort of intimidated, and he’s projecting his own feelings onto the OP and trying to undermine her command of her work to keep her destabilized too? That doesn’t make him any less of an ass, of course. But if this tracks, it might inform the OP’s approach. Like giving additional context in a reassuring tone. “Oh, don’t worry—we always ask the teapot specifiers for this info at this juncture even though it’s not actually ready. All I need from you is ______.” Return projection to sender.

      1. Mookie*

        This seems very plausible. Doing this in public e-mails definitely feels like an attempt to stop her from hogging attention by being competent and conscientious without his prompting or handholding.

        1. Not a Girl Boss*

          If that’s the case, I’d be tempted to start all my emails with “I apologize for the aggravating self-reliance and/or competence, but I just wanted you all to know there’s cake in the break room. Again, sorry.”

          But yes, this guy does remind me of a terrible rom com I just watched where the girl passes out and the volunteer firefighter is running around like a chicken with his head cut off yelling “EVERYONE REMAIN CALM! Remain! Calm! I know what I’m doinggggggggg!”

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes. When my partner tells me to calm down, it’s usually because HE is getting agitated.
        Maybe having to manage a woman who asks thought-provoking, intelligent questions is what makes him agitated.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would still call him out on it first. Make him think about why he’s saying it. A lot of times people like that do things out of habit because they don’t realize how it affects the recipient and might change their habit if they’re called out on it, because nobody has ever stood up to them before – classic bully behavior.

    5. just a millennial*

      Agreed. This is what is so annoying when someone tells you to calm down. Because if you respond by saying “I am calm” or “stop telling me to calm down,” it usually just gives fuel to the fire and encourages the person to dig in deeper and go “OMG YOU’RE SO UPSET, CALM DOWN!” Very aggravating.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Maybe the confused “Why do you feel the need to constantly tell me to ‘calm down’ in ordinary workplace discussions? Is there something triggering this response from you? I really don’t get it.”

        Always turn it back on the jerk, IMO.

    6. yala*

      I’m inclined to agree. One of the insidious things about “calm down” is that it’s pretty hard to ask that someone not say that without them being able to frame you as “uncalm” for, y’know…caring about words or a simple, utterly harmless phrase, why are you so upset, can’t you just let it go? calm down.

      I don’t think directly confronting him is gonna get OP anywhere.

  6. Wendy*

    Number 1: If you can’t keep quiet any longer, consider replying to “calm down” with “Boss, is there something I said that makes me sound like I’m hysterical? I’m concerned because I’m asking necessary questions here and “calm down” isn’t giving me much to worth with in terms of a response.” Not a guarantee that anything will change, but hopefully your boss will tell you if there really IS something about your method of communication that makes you sound frantic.

    1. Jane Plough*

      I like this approach and would do this too, except instead of saying “hysterical” I’d use “not calm” – hysterical (to me), sounds quite hyperbolic and I’d want to keep things as flat and factual as possible and let him explain himself. I might also add something about how you know it can be hard to interpret nuances over email so you want to get to the bottom of why he feels that there may be a problem here and so you can help him not to worry. I haven’t worded that perfectly but the aim is to be extremely constructive and reasonable while basically implying that he’s the one overreacting.

      I’m in the UK and there was a furore here 5+ years ago (I forget when exactly) when the then prime minister told a female MP who was challenging him to “calm down dear” (the phrase itself being made famous by a sexist car insurance TV ad from a few years earlier). It feels like since then it’s been a particularly egregious phrase to use, especially in the workplace, but I’m not sure if that’s the case everywhere. It’s an incredibly irritating phrase because if you even have a hint of annoyance when you reply with “I am calm”, then the asshole feels they’ve won. Returning to sender with a confused expression and a “what do you mean by that?” is the only thing that really works

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Yeah, that advert turned the phrase into a meme – I’ll be honest his nasally tone echoed in my head as I read the letter. It was pervasive and being used *everywhere* including sometimes with irony and parody.
        The PM was following in the icky tradition of Etonites showing that they can connect with the ‘common folk’ (because a bad meme is easier to trot out than knowing the real price of a pint of milk I suppose).
        The original ads ran in 2003, the PM was a moron (this time) in 2011. Which shows how little we’ve moved on.

        OP do you know if he does this to everyone, just the women, just you? This might help prescribe your response.

      2. Myrin*

        Exactly this – that script is great, but substitute “hysterical” with “not calm”, not only for the reason Jane says but also because you want to mirror his wording as close as possible so he doesn’t even have the possibility to say “hey now, I didn’t say that!!”. Also, I personally would deploy that tactic in writing, preferably as a reply to one of the emails others are copied on as well – after all, you don’t want your coworkers to be puzzled and confused about why he keeps asking you to calm down, it’s just to clear things up for everyone and not because you want to point out his ridiculousness or something.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yes, I have to admit I immediately thought of him when I read this letter! Sad thing is even now there are still people who think it’s funny.

        1. Anon326*

          I was going to write the same observation about David Cameron too!

          It’s such a jarringly sexist phrase. You can feel ‘little lady’ being tagged onto it for sure. OP, I fully understand what you hate the way he does this. Alison has a few good ideas there.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes, it was infuriating when that pillock used it in the advert (I think it was Michael Winner whom I loathe in any event). It was doubly infuriating when Cameron used it some years later of a fellow MP and made him look out of touch.

            I’ve no memory of having seen it used towards men but it’s part of a narrative that’s used to portray women as being too emotional and men as being calm and rational.

            1. Jane Plough*

              Whenever I’ve seen “calm down” used towards men (outside of maybe having to deal with an angry shouting customer and usually accompanied by “..sir”), it’s usually implying that they’re being overemotional and “feminine” (ie as we Brits say: “don’t get your knickers in a twist”) – it really is just a horrible piece of sexism wrapped up in the plausible deniability of two seemingly innocuous words.

              1. Archaeopteryx*

                The only way for a woman to ever calm down enough for these jerks is for her to be always silent.

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          I thought of a certain U.S, president telling women reporters to “relax” and “keep your voice down.” ಠ_ಠ

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            And calling women “nasty”, “ugly”, etc. Sexist as hell, IMO.

  7. Bob*

    “new piece of work is a runway to manifest our brand value proposition”
    This new product/service will be a huge benefit to the company in the marketplace.

    Once they start talking synergy, then its all over :D

      1. Bob*

        Never got into that show, but that is pretty good.
        I was thinking more of Dilbert, but six of one and a half dozen of another :D

      2. BuzzAldrin*

        LW2 here, *and* a 30 Rock fan. Every day in this office feels like the episode with Jack’s corporate retreat. It’s a matter of time before someone compliments someone else’s handshakefulness.

        1. anonymous 5*

          If you haven’t heard the Weird Al song, “Mission Statement,” I highly recommend it! Disclaimer that it is a HUGE cringe-fest (because it’s so brilliantly done) so you might want to make sure you’re in a mood where it won’t just stress you out further. Also the video is perfection, and available on YouTube.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            The song and video together are *hilarious*. (I’m also a huge fan of “Stop Forwarding That Cr*p To Me” which should be updated to “Stop Posting That Cr*p To Facebook”)

    1. Wendy*

      Somewhat off-topic, but my husband started a new job recently and is now being drowned in conference calls (which I then overhear since he’s working from home). We’re in the deep south (USA) and even though my husband is a native, he doesn’t have all that strong of an accent… but several of his co-workers REALLY do. His new boss is a huge fan of corporate buzzwords. Earlier this week I was doubled over giggling silently hearing the man go on about “HAYLP with DAH-NAYMIC AYX-I-CUTION.” Alabama engineers are really a strange breed :-D

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I have sister facilities in a handful of southern states, Alabama being one of them. I greatly enjoy conference calls with them, as a Midwesterner. Though one guy I legitimately have a difficult time understanding, between the incredibly heavy drawl and crappy internet connection. The last one I legitimately was just getting random “y’alls” mixed with static. But man, there’s something about very dry humor delivered in a thick drawl that just gives me the giggles.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I got a rule, the instant a manager starts using ‘paradigm’ or ‘zeitgeist’ I start looking elsewhere.

      I work IT, computers don’t work on corporate jargon and neither do I.

      1. Quill*

        Similar rule but if a podcast says that they interview “thought leaders” or “wisdom trees” I definitely don’t listen. And I listen to a lot of interview-heavy podcasts! It’s just that if you have to call yourself a thought leader, you neither lead nor think. If you call yourself a ‘disruptor’ it means that you found a way to further exploit a system and made it less sustainable.

        And what the duck is a wisdom tree? Do we have Shel Silverstein’s giving tree rooted in a corporate office somewhere giving away apples?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          “Disruptor” makes me think of “move fast and break things,” which the last few years have proven was a horrible idea. (Somehow it tends to mean “break everybody else’s things, while hopefully profiting in the short term.”)

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. “Disruptors” take what worked and made it worse.

            In general, I look askance at people who have the “move fast and break things” attitude on enterprise or highly available software. Sure, you can do that as a scrappy startup without an established paying userbase. But, if you run mission critical software, “move fast and break things” is a recipe for disaster, customer rage and deprecation in favor of more stable software.

            It’s why I don’t much like companies that make “Agile™” a big thing in their recruiting. Most of them are based on short “sprints” with unrealistic goals, micromanaging by project managers, and change for the sake of change, rather than for the sake of a stable, gradually improving product. It’s a really toxic environment to do operations in, because the operations people are *always* scrambling to fix it when some developers “move fast and break things”. People who say they “move fast and fix things” are slightly less toxic.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Synergy” has meaning. Yes it’s abused and perhaps overused, but it’s an important concept and meaningful word when used correctly.

      1. WellRed*

        I’m a writer and synergy is sometimes the exact word I need and I hesitate because it’s been so overused.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Similarly “proactive.” It is a useful word with no exact synonym. Fortunately, its heyday as a buzzword is long past, freeing it up for meaningful use.

          1. GWH*

            “Proactive”, in my experience, has always been used snarkily in the context of accusing someone of being the opposite.

          1. Bob*

            According to you could use: teamwork, alliance, coaction, harmony, symbiosis, union, unity, combined effort, team effort, teaming, working together

            To be honest i have yet to encounter a writing situation where i had to use the word synergy, except when mocking synergy.

            1. Bob*

              I take it back, i was able to purposely work synergy into my comment in today’s article about the robotic language.

      1. calonkat*

        I found an excel bingo sheet creator that would use lists of words, and made up bingo cards for the acronyms in our workplace. 2 people got bingo from one meeting, with the list of acronyms the cards could pull from being over 100.

    4. jj*

      Years ago I used to imagine the raise I would get if I could write my entire review in buzzwords.
      This year I really pushed the envelope to maximize my synergies…

    5. Clisby*

      Double points if they can put “synergy” and “paradigm shift” in the same sentence.

    6. Exit, pursued by bear*

      Does anybody else feel the urge to yell, “BINGO!” when they hear too many buzzwords?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        *raises hand* Yeah, especially in those rah-rah all-hands meeting when some bigwig is trying to articulate his “vision” for the organization. I sometimes have to sit on my hand…

  8. BonzaSonza*

    My sympathies OP 1. This would drive me up the wall. When has telling someone who is actually agitated to calm down ever worked?

    Being told to calm down when I’m not upset is frustrating, and feels like the other person is deflecting attention away from the actual problem by implying I’m overreacting.

    Does your boss respond to everyone that way, or just you? If it’s everyone I’d grit my teeth and wait it out, but if it is just you, or just women, then I’d encourage you to address it if you’re comfortable doing so.

    1. I Need That Pen*

      I had someone tell me to calm down when discussing a project. I’ve never been frantic or overly stressed in my communication style. I’ve been lucky that way, because even I know there have been times when I felt like I was going to explode.

      I was just generally discussing the project with him and one of his coworkers. He thought he was being kind and reassuring until I said, “Calm down about what?” I wanted to offer a kind “calm down” as he stuttered and stammered to try and explain why he said it but I just waited for his embarrassing nightmare to be over. His coworker gave him one of those looks like “what was that comment for?” I didn’t stay long there, it just wasn’t going t get better.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I like this one – the annoying thing about the “calm down/argumentative/defensive” tags is if you push back at all, in their minds you’re proving them right. (I had an ex who specialized in this sort of thing, alongside “needle her til she blows up, then call her crazy.” )

        “Calm down about what” calls out the behaviour but doesn’t fall into the “I AM CALM” trap. And with low-key bigotry of any kind, “Sorry, I don’t get it, could you please explain the joke?” is a good approach.

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        I think this is the better option. Rather than approach him with any version of, stop saying that, I think, please explain is a better way.

        In the case of emails, statr responding with, “what should I calm down about” or “tell me more about what you mean, there, you said to calm down.”

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        I was just generally discussing the project with him and one of his coworkers. He thought he was being kind and reassuring until I said, “Calm down about what?”

        Beautiful. A good, clear, and non-emotional turn back of the discomfort to the sexist jerk.


    2. Sara without an H*

      When has telling someone who is actually agitated to calm down ever worked?

      Somewhere I read that hostage negotiators are specifically trained never to say “calm down.” It never works and usually makes the situation worse.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Ayup. I know when I’m upset about something that phrase just makes it worse. It’s apparently a common reaction, even among men.

    3. mcr-red*

      Was just coming here to say that. I don’t think in the history of the human race anyone has ever calmed down by being told “calm down.”

      1. Quill*

        If you have to say it you don’t know the person well enough for them to trust your emotional instructions.

  9. MerBearStare*

    #2 Ugh, “solutioning” reminds me of “conversating,” which is a (fake) word I absolutely hate. I feel like buzzwords are like clothing trends and in a few years when you look back at the stupid fake words you used/ugly trendy clothes you wore, you cringe. Nothing major, just “WTF was I thinking?”

    1. Wendy*

      Calvin: I like to verb words.
      Hobbes: What?
      Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when “access” was a thing? Now it’s something you DO. It got verbed. Verbing weirds language.
      Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.

      1. Miri*

        Making useful verbs out of nouns, when there isn’t an appropriate verb already, isn’t new though, it’s been going on in English for thousands of years! (For example, “Could you hand me that bowl” – hand is a noun that became a verb because there wasn’t an existing verb to express the idea) I think the difference is when there already is a word for what’s being expressed and people are just saying something that sounds fancier. Normal historic language development is normal. :)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m down with verbing the nouns, but on “there is a word and people just want to sound fancier” — People who insist on saying the word “utilize” as a replacement for “use”. Arg. They don’t mean the same thing, and the one doesn’t make you sound smarter just because it has more letters. Drives me bonkers.

          1. Amy Sly*

            It’s bigotry against Anglo-Saxons, that’s what it is … which is why I love reading things in Anglish. Down with Greek! Down with Latin!

            STAR WYES

            Follow Four

            A NEW HOPE

            It is a tide of brotherswye, Upriser roomthships, striking from a hidden holdout, have won their first sye against the evil Starset Rich.

            Bewhile the hild, Upriser sleuths were able to steal dern layouts to the Rich’s greatest weapon, the DEATH STAR, a shielded starhold with enough might to fornaught a whole world.

            Sought after by the Rich’s evil henchmen, Queenling Leia races home aboard her starship, keeper of the stolen layouts that can spare her folk and bring back freedom to the starset….

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I love Anglish. I don’t speak it or study it, but every time someone tells me “English isn’t a Romance” or “Latin is useless,” I love being able to point to Anglish and say “that’s what you’d be speaking if you were correct.”

              It is a neat language in its own right; I just don’t have the ear for Germanic languages in general.

              Down with Greek! Down with Latin!

              We’re just going to have to go with a modus vivendi on those…

              1. Amy Sly*

                I actually enjoy Latin quite a bit. Declining the articles in Greek is a bit much, and Biblical Hebrew with male and female verbs … that’s just too much.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I can’t do true, authentic Greek. Something about the alphabet changing throws a spanner into the works that I just can’t get around. Nothing but respect for the Graecophones.

                  With the nouns’ declensions and verbs’ conjugations, Latin feels alive to me and English being mostly an amalgam of static words feels mostly dead. Ironic…

            2. Altair*

              This is glorious. I kind of want to change my username to Queenling Leia but there’s no way I can live up to it.

            3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              For anyone who hasn’t read it, I recommend Poul Anderson’s “Uncleftish Beholding,” which explains physics using only words with Germanic roots. It starts “For most of its being, mankind did not know what things are made of, but could only guess. With the growth of worldken, we began to learn, and today we have a beholding of stuff and work that watching bears out, both in the workstead and in daily life.”


          2. Quill*

            The problem often is that the same kinds of people who used to tell you to stop using long words make a sillier sounding version of a perfectly good word that you could already have used… if they’d simply looked it up.

            It also REALLY hinders cross-language communication, and scientific communication, when words that used to have meaningful distinctions in their usage become buzzwords. See “triggered,” now almost impossible to use for it’s original psychology meaning.

        2. EPLawyer*

          OMG, my personal pet peeve is from the NFL. Somehow a few years ago, all the sports commentator started saying number of balls “defensed.” Yes, they took the noun defense and verbed it when the word “defended” already exists and is perfectly good. Ugh.

        3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          It’s not an English phenomenon; it was happening in Greek, Vedic Sanskrit, and Chinese as far back as we can trace.

          1. WhatAMaroon*

            I do want to say the fact that languages continue to grow is amazing and so cool to me! Something particularly fascinating is how the gatekeeping of language is changing as the demographics of who records language changes too. If anyone would like a particularly interesting book on it all, may I recommend Word by Word by Kory Stamper? It changed my view about language a lot!

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I do want to say the fact that languages continue to grow is amazing and so cool to me!

              Me, too, and even more amazing to me is that a language can be revivified. Look at Hebrew; a century* ago it was a dead, literally language, and now it’s a thriving living language again, evolving and adapting to the 22nd century.

              *Give or take; I’m enthusiastic about it, but it’s not my wheelhouse.

            2. LQ*

              I love that languages are really living and I feel like words are meant to be danced with, twisted, bent into forms previously unimagined. And yup. That means that a lot of those forms are boring. But I won’t give up the living aspect of language just because some poets are boring.

          1. Stephen!*

            Are you asking to keep the bowl? Because “I gave her the bowl” could mean different things, depending on context!

          2. Frito*

            If I give one to you, then I would have to give one to everyone else…

            Five points if you correctly identify the reference.

      2. Exit, pursued by bear*

        So does nouning. When did ‘ask’ become a noun for example. First time I heard, “What’s the ask?” I had a blank look on my face.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      When I feel up to mocking this, I’ll just throw a random word into the sentence where the context is completely clear what I intended instead.

      E.g. “Maybe we should try a different token in the lock if this one isn’t unlocking the door.”

      If called on it, I’ll laugh heartily and reply “Oh, I thought that was the game we were playing today.”

      1. juliebulie*

        There are a lot of people who would grab that token and run with it, though. And then there would be tokens all over the place, and tokenating, and tokenizing, and maybe even tokentioning.

    3. jj*

      I really hate when people use “yourself” or “myself” when you or me would be the correct word. My coworkers do this all the time.
      “I had a good weekend- how about yourself?”

      1. UKDancer*

        They use this on the trains on my usual commute. The guard always says “if you see anything suspicious please tell myself or another member of staff”

        I desperately want to stand up and correct this to “tell me or another member of staff”

        If I got a guard who used the correct word here I would stand up and cheer.

      2. JJ*

        Hello, fellow JJ! Mine is omitting “to be” as in, “this project needs done by Friday”. WHY

        1. Nanani*

          That’s a dialect thing as well. I associate it with a specific region of the US because that’s where my friends who use it are from. Regional variation is not bad grammar, and it definitely isn’t jargon!

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            A lot of languages are null copula or zero copula languages, where it’s perfectly grammatical to omit it.

      3. Dan*

        The other thing that drives me nuts with “myself” is when people write “I myself”. I’ve been told it’s used to add emphasis, but it’s grammatically incorrect, and its presence in that construct never changes or clarifies the meaning of the sentence. “I shot myself in the foot”. “I shot the gun by myself.” Those are both grammatically correct. But “I myself shot the gun” is not correct.

        1. Lady Heather*

          There was a ‘should you base hiring decisions on pet peeves’ blog last week, wasn’t there? ‘I myself’ is one way to get on my do not hire list. It sounds arrogant and pretentious and I can’t stand it at all.

          That’s probably because a lot of the time it is used is in contexts like “This is a good solution. I myself found it helpful.” How on earth does that make it a good solution? Just because it worked for you doesn’t mean it works for everyone. That’s a logical fallacy if I’ve ever heard one.

          Or, the other option:
          “I myself shot the gun” = it is very important that I shot the gun.
          I know it sucks that we had to euthanize your horse, but you must be comforted knowing I was the one who pulled the trigger.
          I know it’s great that the mass murderer is no longer a threat to us. Please know that I am the person responsible for that and don’t trample over each other on your way to pat me on the back.
          I myself shot the gun. You need not ask whether the target was hit – you can rest assured knowing I was the one who shot the gun, so obviously it was hit, do not insult me by asking.

          ‘I myself’ makes me feel like puking, instantly.

        2. sb51*

          No, that’s perfectly grammatical emphasis, at least in spoken English. It’s overkill in written English (though obviously when reporting dialog, be it in a court record or a work of fiction, may be written down.) I myself don’t tend to use it much — I’d usually say “I personally don’t…” but it’s completely normal.

      4. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Oh yes – and putting ‘yourself’ first as in ‘myself and Jane’ instead of Jane and me.

        Also – why are Brits always sat these days instead of sitting? ‘I was sat on the sofa when … ‘?

      5. AraSigyrn*

        Funnily enough this is very common in Hiberno-English AKA Irish-spoken English and reflects the grammar of Irish. Yourself = tú fhéin which is the proper way to indicate that you’re asking about the other’s experience or state of mind. It’s meant as a shorthand, so I’d be asking both ‘did you have a good weekend?’ and ‘how did you spend your weekend’ by asking ‘How about yourself?’ or ‘And yourself?’

        It’s generally understood as an open invitation to share your experience.

      6. HS Teacher*

        I tried once to explain reflexive pronouns to a boss who’s emails always ended with, “If you have any questions, please contact or myself. She had an English degree, so I wasn’t expecting the conversation to end with me wanting to stick my head in an oven. I was wrong.

    4. Twisted Knickers*

      Has anyone recently had to pivot while they leaned in to determine their deliverables?

  10. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW2, if your brand style guide doesn’t specifically mention that your org uses plain language, update it.

    Send out a reminder email about the company voice with a few choice examples. It’s not a bad idea to include the reasoning: Plain language increases comprehension, improves efficiency, increases response on calls to action, and improves trust. (Those Enron financial reports got more complex for a reason, and investors became instinctively wary of them.)

    1. NRL*

      Sure, but a style guide isn’t going to cover how people talk to each other internally, especially at meetings and such.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        It actually does often include internal communication, at least general guidelines consistent with how the company sees itself. Sure, you’re not going to police how people talk at lunch, but if it’s covered that the ideal for the company is to use plain language in emails and meetings, it weakens the bad habit in general. Usually at least part of the reasoning is that you want to use the right general voice all the time so that you don’t lapse in external communication. Not every company is as prescriptive about it, but a brand style guide isn’t out of bounds making recommendations like this either. (Disclaimer: I have only studied this academically/ on my own, and read about how it’s implemented, not seen it in a work context beyond standardized email signatures since I work in small companies that don’t have/need this level of brand awareness. But I think I’m not entirely out of line given the commentor above suggesting it, so wanted to give more context from my limited knowledge.)

        1. no apples today*

          Someone is going to have a very hard time justifying using a brand style guide in internal emails that aren’t client facing. It’s going to look pedantic and controlling, and really out of touch to claim that the style guide says no buzzwords, so that means you can’t use it in any chats, meetings, or emails related to work.

          Most people don’t have a problem switching their language from internal facing to client facing.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            It’s quite normal to tell new staff on onboard that there is a style guide about how we communicate – both inside and outside. Particularly with regard to simple things such as tone of voice. You don’t do heavy enforcement inside, but it’s quite reasonable to ask people to consider general guidelines regardless of who is the audience. The difference is how strict and how careful we are with each audience.

    2. Esme*

      You can also get specific plain language training.

      I’m going to disagree that this is a symptom because using buzzwords / jargon is a problem in itself and absolutely does need to be addressed.

        1. Esme*

          Actually, the ‘word nerds’ are absolutely in a position to address this! Influencing the way your organisation speaks kind of comes with the job.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!*

            But can you tell the executives how to speak to the other workers? I would be afraid that they (executives) would feel the LW was acting like a grammar nazi. Making corrections to their speech.

            If LW has the any standing I would maybe pull someone aside and. E like, “hey is there a reason why these buzzwords keep popping up? I’ve noticed it’s happening more and it can be confusing for some. Also I’m afraid that they might make its way out to the public, which is not what we want because or X.
            Who knows, maybe the person’s doing this are just bad speakers and they are at a loss for words and grab for the first thing they can think of.

            1. Esme*

              You don’t just tell people to do it differently, no. Any kind of change management needs to be thoughtful and informed. I just wanted to disagree with the idea that it’s merely a symptom and not worth addressing.

            2. Language Monitor*

              Please don’t use “nazi” in this context. It’s not funny/cute/acceptable. Nazi is a word with a specific meaning which should not be downplayed or minimised.

      1. nonprofit writer*

        Is there really such a thing as plain language training? That’s fascinating! I’ve never heard of it before. That is SO needed in the nonprofit/international development world. My clients sometimes hire me to edit a document so that it’s intelligible to a non-expert reader, but I’ve found that often the jargon seeps back in before publication as more and more people within the organization decide to weigh in. Some people are very dedicated to their pet phrases. Solutioning is one I’ve never heard, though!

        1. UKDancer*

          There’s a UK thing called the Plain English campaign which has made recommendations for how to write in plain English and they are happy to give some form of accreditation to documents which meet their plain English standards. I’m not sure exactly how that works.

          They provide some guidance and information on their website. Obviously it’s written viewing British English as the model so it may not be wholly applicable in a non UK context as the rules can differ. I think the principles are sound.

        2. Lady Heather*

          Yes, it exists. I actually volunteer with the local government to read (anonymized) letters, either standardized letters that will go out in the future or anonymized letters that have been sent in the past, and I provide feedback – ‘this isn’t clear’, ‘this sentence is unnecessarily long’, ‘you need to use headings in bold’, ‘why are you only getting to the purpose of your letter three paragraphs in’.

          The problem is that public servants enjoy jargon and formal language, it makes them feel important.
          And that these letters are sent to doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and hospital janitors. Immigrants read them. Functionally illiterate people read them.

          Functionally illiterate = cannot read well enough to do daily activities that require reading/writing, like filling out forms or reading mail. In developed nations, about 10-30 per cent of the population are functionally illiterate. The exact defenition varies from country to country, but usually you are functionally illiterate if you are older than 16 or 18, but your reading level is below what you would need to get a passing grade in school as a 10-12 year old.
          It is possible to be functionally illiterate and well-spoken, you can’t tell by the way someone speaks whether they can read. It can be, but is often not related to low intelligence. Often these people have an extremely well-developed memory (they don’t read if they can help it, so they remember).

          So this local government sent all its letter-writers to plain language training, and my fellow volunteers and I try to make sure it sticks.

      2. Frito*

        But. Isn’t the root of the problem the fact that directly stating certain things is considered ‘too blunt’ or ‘rude’?

        So we hear “going forward, the policy is”, rather than “don’t do this again”.

    3. JJ*

      On the other end of the spectrum, I used to contract with a giant company we all know, and when you started employment there, apparently you were handed a glossary BINDER so you could understand the lingo. I’m told that a lot of it was genuine, useful jargon (like acronyms for their products/projects/departments etc.) but a lot of it was also this stuff. I do know it was *very* hard to understand what some employees were trying to say…once I had to print an extremely jargon-dense email and black out all the meaningless phrases to parse out what the heck they were trying to communicate.

  11. Kiitemso*

    #2 this reminds me of a friend who translates from English to our native language and the other way around, she said English is particularly good at these kinds of buzzy & jargony turns of phrase. So when those words come to our language, they tend to not even get translated in use and my friend prefers plain language in her professional translations. We got to talking how both “let’s touch base on this” and “let’s circle back to this” would just be translated to a phrase that means “let’s return to this” in our native language because everything else would sound so clunky in a way the English phrases don’t quite sound (personal opinion may vary obviously).

    “Solutioning” is a nightmare when “solving” is a perfectly fine verb on its own.

    1. Finland*

      This is one of the things that irks me about English speakers, particularly when speaking to someone using a different native language. It’s very very difficult a habit to break in thinking about how to speak in the most clear and concise manner, so even when with someone who wouldn’t understand the idioms and the buzzwords, they come out anyway. I’ve seen peoples faces freeze when they try to decipher what someone speaking English is actually saying, and it’s quite embarrassing.

      My particular ire is hearing people say “sunsetting” to mean ending something. It sounds like a child’s dog has died and the adults are too anxious to say so.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        What the heck does “sunsetting” mean?! That’s a new one (and I hope it remains obscure)

        1. random me*

          Sunsetting means the product or service is being decommissioned, phased out or no longer supported. Sunsetting can start with the decision to end the product or service is made, when the decision is announced, or when it stops being sold.

            1. UKDancer*

              Sunsetting is something I’ve heard used in the legislative context. Some UK legislation has “sunset” clauses which mean that unless you do something else the legislation will automatically be repealed at a fixed point in time. So I’ve heard on occasion “we need to do x and y before the legislation sunsets”

              I personally find it an irritating phrase but not enough to make a big thing of it.

              1. SarahKay*

                I’m in the UK and sunsetting gets used quite a lot where I work in a repair facility, as some items we repair are gradually being taken out of commission. That said, we’re a UK site of a UK multi-national corporation so we may have picked it up from the US.
                However, my pet peeve is the use of the phrase “onesie-twosies”, as in “we’re down to the last onesie-twosies of x product line”. Every time I hear it I grit my teeth to stop myself from saying “You’re not children! The phrase is ‘one or two’!”

                1. Environmental Compliance*

                  ………….who the absolute duck decided to use “onesies” in any work context other than making baby garments???

                  My eyeball painfully twitched when reading the phrase “onesies-twosies”. Gah.

              2. Clisby*

                Same in the US. There are “sunset” laws or regulations that sort of disappear if they’re not explicitly renewed.

          1. sb51*

            Yeah, we use it too; it’s used for our a formal multi-step process for moving something from “currently sold” to “we no longer sell or offer repairs to this product”. Why we ended up with “sunset” rather than “decommission” or some new portmanteau, I have no idea, but it’s now firmly “jargon with a particular meaning in industries that use it” rather than “fanciful buzzword du jour”.

            (We’re in software, other examples below were legislative; I’m wondering if it ended up being used because “decommission” and other words sounded too much like physical things to be used of laws and programs. Who knows? Possibly some linguist does, but not me.)

            1. Lady Heather*

              Decommission – ‘the military ship was decommisioned and turned into a museum’.
              Sunset sounds more like ‘we’re going to stop this in the future but you can keep what you have’ and decommission more like ‘we’re going to take this apart and it will no longer have its original utility’ to me.

        2. Finland*

          For some reason, the upper-echelons in government love this word. It’s like they get points for using it.

        3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          The setting sun expires and ends the day, so to does this process expire and end whatever is being sunset.

          I use it a lot, guilty as charged.

      2. womp womp*

        I can’t hear sunsetting without thinking of sunset/sundown towns and it’s jarring to hear that some people use it in an unrelated business context! My perception may be affected be being raised by a Southern American though.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think this depends on your context. I’ve never heard of sunset / sundown towns and had to google this. I don’t think we’ve ever had them in the UK (or if we did I wasn’t aware).

          So that’s not a context that would ever cross my mind for this term. I mean I always viewed in the context of legislation having a sunset clause or processes expiring.

          1. Clisby*

            Same here – and I’m a southern American.

            I am familiar with the term “sundown towns” but never heard it as “sunset towns”, so I wouldn’t have connected the use of “sunset”.

      3. Taniwha Girl*

        ” I’ve seen peoples faces freeze when they try to decipher what someone speaking English is actually saying, and it’s quite embarrassing.”
        So you have seen me interpret… and I’m a native speaker!
        Please please speak plainly everyone!

    2. Mockingdragon*

      That is interesting! It’s so weird how the idioms become so ingrained in us.

      To me, “to touch base” doesn’t mean the same thing as “circle back” or “return” because it doesn’t imply that you’ve had the conversation before. “Circle back” means “let’s move on for now and return to this later”, but “touch base” means “let’s talk it out and get on the same page, whether for the first time or the tenth”

  12. Phil*

    I feel like the people who say “solutioning” are the same people who talk about “adulting.” STOP IT.

    The one that really annoys me at my job is “take it offline,” meaning to discuss a meeting point outside of the meeting.

    1. Mongrel*

      “The one that really annoys me at my job is “take it offline,” meaning to discuss a meeting point outside of the meeting.”
      Although you should be careful about offering to take it outside ;)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Although you should be careful about offering to take it outside ;)

        Hehehe. “Would you like to reconvene for further solutioning of this issue in the parking lot after work? No? Cool, cool.”

    2. Jane Plough*

      I’ll admit I’m in the habit of saying “take it offline” quite often. Pandemic WFH has helped me reduce that somewhat by the realisation that by taking it offline I’m actually saying, we’ll take it to another Zoom meeting…. so, online? :-D

      I’ve started saying “we can continue this 1-1” or “discuss this separate to the meeting”, i.e. what I actually mean.

    3. TechWorker*

      ‘Take it offline’ has a specific meaning and is shorter than the alternatives. I wouldn’t waste any sleep on that one in particular tbh.

      1. Miri*

        Yes, I think some of these have come into common business use because they concisely describe a specific business meaning. They may not be precisely accurate in meaning (although lots of non-business English phrases aren’t either!), but I agree that “take it offline” – once you understand what it means, and it’s fairly clear from context – is a short clear way of communicating something specific.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I find take it offline to be similar to “lets table this,” or “let’s put X that on the table for now,” i.e we can’t focus on X now, so let’s talk about other issues and we will talk about X later.

        However, with WFH now I can totally see where “take it offlline’ could be confusing. Like someone might be like, oh you want to call me? On the phone?

        1. Haven’t picked out a username yet*

          Fun fact I have leaned at my North American Company: “let’s table that” means “let’s talk about it later (at another meeting)” in the US and “let’s talk about it now (in this meeting)” in Canada.

          1. UKDancer*

            In the UK definitely we incline more to the Canadian view. Tabling something means putting it on the table for discussion now.

            Yes this had led to some confusion when dealing with US companies in the past.

          2. Lady Heather*

            Apparently this once caused a lot of annoyance and almost a diplomatic incident when the Americans wanted to table something, and the British continued discussing it.

            (I’ve tried to find out when and what it was about – I could find some references to it being Churchill and Roosevelt, but nothing so concrete that I’m comfortable saying it definitely happened.)

        2. Mpls*

          Eh…taking something offline is more about talking about it with a more focused group, or in a meeting dedicated to that purpose and not letting it take over the agenda of the current meeting.

          Tabling the topic (US version) would mean, let’s not discuss it further (in this meeting), but without plans to necessarily take it up later. Tabling a topic is more like putting it on the back burner and de-prioritizing it. “Taking offline” doesn’t have the same priority connotations, just recognizes that the current forum isn’t the best one for discussion.

    4. Workerbee*

      I wish we didn’t have to use “let’s take that offline.” It is, alas, an evident trigger to the meeting-happy souls of my colleagues to stop jabbering on about a particular derail and return to the alleged point of that hour’s meeting. Not without 5 more minutes of discussion, mind you, but 5 minutes vs a half hour is a small victory.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed, I don’t love the phrase but it can save lots of wasted meeting time when the two or three parties involved realize the rest of us don’t need to sit through their conversation.

      2. juliebulie*

        Our manager says “take it offline” if it will be discussed at another time and possibly with other people; “put it in the parking lot” means we (this group) will discuss it later, after we’ve gone through the agenda, if it’s still relevant.

        1. Adultiest Adult*

          Ooh, this made me shudder. We deployed a new software at the agency, which required bringing in several tech specialists, and for weeks all we heard about was “parking lots” and “breadcrumbs.” Those may be standard jargon in other fields but not in ours, and led me to joke after awhile about having a very boring party in the parking lot with bread! We mostly confine ourselves to technical words that describe particular conditions, and otherwise use plain language. Some of these Agile comments are enlightening!

    5. Anonny*

      It did give me the same vibe as “adulting” except more redundant. I can’t think of another word that succinctly describes “all the stuff you need to get done to function as an adult” like “adulting”, whereas “solutioning” can be either replaced with “solving” or “brainstorming”.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “Adulting” is a perfectly cromulent word, concisely conveying a meaning that would otherwise require a long explanation. The objection is most likely simply because it is a recent coinage. Merriam Webster dates it to 1978, and it wasn’t common until much later than that. My reaction to learning it was to wonder how we managed without it. I had the same reaction to “schadenfreude,” Germany’s gift to the English language.

        1. Gumby*

          I find adulting annoying not just because of verbification but because of the ways it is used.

          30-something friend on Instagram: “I cooked dinner from scratch; look at me adulting!” (I was probably 13 or so the first time I did a whole meal solo. I was 5 the first time I made a single recipe by myself. They were chocolate chip cookies. The hardest part was reading the recipe. But congrats on making that cottage pie!)

          “Ultimate adulting moment; balanced my checkbook!” (I am so happy that you have mastered skills that were covered in remedial math in high school. Yay you!)

          Are there people who can’t cook and don’t balance their checkbooks even though they are legal adults? Sure. And they can and do thrive in spite of it. But using ‘adulting’ to brag about or ask for kudos for handling mundane tasks that very many people of all ages handle without fanfare is irksome. And makes it seem like you might be generally incompetent. If you think cooking a meal is so much of an accomplishment, why would I trust you to take on any work-related task that is even the slightest bit involved?

          1. Gumby*

            And yes, I get that it is supposed to be ironic much/most of the time. But it comes across as infantilizing even so.

          2. Quill*

            Problem is that many, many people were not taught basic survival skills as children. And many others struggle to do specific ones due to a variety of reasons. And some people just have different skillsets.

            For example, Gumby – I’m rather good at embroidery and drawing, nowhere near professional, but I would not dream of commenting on someone’s drawing that has the technical skill I had in the fourth grade the way you’re commenting on someone else’s cooking.

            Because you and I are lucky enough that we did learn how to do these things when we were in the single digits. Is it any wonder we’re ten, twenty, or more years better at it than someone who started practicing this year?

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I have a twelve year old daughter. I occasionally startle myself by realizing how soon she will be out of the house. Middle class kids nowadays are sheltered. People respond in horror when I suggest that a kid should be able to walk half a mile to the library by herself. I see them looking up the number for child protective services at the mere suggestion. She has literally never gone into a store by herself and made a purchase. I was doing that in first grade. And so on. I think much of this is ridiculous, but there is only so much zeitgeist one can fight. So instead, I take her with me on errands and discuss this sort of stuff, so at least she has some exposure to how to function outside home and school. We could call this something other than “adulting,” but that word conveys the sense so well that it would be perverse to avoid it.

          3. Anonny*

            A lot of the people I know who use it, myself included, are traumatised ex-gifted kids. If we’re at work, we’re pretty capable. We’ve got set tasks, deadlines, and someone else’s expectations to make sure we do it.
            At home, well… We’re a mess. For whatever reason we haven’t learned to motivate outside of a school/work environment, and basic chores (and sometimes doing fun things like reading or watching Netflix) are just beyond our ability to get up and do stuff. Executive dysfunction is a nightmare to live with.
            For us, cooking an actual dinner is an achievement. If celebrating it in some minor way means we do it rather than eat a slice of toast and a bag of M&Ms after three hours of staring hungrily at the ceiling, then we should do it.

            1. yala*


              Shoot, one of the first and most basic bits of advice folks with ADHD get is to be kind to yourself and celebrate small, mundane victories. Our brains need that sweet sweet dopamine, but refuse to make/process it properly.

            2. Quill*

              Oh yeah, plus add the background environmental trauma of growing up in the modern era (wars, school shootings, internet harassment, everything that has happened since the beginning of the 2016 presidential race) and no wonder we’re adrift.

              In many ways I lucked out in learning a lot of stuff young, because of my mom’s attitude that her children should Be Prepared, but also I use up a lot of my energy not coming off weird to everyone around me or, you know, despairing about the state of the world.

          4. Clisby*

            Not long ago I read an article that boiled down to “things you lazy Boomers should have taught your children” and one was “how to balance a checkbook.”

            I asked my 23-year-old daughter about it, and she said, “I don’t remember ever needing to write a check.”

            This is not because we pay her bills – she’s self-supporting. She’s just … never needed to write a chedk, so she has no checkbook to balance.

            I mean, I never balance my checkbook, either, because 99% of my bill payments are online.

          5. yala*

            “I was probably 13 or so the first time I did a whole meal solo. I was 5 the first time I made a single recipe by myself. They were chocolate chip cookies. The hardest part was reading the recipe. But congrats on making that cottage pie!”

            This feels…unnecessarily judgmental? Different folks were raised different ways. I cooked a goose by myself when I was…yeah, maybe 12 or 13.

            But if I actually made a proper meal right now, I would be pleased with myself. I just don’t have the time/energy/space to cook all that often, and when you’re just yourself, cooking a meal seems like a waste of the first two.

            But also, plenty of folks *weren’t* encouraged to cook as kids. I know some who were actively discouraged. For pity’s sake, my housemate of 11 years has never made scrambled eggs before. He can cook precisely one meal (fettucini alfredo) and has done so a maximum of twice in all the time I’ve lived with him?

            It’s cool that for YOU cooking is a NBD thing you should have been doing since you were in grade school, but it’s not the case for everyone and that’s…fine?

            1. yala*

              “I am so happy that you have mastered skills that were covered in remedial math in high school. Yay you!”

              And that’s even worse. Sheesh. I can’t remember the last time I actually sat down and balanced my checkbook. Yes, I can do math, thank you very much. It’s just not really a priority (I try to make a point of not buying more than I can afford, and I’m lucky enough to be able to do that, most of the time)

              I’m sorry that folks posting lighthearted comments about doing mundane things as adults upsets you so much. Not being so judgmental is probably a skill you should have learned by now.

          6. Taniwha Girl*

            Well, let’s not forget that a lot of the tasks that comprise “adulting” are household chores like cooking meals, cleaning and tidying, washing up, doing laundry, paying bills and managing money, going shopping and running errands, and so on.

            There have been many cultural/societal changes over the past few generations regarding who should do these chores, and at what age, and for whom. In a few generations we’ve gone from “train young girls to do this for their families, then women and female staff do this for their husband/employer” to “children should have a ‘childhood’ of play not labor, and then every young adult must leave the home and do all this for themselves.”

            I don’t blame anyone who works full-time outside the house for being proud of themselves for cooking a meal from scratch. That’s more than some groups/classes of people have ever done!

        2. Anonny*

          Yeah, it’s more the shape of it seems like… Social media-ish? If someone said ‘solutioning’ to me in an office I’d personally get the mental image of one of the cat accounts I follow on twitter wearing a little tie and demanding treats.
          “Hooman, solution me the dreamies deficit ASAP.”

    6. Quill*

      I feel like “adulting” has a better use case because it encompasses a bunch of necessary chores that are either technically unnecessary (filing your taxes by hand comes to mind – many countries have found more accurate ways to do that) or tiresome, and there isn’t something that already has that specific connotation.

      Whereas “solutioning” has no useful connotation or denotation to make it distinct from “solving” or “working on.”

      It’s also much easier to work with “adulting” because it’s generally said casually, unlike business jargon. Business jargon usually reads as inauthentic because it takes casual speech patterns and applies them to an environment that is not casual, rather like your parents picking up one single, outdated meme and constantly going around saying it. It makes us cringe because of the incongruity.

      It’s like if your parents, or your boss, go around saying “that powerpoint was on fleek.”

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I don’t know why exactly “powerpoint on fleek” is making me laugh so hard, but here I am, chuckling madly in my office.

        Somewhat related, the phrase “action deck” is completely overused in my office right now and it’s absolutely driving me bonkers. No, we do not need an “action deck” for this. It’s 2 items. Just get it done, ffs. I’m not creating an “action deck” for your two. friggin’. items. that should have been done eons ago. Here’s your work order number, now go do it.

        1. Quill*

          Oh lol, I’m currently neck deep in begging for a simple invoice to be issued, so I feel you here.

      2. ellex42*

        My interpretation when people use “adulting” is more along the lines of not procrastinating on necessary chores (or not doing said chores at all). “Adulting”, as my parents used it, was doing the “have to” items before the “want to” items, or just taking responsibility for the things, as an adult, you need to take responsibility for.

        I also find it often used to describe tasks that adults should be able to do but children are generally either exempt from doing or not expected to know how to do.

    7. Nanani*

      I must say I’ve never seen “adulting” used in a businessy context where jargon usually thrives.
      I’ve always understood it as a useful catchall term for things like – paying bills, doing groceries, doing housework, making and going to medical appointments – all the boring minutiae of life that isn’t part of a job, nor is anybody’s hobby.

  13. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP #5 – I’ve been at my agency for 6 1/2 years and have had four titles and possibly will have a fifth since we are being reorganized (my job duties are almost certainly changing even if my title doesn’t). The tenure at the agency itself generally doesn’t turn managers off and I usually get a chance to get to an interview and explain, “My manager wanted to promote me directly, but the merit system required I go through a sequence of titles to get there.” This is backed up by the progression in job duties and the fact that I spent exactly 1-2 years in each one. This is not a deal breaker for anyone reasonable.

    1. RozGrunwald*

      Yes, my company does frequent reorgs and so someone can end up doing the same job in four different departments working under 6 different managers (managers get moved around a lot in my company), through no action of their own. One of my friends at work has had eight managers in three years and worked under three different department numbers. Her job has never changed. Such is the nature of CorpAm; I know many other companies who do this kind of thing. It’s explainable.

      I have been in three different jobs in the four years I’ve been with my company; I got recruited into my last two roles and each was a step up from the previous position. My mentor at the company told me to plan on changing roles every 18-24 months and to never turn down a promotion or recruitment into a higher-level position, so I didn’t. It’s worked out well. Interviewers hopefully understand that in many corporate cultures it’s expected that you move around, especially if you’re interested in moving up. It’s rare in my organization for people to move into management without 3-4 rotations through different aspects of the business.

    2. Malarkey01*

      It can also be really common early on in people’s careers when they rise very quickly because they are rockstars and were brought it at real entry level but kept getting picked up for better and better roles.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      I have worked for several organizations that do an annual reorganization, and some people get shuffled around or laid off. The first time it happened it sent my anxiety through the roof, even though I was not affected, because in previous companies frequent reorganization had been the hallmark of a “drain circler” – a company on its way to failure. Some companies do it to be “nimble” or otherwise systematically adapt to changing business needs, and are very successful.

      If I see a series of different titles/departments at one company, with a year or two in each one, I figure they worked for a company like that.

  14. Dan*


    My CEO of a very large company writes like this. The company’s business lines cover many different things, so communications from him can cover a wide variety of topics. That is to say, we can’t all be up on the latest buzzwords.

    Except… every email from the CEO contains more buzzwords than substance. He can easily write 3-4 long paragraphs to announce a staffing change, such that the TL;DR can be summed up in one or two sentences. Never mind that the staffing changes that are appropriate for him to announce are regarding people so high up that I will never meet them, nor do I know what they even do. It is not necessary for me to know about these people.

    When he writes these emails, I sincerely want to ask him if he knows how they come across, and for that matter, how long it takes him to write them. What is it that he wants to communicate to us with all that verbiage, because most people *can’t* read his emails word for word?

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yeah, I think the buzzwords are a stand-in for the real annoyance, which is people talking a lot but not saying anything substantive.

  15. Observer*

    #3- If you are in a city like New York, don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get moved over. Sure, talk to your old boss, but don’t hold your breath. The thing is that funding is going to be a mess altogether, and especially for the program you were hired to run. And it’s not going to be all that much better anywhere else.

    Consider also that they found another place for you when your original program got defunded, rather than letting you go. A lot of places would not have done that.

    1. WellRed*

      I also wondered about the fact that they are only getting part of the funding back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back to the role (especially if it’s kids volunteering in a pandemic-not gonna happen, but that’s unclear).

      1. valentine*

        While I think OP3 should consider the new-old job is unstable, they’re so enthusiastic that maybe they’d rather have it and lose it again, and have to find new work altogether, than to continue where they are.

        Really odd that OP3 sees it as a secondment, but old boss didn’t reach out with an offer or to welcome them back, current boss is an ostrich, and TPTB are talking like OP3 is an indentured servant they’re sharing.

        Also, OP3, are your hours or wages/salary also cut in half or more?

        1. LW #3*

          My former Boss has budgeted my salary for the remainder of the FY so that job is pretty stable.
          My old boss did reach out to me and I shared my want to return to my original position, the issue was my new boss was “ducking” her calls and emails.
          My salary and hours will remain in tact.

    2. Observer*

      Yes, that’s one of the problems in the whole scenario. In NYC most youth related programs were summarily axed, and now they are being brought back at much reduced funding levels. But at the same time, they essentially tried to tell the orgs that they need to run much more expensive programs (because of safety) to the originally planned number of kids – but at a level of funding that’s as low as 50% of the original amount.

      Organizations were tangling with City agencies till literally 2 days before camps were supposed to start.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      I would agree. I would also point out that the reason OP3 can’t “just decide” is because… she’s not the boss.

    4. LW #3*

      LW #3 here. Yes, I am in NYC, and I am extremely grateful that they were able to find another department to transfer me to definitely not takingit for granted.

      1. so very much anon for this very identifying post*

        Depending on which program you work for it could look WILDLY different. None of the service delivery plans I’ve seen are at all aligned with pre-March 2020 in content, participation, or oversight. My work takes an entirely different skill set these days. Have you gotten a look at the new programs? Are you sure it aligns with the job you originally signed up for? You may very well be happier where you are for the rest of the summer.

        It could also be that everything is happening as an emergency and there’s no real solid ground to get your feet under you. Is it possible that given you were already new, they just aren’t in a place to hand it over when no one knows what’s going to happen or what the oversight is?

        Given the timing, I assume we fulfill contracts for the same umbrella org, D*CD? If not than this may not be relevant at all.

  16. Kevin Sours*

    I feel like jargon is getting unfairly lumped into some other things. Jargon is a useful and even essential tool for quickly and precisely communication with another member of your field. The problem comes in when people insist on using it with people outside of the field — or worse complain that they are “wrong” for not using the correct jargon term or using a jargon term in the sense of it’s common usage (since many jargon terms are regular words that have a stricter meaning within a field).

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      Agreed. Jargon can be very useful as a shorthand within organisations to discuss specific technicalities. It obviously has the downside that can sounds like gibberish to people not familiar with the jargon.

      Buzzwords, on the other hand, are just used by bullshitters to make themselves clever and have very little value.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        IMHO, both Jargon and Buzzwords are the devil’s handiwork.

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          I think Alison suggests we use the phrase, “wanted to flag it for you.” That seems jargony and buzzword to me.

      2. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        My boss and I (in construction) kind of went down a rabbit hole the other day. We were talking about some carpentry that needs to be done at a project and I described the method I thought should be used to achieve the look a client wants. Then my boss got confused because he thought I was using the wrong term to describe it. It was basically like, “Wait…do you mean this? I always thought it was called this…now I’m confused.” So we had to Google it!

        Basically, the terms we were talking about it were akin to a “A square is a rhombus, but a square can also be a rectangle…and both are parallelograms.” It’s so confusing! Anyone overhearing our conversation probably would have thought we had gone crazy. And by the end of the conversation we were both thoroughly confused…and I just had to go find a picture to show the carpenter so I wouldn’t have to use any of the confusing terms to show him what we want.

        There are a lot of jargon words like that used in construction, and people often times will use them interchangeably when they shouldn’t be. It all pretty much sounds like gibberish!

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        This. The word “jargon” is used for two distinct phenomena. One is technical language used within a field to precisely convey meanings that would otherwise require long explanations. The other is fancy-sounding language whose meaning could be better conveyed with ordinary language, or which is used to disguise the absence of any meaning at all. The thing is, from the outside it is difficult to tell which is which, and vocabulary from jargon in the first sense is often borrowed by persons outside that field and used as jargon in the second sense. There is a way to tell the difference, if you are willing to devote the time and effort. Translate the jargon-filled language into ordinary English, taking care not to lose any significant distinctions. If the translation is longer than the original, it was jargon in the first sense. If it is shorter, it is jargon in the second sense.

    2. Filosofickle*

      I write messaging for a technology company that has a plain language policy. What I’ve learned is that in removing the jargon, it takes twice as many words to say everything! It forces me to say less in the same amount of space, a benefit in its own right but also a burden.

      Certainly I’m a fan of changing bullshit like “skilling in-house resources” into “training your people”. And I enjoy breaking IT software stuff down into something that can be spoken out loud by a human without sounding ridiculous. But I can see why jargon takes over — it is an efficient way to pack many nuanced concepts in just a few words. People who aren’t accomplished wordsmiths or who aren’t thinking about their non-technical audiences are going to fall back on it.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        And if you are communicating with a solely technical audience in an informal context (such as a meeting or email) then the energy spent trying to succinctly convey your meaning in “plain” language is, frankly, wasted.

        And there are levels of clarity you aren’t going to get to in plain language.

      2. Gumby*

        Thing Explainer is a glorious book and lots of fun but far from the most efficient way to communicate information to an audience that might be expected to know more than 1000 words.

  17. Sarah*

    #1 Private talk – tell him you know he’s intending this to be amusing but some people are getting the impression he’s sexist from it.
    If he doesn’t get it, then a chat with the new boss.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But OP doesn’t know for sure if he thinks he’s being funny. Maybe he thinks she’s overreacting, which isn’t fair since you can’t always determine tone from an email, and bringing up a real or potential issue doesn’t automatically mean she’s worked up about it. I do think she needs to have a conversation with him, but I wouldn’t use that phrasing at all.

      1. yala*

        I dunno, I think the phrases works (though I’d still be leery about confronting him at all, but that’s me). It gives him the apparent benefit of the doubt. Maybe he *does* think she’s overreacting, but it’s still pretty inappropriate (especially in EVERY email. Really, dude doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt at that point), so phrasing it that way admonishes him while giving him an out, “Obviously, I am calm, so clearly you must be joking, not sexist/immature.”

  18. Viki*

    LW 2 for my work, “solutioning” is different than solving. It’s what we use when there’s an unforeseen problem, without a known solution. So we send it to solutioning where different teams work together to find source cause and solve the problem so we have a process for the next time.

    Not at all on topic, but if people are using new terms-sometimes it’s not buzzwords per say, but terminology for a process. Now whether or not, people like the new terminology is moot. If it’s there and people senior than you are using it, you decide if it’s the hill to die on, and if you want to be “Jane who really doesn’t like when we call it solutioning even though that’s the process name.”

    1. Lady Heather*

      So you use solutioning to mean ‘developing a solution’ and solving to mean ‘implementing a solution’?

      I can see how that might make sense.

      1. sswj*

        Why not just say ‘developing a solution’ and ‘implementing a solution’ and be clear about it?

        1. Senor Montoya*

          –one word vs three words
          –refers to a specific procedure. They want the word “solution” for a specific process, which “developing” and “implementing” do not do

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Because the way the English language works in real life is that its users prefer a single word over a longer explanation. If a longer explanation is used often, English speakers will come up with something shorter. Thus it is, and thus it has always been. Many, many words that you use every day without complaint came about this way.

        3. BethDH*

          It sounds like it also means the specific interdepartmental workflow. I don’t like the term “solutioning” myself but I can see why you’d want a term that means a specific workflow and goal rather than a more general term that applies in many situations.

      1. Miri*

        Hmm, that still feels more like implementing a solution (or lots of solutions) than trying to come up with ideas for what a solution would be in the first place.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      Solutioning is indeed a common term in certain industries/areas and I agree it’s not going away.
      Problem solving is not an adequate substitute because the product of solutioning is an elaborate, um, solution with component processes and products and individuals/teams/units responsible for building or implementing those component parts. Solutioning includes describing all that + why this solution is optimal for the problem + why the customer should select our organization to solve this problem for them.
      Problem solving, in this context, implies very simple means of addressing low-stakes problems. Like, how can we stop foot traffic across the flower beds.

      My personal peeve is “orientated” instead of “oriented”, but I think it is more prevalent in Britain. If the Cousins want to waste two more letters, let’em.

    3. JustaTech*

      It’s interesting to note that in this comment section I’ve seen two very different definitions to “solutioning”:

      Viki’s definition: solutioning: noun, a process for identifying both the cause of and solution to a new and unexpected problem.

      Upthread: solutioning; noun, an ineffective solution to a problem identified by a person who did not have full knowledge of the problem, a bad or incomplete solution to a problem.

  19. Caroline Bowman*

    The response to the ”calm down” boss is a tricky one, since for now he’s your boss. I’d probably do as Alison suggests, or the next time he does it in an email chain, respond and say ”I’m confused Bob, did I sound hysterical in some way about wondering whether to order A or B for the teapot machine?”. Or do it in a Zoom meeting, make him flustered. Another option would be to screenshot the last few weeks work of emails where he does it and write to him and ask, with them attached. ”Do you know that you do this? I ask because I’m finding it quite difficult to ask questions or raise work concerns without being told to calm down. I find it patronising and, ironically, makes me feel quite not-calm when it happens constantly. I’ve never had this issue before around my professional language. What is it that makes you feel I’m hysterical or overwrought?”. It’s perfectly polite, and a reasonable question.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      As someone else had mentioned elsewhere it might not be helpful to use the hysterical phrasing. Because he could bite back and say I didn’t mean that, or I didn’t say you were hysterical. It would be better to say upset or not calm. Like ” I’m confused, did I sound like I was upset when I asked about teapots?” Or “what made you think I wasn’t calm?

  20. Tolls*

    #5. I have been involved in hiring people for a range of positions for quite a few years now. I have got to the stage now that I pick out the resumes that show a person has moved on from a couple of positions quite quickly, as long as there are one or two that they have stayed in for two or more years. Most of these people are quirky thinkers, working outside the box, come up with novel solutions and sometimes take some work to communicate and work with – but when I do WOW!! some amazing work. I tend to discard applications from people who have stayed in the same job for more than 7 – 8 years. I once worked with someone who had done the same job (as in exact same job) for 25 years!! This was in a regulated profession. He was the most backward thinking, restricted person I have ever come across. It sounds to me as if you are eminently employable.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That’s such an interesting view point. I think, depending on the area, that hiring people will see more applicants with 2-5 years per role, rather than 25. I think an exceptionwould be academia or k-12 teaching, where you would want to be more tenyord. Also maybe some higher healthcare and law.
      One thing I would look at, just from my background, is the city/ town that someone worked at. I come from a very small town (less than 1500) in a very rural area. It seems to me that people in these areas are more their company and stay for long time because there are few options. They might have to travel 70 miles to a city to get a different job. And many times, especially in factory yup work, there isn’t much room for advancement.

    2. WellRed*

      If you discard apps from someone who’s stayed a few years in one position, you may be discarding well qualified people who just happened to be in a role that was an excellent fit or that needed stability for family or other reasons. Or, you know, older people is another way to say it.

    3. Me*

      Yikes. Just because a role doesn’t change doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t evolve. Not everyone can move past a certain senior level, it doesn’t mean they’re “stuck” in their ways nor that the work they did was rote and predictable.

    4. mlem*

      I’ve been doing basically the same job for 21 years — developing partially regulated software. Disruption is not an unalloyed good, stability has value, and “professional stability” is not identical to backwards or restricted thinking, any more than resume churn automatically means flakiness.

  21. Djuna*

    #2 – I feel you. I had a very dispiriting conversation with my grandboss a few months back where I complained about buzzwords in all-hands meetings. I made a crack about “operational execution” sounding like a threat, and got a very earnest explanation of why it was a perfect phrase…which missed the point that I was trying to make entirely.

    We’d had some success in the past encouraging our leaders to talk to everyone in plain language, but some recent (external) hires on the leadership team seem to have unleashed the beast on buzzwords again. I’ve tried to explain that buzzwords are a kind of argot that excludes a lot of their audience but either it’s not sinking in or they don’t care. There’s nothing more demoralizing to lower level employees than to be scheduled for an all-hands meeting where they can’t follow half of what’s being said and it hurts my heart every time I have to sit through one.
    I don’t have advice, only sympathy.

    1. Workerbee*

      My grandboss is more full of buzzwords and metaphorical phrases than substance. Looking back, equivalent positions at other companies all had the same type of person. Along with staff-wide, private (coffee/tea/water) drinking games whenever such a leader would utter their keywords and phrases. It gave some relief in interminable meetings to look across the table or room and see someone else sipping from their mug at the same time.

      1. Generic Name*

        To avoid drinking way too much water, you can google “buzzword bingo” and use that during meetings ;)

    2. Persephone Underground*

      Lol- I think you’re doing it too! Just looked up “argot”, which apparently means “jargon” or “slang”. Actual word, so not quite the same, but I wonder if being around these people all the time is rubbing off/ you’re using less common words because they like them in your office even if they’re not jargon. (I love learning new words though, so please don’t consider this criticism, just a little “Oh no they’re getting to you!” teasing.)

      1. Amy Sly*

        How to tell someone who’s actually read “Les Miserables”: they can commiserate with you about the whole chapter on Parisian street argot.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          I enjoyed that chapter! But I did a linguistics minor, so there’s that.

          The section on the Paris sewers was a total slog, though.

          1. Amy Sly*

            That chapter was at least somewhat relevant to the plot.

            The other good “Did you actually read the book?” question is “How many children do the Thenadiers’ have?” I’ve seen four different adaptations, and none of them include all the children.

      2. Djuna*

        Guilty as charged – it’s a linguistic term and I should have defined it. It’s in-group language which is a badge of belonging, but equally a badge of not-belonging if you don’t understand it.

        1. Observer*

          When you are asking people to use inclusive language that pretty much anyone can understand, it’s probably a good rule of thumb not to use terms that you need to define for people.

      3. BethDH*

        And that’s a reminder that we’re not always the best judges of when we use jargon ourselves. It takes a specific type of awareness (and often training) to remember and avoid using terms that are familiar and come easily to you but not to others.
        OP might be able to phrase it in those terms and stay within the word nerd role.
        I work in two very niche sub fields that intersect in my work but have very little overlap. When I get in “talking to people in my field” mode, I sometimes forget that the people I talk to will know the jargon from one field but not the other.

    3. Observer*

      I don’t mean to nitpick language, but if you are not talking to communications people and you used the word “argot” you kind of shot yourself in the foot. That is not a word that a lot of people are not going to see as plain speaking. Do yourself a favor and use the kind of language you want them to use.

      I decided to see if I could find out what grade level one would expect a student to be to know the word, so I googled it. I got only one response – almost everything else pointed to other words like slang or jargon. I got a couple of definitions and but the only result related to educational level was an example of it’s usage on a GRE prep site.

  22. Lady Heather*

    LW2, this reminds me of the zombie nouns/nominalizations problem. It sounds annoying as heck.

    One of my relatives is high up in her organization (head of a division, reports to the CEO) and she.. actually.. tries to use a different buzzword every week.
    The day before the weekly senior management meeting (division heads + CEO) she’ll research a buzzword, and then she’ll use it in the meeting, and no one will know what she’s talking about, and then one of her colleagues will tentatively ask, ‘hey, er, what does that word mean?’ and she’ll explain, and then she’ll keep using it for that week, and then next week she’ll use a different word, and one of her colleagues will tentatively ask, ‘hey, er, what do you mean when you use that word?’
    She thinks of it as ‘teaching people new concepts’.
    The rest of us think of it as ‘power play’.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That’s worse than those people who have words of the day or dictionary calendars and then go around using that word all day/week.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        We got that coworker an urban dictionary word-of-the-day calendar one year. It was entertaining…

      2. Persephone Underground*

        I don’t mind that too much, but I’m a vocabulary nerd. Buzzwords do not deserve the same treatment though, they’re not intrinsically beneficial or useful outside a limited context where everyone else also uses them. She might as well be making up her own language you have to learn- total power play. Only way this looks kind of ok is if she were like an eager student overusing a new industry concept while learning about it. But then it’s not a single jargon word but a real piece of new information e.g. I just learned all the benefits of processor multi-threading (in computers)!

    2. UKDancer*

      That sounds incredibly annoying and exhausting. Your relative has my complete sympathy.

      1. Lady Heather*

        My relative is the one doing the buzzwording, sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

      1. Lady Heather*

        I think she’d become very sad.

        As for the meeting – in my experience buzzwords don’t usually convey novel concepts, and especially if you pick a buzzword and then look for an opportunity to use it.. you’re not going to add a whole lot of value.
        “Team A worked together well this week, they got a lot done. I think it helped I allowed them to turn off their phones.”
        “Oh, that’s good. It sounds like they demonstrated a lot of corporate synergy and were able to work on their projects very mindfully.”

        That’s just partially repeating the sentence (corporate synergy = working well together) and making a self-evident observation (able to work mindfully = they turned off their phones and didn’t get distracted).
        That’s not a sentence that adds a lot of value to the conversation.

        1. Lady Heather*

          (I believe corporate synergy means more than just ‘working well together’, but here they are trying to say ‘working well together’ but make it sound better.. so. Same for the mindfulness one.)

    3. LQ*

      This is going to sound weird, but I never considered that people would actively try to learn and share buzzwords. I assumed that they were transmitted naturally through the language from person to person. I utilate new words as I am conversating with someone and they identificinate it’s a buzzworthy word and then go on to vocabularize it themselves. Most buzzwords make some kind of sense or are something that could fairly easily end up naturally coming out of someone’s verbal mistake but with confidence.

      That there is an executive out there who is actively learning them is sort of…like a scammer checking out a book from the library on scamming.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*


        I always figure buzzwords spread like infectious diseases, via contagion. Makes me want to get out the Lysol…

    1. Nea*

      *giggles madly*

      I have no advice for OP, merely sympathy. There was a time I worked in a jargon-heavy office. During that time, I lucked into listening to a radio play in which the baddie spoke entirely in corporate-speak… to the point of pleading for her life to her bigger, badder boss by announcing “But I’ve onboarded many key learnings from this valuable executive experience!”

      Now that line plays in my head whenever the jargon gets thick.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        No fair mentioning that without telling us the name of the play! I have to find it now!

        1. Nea*

          Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one it was at this point because I want to relisten to it myself! It’s one of the Big Finish releases, and I’ve been subscribed to their once-a-month new Doctor Who audio adventures for over a decade.

  23. Miri*

    #2 – I’ve had a lot of success getting people to notice they’re speaking unhelpful jargon (agree with the distinction between helpful and unhelpful jargon above) by joking about it lightly. “Solutioning? Oh that’s a good one, I’ll have to add it to my list!” Often when you remind people that the word they’re using is weirdly business-y, they’ll use it less on their own, and you can do it more often than having a Serious Conversation about it.

  24. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    OP5: this can definitely vary between industry and company, but where I work (global financial services company), job hopping fairly frequently (12-24 month stints in roles), is the way to climb the ladder. I started on a training scheme, and since graduating the scheme, I’ve done 4 roles in about as many years, due to move to my 5th imminently. It has meant I’ve had a number of promotions and pay rises far quicker than if I’d stayed in a single role or I’d need, department (where I work, the same or similar roles exist in many departments, so it’s not atypical for people to move.)

    Granted this won’t be the same everywhere!

  25. Scooter*

    For #2 – just to add a slightly different perspective, in my experience quite a few ESL people inadvertently use buzzwords when speaking. I think this might be either because it was how they were originally taught to speak, or because they picked it up in previous workplaces.
    I’m therefore always a tad reluctant to comment on people’s speech patterns unless there’s a good reason for it – e.g. if it’s a client communication, or if it’s unclear what is meant and impacting work. Your situation does seem slightly different though (in that management is the catalyst for the new language being used).

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I’ve noticed this as well — it’s whatever is taught, and they just stick with it. A lot of my coworkers in non-English speaking countries say “do the needful” or “it is forseen to meet on Friday”. Forseen used to bother me but now I’m used to it.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely we do we do tend to use the linguistic terms we have learnt and don’t always understand when these are no longer appropriate or sound weird. I studied at university in Saarbrucken in the 90s. So my colloquial German is apparently dated and some of the vocabulary I picked up is no longer the current way of saying things. Also there was a reform of German spelling in 1996 which I was never taught about so I still use the Eszett (the letter that looks like this ß) where a younger person would probably use the double ss.

        I am grateful to my German colleagues when they tell me better ways of saying something but I will cling to the Eszett because I think it looks nicer and there are enough rules in German grammar without adding new ones.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Agreed on the Eszett! I learned my German in high school in the 1980s from someone who learned her German from someone who grew up in the 1930s. I got to Germany and quickly earned a reputation as the “teenager who talks like a grandparent.”

          Higher education has its own jargon as well, some of which makes sense and some of which does not. “Residence Hall” has replaced “dorm/dormitory” because the idea is that students don’t just sleep there, and a lot of interpersonal learning happens. But it’s reallllly hard sometimes not to say “dorm” because it’s a) shorter and b) that’s what it was called when I started in the field.

          One other term that is particularly in vogue right now at my institution is “transparency.” The amusing part (to me) is that everyone here has a different idea of what that word means and how it applies in a given situation.

        2. Tau*

          Drive-by FYI: the spelling reform didn’t abolish the Eszett, it just changed the rules on where to use it (ß after long vowels, ss after short). I personally prefer the new rules because they’re more logical and distinguish a few words that aren’t pronounced but would otherwise be spelled the same in Hochdeutsch (the classic example being “Alkohol in Maßen trinken” vs “Alkohol in Massen trinken”). The spelling reform was hugely controversial at the time and there was a lot of “oh, these students will have to write their Abitur under the new spelling, or maybe they won’t, this newspaper is going back to the old rules, or maybe just half of the old rules?” but I think most people liked the new Eszett.

          This all being Germany and Austria, Swiss German got rid of the ß decades ago.

          Back on the topic, can confirm I’ve heard some (but not all) of the buzzwords mentioned here being flung around in my very very ESL context. In fact, I think there’s a tendency for them to be adopted into German business speak, sometimes with a different meaning than they had in the original language to make the confusion complete.

      2. Forrest*

        I have seen “do the needful” mentioned in lots of pieces about Indian English. Really important not to assume that someone is a non-native speaker just because they are speaking a variety of English that you’re not familiar with!

      3. Colette*

        “Greetings of the day!” – seems to be fairly common in India; sounds like you’re an alien impersonating a human to North Americans.

      4. Nanani*

        “Do the needful” isn’t jargon, it’s perfectly normal and natural Indian English. And India is hardly “non English speaking”.
        Don’t confuse a different dialect with jargon.

    2. Persephone Underground*

      Though at the same time, isn’t it really unhelpful to ESL people if the office as a whole is using a lot of buzzwords and idioms that aren’t standard? Especially in this question since the LW is discussing a pattern that’s showing up in the whole office because management is overusing them?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree, sounds like it would be a disservice for us ESL people in the long term. Imagine if someone comes into an interview for their next job, and proceeds to speak entirely in buzzwords, because everyone at their current job does this and they think that’s how people talk in corporate America. (Which tbh would not be far from the truth, but still.)

      2. Scooter*

        Yeah definitely, it’s a tough one. In this scenario as it’s being driven by management I do agree that it would be beneficial for management to stop using the buzzwords.

  26. Roeslein*

    So admittedly I’m a marketing consultant so not immune to buzzwords, but “brand value proposition” is (or should be!) a very concrete statement in my book, distinct from e.g. the brand positioning. Not sure what would be a more efficient / clearer way to refer to it. Otherwise I agree with Alison.

    1. Nanani*

      I think the issue is that a very specific term from your field, gets misused outside your field because it sounds flashy but means nothing outside that context.

      1. blu*

        I don’t consider it specific to consulting. Value proposition is a basic business concept and fundamentally all businesses need to have a value prop. In this case it’s referring to their brand which if you think about companies like Apple or Bentley – their brand is a large part of their value prop that distinguishes them from competitors.

  27. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I’m wondering for LW1 if she could do the whole “why are you asking me to calm down?” bit . She could say something like What an odd thing to say when I’m clarifying what’s needed. Is there something in my email that makes you think I’m upset?
    It might be a way for her to kindonof nudge him that he’s acting like an ass.

    I would also like to know if he’s doing this to other women and if anyone else sees these email. Like if he’s CCd on something is he just replying to you or is it to everyone on the thread. If it’s everyone is there someone who you could talk to LW that could maybe say, hey what an odd reaction to a simple.comment.
    He seems like such an ass and I hope that he doesn’t spoil your new bosses interpretation of you. Definitely bring it up.

  28. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1: Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down as a result of being told to calm down.
    Does your boss read all your emails as if written by a hysterical woman?
    I’d be tempted to ignore any emails that started with that. Then when he chases me up asking why I hadn’t responded, I’d tell him I didn’t read further than “calm down” because I decided to do some meditating to meet his demand.
    But you’re probably best off following Alison’s suggestions.

  29. Kate*

    Talk to your old boss, talk to your old boss, talk to your old boss, and do it fast. This happened to me and I wasn’t clear enough about what my preference was and it led to complete and utter misery.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Absolutely. Followed closely by “smile!” and “c’monnnnnnn, don’t you have a sense of humor?”

      What all these have in common: the person saying them hasn’t usually done anything to earn the kind of emotional response he’s expecting to get.

      I worked with a “calm down” guy back in the day. He always said “calm down” when he himself was upset, usually because his incompetence was being exposed. (Usually, a woman in the room was tying herself in knots to point out an oversight as politely as possible, but there’s just no face-saving with a narcissist like that.) He turned out to be an all-around racist and misogynist, a groper, and (surprise) hopelessly irresponsible with company money.

      If he hadn’t also been gay, he’d probably be president by now.

  30. Delta Delta*

    Re: Job Hopping – I think it’s helpful to list the different jobs if they were different in their responsibilities and also if they would have caused different supervision. I was once part of a hiring team for a support role. We got an applicant who had worked in a nearby hospital in various support roles. It looked like she had a lot of “hopping” when actually she needed to delineate that when she worked in pediatrics she did XYZ, then moved to radiology and did VXY, and then switched to billing and did RSTLXY. By actually reading the resume I figured out that she had strong skills that she had gathered in different ways.

  31. AdAgencyChick*

    #2, I hear ya. Especially since the same people who have decided that “solution” is a verb have ALSO decided that “solve” is a noun. “Great solve, Jane! Can’t wait to solution with you some more tomorrow!”


    1. Nea*

      Speaking of fine words they way they were, I go out of my way to change “utilize” back into “use” every chance I get.

    2. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

      This is how I feel about “literally” also meaning “figuratively” now. NOW WE DON’T HAVE A WORD THAT MEANS “LITERALLY”! DON’T FIX THINGS THAT AREN’T BROKEN!

      Overdramatic coworker today: “I’m literally dying right now”
      Me (in my head): “No, you are figuratively dying. You are not having a medical emergency”

  32. Werd Nerd*

    Oh goodness….so many interesting things to comment on today and so little time!
    Re: Being told to calm down. I tell my husband that being told to calm down has the exact opposite effect and always will. I did not see anyone ask but have you thought about asking him if he responds to all emails from everyone in the same manner, men included?
    And since we are talking about buzzwords… so many good ones to choose from as the one that annoys me the most but a top runner for me is turning “ask” into an noun. I heard it from a colleague and then on a popular TV show. I almost vomited. (“Is there an ask on the table?” was the exact phrase from the show.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “Ask” is one of my pet peeves. “Capture” and “notate” are two others. What happened to “write down” or “make a note of it”?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Boss: “Schlep, did you capture this conversation in your meeting notes?”
        Schelp: “Yes sir; we should be receiving tribute from it shortly.”

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  This chain of replies makes my Monday, but unfortunately no triumph and no elephants.

                  I do get to use “veni, vidi, vixi” when I follow instructions and they don’t work.

      2. AlexandrinaVictoria*

        Have you ever had someone ask you to “scribe”? It makes me want to pull out a quill pen and parchment paper!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ohhh how could I forget! Yes, I’ve been in meetings that had scribes.

        2. JustaTech*

          Scribe is extra weird, because now it’s a medical job, ie a medical scribe stands in the corner of the exam room and takes the notes for the doctor because it’s more efficient to hire someone for just that job than pay the doctor to type up their notes.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            a medical scribe

            Be a scribe makes perfect sense; a scribe is someone who writes (and I think it implies that it’s in a context or culture where that’s not commonplace, iirc).

            “Go scribe something” is the usage being derided here, and it sounds just as odious to my ears…

  33. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    When did a “request” become an “ask”? And don’t even get me started on “bio-break.” LW2, you have my complete sympathy!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My supervisor uses “ask” as a synonym for “request.” I had never heard it before ~3 years ago.

      Whenever I think of English, my mind flashes on the opening sequence to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Kate Capshaw is singing “Anything goes” in an English/Mandarin (and whatever other languages) creole.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I first heard “ask” as a noun in the context of a crappy telemarketing job I had at the time, which has biased me against it. You had to do “3 asks” before giving up.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This is interesting, because what I heard back when we had a landline and were getting a ton of cold calls (yes, in spite of being on the no-call list), was that you had to say no three times before the caller is allowed to give up! I guess this matches, wow!

    2. Uranus Wars*

      I can’t even bring myself to use the term “bio-break”. It took me 6 months of meetings to even figure out what the hell people were talking about.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I use the phrase “because one can only rent coffee.” The pregnant pause as the dots are collected is usually entertaining.

    3. Bear Shark*

      I actually like bio-break. It keeps people from announcing specifics of why they need a break while sounding urgent enough that others don’t keep putting off the break.

  34. Tasha*

    I called out someone recently for saying “solutioning.” I responded, “Do you mean solving?” She looked annoyed & said she really preferred the word solutioning. I know she picked it up from consultants who were working on a project for our company.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Maybe get one of those novelty Police Ticket pads and leave a faux charge on her desk for “Assault and Battery of the English Language!”

  35. Half Knope Half Ludgate*

    LW #2 Can I suggest a rousing game of “Buzzword Bingo”?
    I don’t think this is the most professional way of responding, but it may help with morale. I previously worked in an office that had a buzzword problem (though to be fair, it was mostly out clients who overused them) and a few coworkers started tracking the amount that we heard in a day. This eventually evolved to jokes about Buzzword Bingo, that eventually evolved into a coworker actually designing bingo cards with words and phrases like “synergy” “value add” and “learnings”.
    Again, I can’t totally recommend this tactic because depending on the atmosphere at your office, it could easily backfire. But even keeping track on your own may give you a laugh during the day, which could be enough to save your sanity on some days.

  36. Karo*

    #4 – I made a few really close friends at my old job and they absolutely knew I was resigning before my boss – but in a personal capacity, not a professional one. I didn’t pull them aside in the office, I didn’t use our IM system, I didn’t start making transition plans, I just texted them that I got the job like I did with other friends who knew I was looking so we could go celebrate.

  37. ThatGirl*

    re: no. 5 – I’ve only worked at two companies in the past 12 years, but I’ve worked at a lot of roles within those companies. At the first one, I was a contractor, so they moved me around to whatever team needed help – and it worked pretty well because I got a lot of good experience, and it showed that they valued my contributions and wanted me to stay within the group. Eventually I got hired on as a real FTE (and then laid off 3 years later, but that’s a whole other story) but it’s all listed as one large tenure at the company, with 5 roles under it.

    At my current company, I was hired on in a brand-new role that didn’t quite go as planned – it turned out to be a time of a lot of change at the company, and all of the management and my whole team changed around me, so after 2 years I could tell things were never going to be quite what I’d been promised when I started, and I kinda lucked into a role that was more in line with my past experience. I plan to stay in this one for a couple of years, but even so. Given longer tenures at two companies and perfectly valid reasons for the shifts I did make, it has never read as job-hopping.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    I guess this isn’t technically jargon but it feels so pretentious and unnecessary that I wince inwardly every time I hear or read it: Gifted.

    I work in an archive, which is a discipline that legitimately uses the term “gifted” on a regular basis, although I think it sounds ridiculous and just means “donated” or, you know, “gave”, but I’m also in a hobby where people frequently say they were “gifted” a stash of [hobby items] by somebody and, wow, does that set my teeth on edge. You are not a museum. Your friend’s grandma gave you some old stuff. That’s it!

    1. Delta Delta*

      This is an industry thing, I think. I also don’t like that word, but I also know sometimes when lawyers and/or tax pros talk about estate and gift tax issues, sometimes talking about annual or lifetime gifts gets referred to as “gifted” or “gifting.” I wouldn’t use that IRL, I’d say, “I’m going to give Lucinda a crystal toadstool for her wedding” because that’s normal. If I’m talking about gift tax I’m going to say, “Lucinda gifted $10,000 to Fergus and still has room left in her annual exclusion this year.” I feel like there’s a distinction between the two.

      1. Quill*

        I usually see gifted in connection to regifted. As a backwards construction from regifted, not necessarily it’s own thing unless you need to specify that something was given with some pomp and circumstance. Often unwanted pomp and circumstance. I.E. someone gave me a bunch of smelly soaps, and I have a fragrance sensitivity, so I regifted them.

    2. Koala dreams*

      That sounds pretty non-jargon to me, outside of the museum use. You give it as a gift, just as you loan someone something when you give it as a loan, or for that matter, you hand someone something when you give it with your hands. There are so many verbs in English describing giving things. Come to think of it, in other languages too.

  39. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW2: I can’t blame you. My eye would be twitching into overdrive if I heard someone say “solutioning.” That’s not even a word! Even if jargon-spewing isn’t the main factor in why people don’t trust your management, it almost certainly *contributes*, possibly to a great extent. While some jargon is inescapable, when someone speaks little BUT jargon, they start to become a human motivational poster aka empty suit.

    I don’t know what you can do, being that it’s upper management talking like this; perhaps the best you can do right now is to use plain English (or whatever your main language is) whenever possible and urge your peers to do the same.

  40. Quill*

    “Solutioning” to my chemistry trained brain sounds like a bad way of saying adding solvent.

    So you could solution an IT request by pouring coke on your keyboard, that’s adding a solvent. I wouldn’t recommend it.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Well, that depends. If policy is that a piece of equipment must be completely nonfunctioning to replace it, solutioning* your keyboard that way may well be the solution to solve your problem!

      *Great… Spellcheck didn’t object to that, so just how much Engrish am I being audited against?

      1. Quill*

        Honestly the last time I had that problem I accidentally broke the space bar and I just lifted a new keyboard from an empty cube and replaced it with my broken one. So much faster than filling out a ticket!

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      If you’re not part of the solutioning, you’re part of the precipitating.

  41. Jostling*

    I really appreciate this comment on letter #5: “Job-hopping isn’t about a series of short-term contract roles either. It’s about a pattern of quickly leaving jobs that were intended to be longer-term.” One of my biggest resume fears is that I have a series of service industry jobs that reflect that I have been consistently employed and given higher-level responsibilities like training, money-tracking, and key-holding, but they are all 2 years or less. (To be fair, service industry years are like dog years! 2 years in one place is a lot longer than many people make it.) “Jobs that were[n’t] intended to be long-term” is a great turn of phrase to down-play that time frame. Thanks, Allison!

    LW5, I bet you could use some clever formatting to demonstrate that you’ve a) been with the company a long time and b) developed many skills and achievements across your roles without necessarily highlighting the roles themselves.

  42. Lady Heather*

    OP1, several commenters here have suggested funny/lighthearted ways to play off the ‘calm down’ in a joking, de-escalating manner.

    Those are valid options. However, they made me feel uncomfortable still.

    There is a TEDx talk by Ella Dawson (STI’s aren’t a consequence: they are inevitable) and an online article by her (Why I love telling people I have herpes) where she describes that when a stranger in a bar made a herpes joke at her, she froze, thought about laughing, realized she’d be laughing at herself – and losing self-respect in the process, and instead, decided to say ‘funny you should say that, because I actually do have herpes’.
    (And then they dated for a year.)

    That stuck with me.

    You don’t have to laugh along with jokes at your expense, you don’t have to find them funny, your rebuttal does not need to be amusing. Your boss is being insulting, invalidating and several -ists and that sucks.

    Or you can laugh along with him, if it feels right for you.

    But do what is right for you.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Agree. I used to respond to everything with jokes to minimize conflict. Then several years ago, I met a person whom I dated for two years. I was shocked when I saw how he used to resolve conflicts with people (not with me while we dated. I was spared that as the inner circle, I guess). Where myself and everyone I know would try to soften the blow, be peacemakers, turn it into a joke etc, this guy had no compunction about staring a person down, saying “no”, being exceptionally blunt in his responses. And it worked. I had never before known that responding to a bizarre request or to a toxic attitude with a firm “No.” was an option. So, after we parted ways, I started approaching this kind of situations by asking myself, WWCD? What would Crowley do? (Not my ex’s real name.) If Crowley would tell the other person “What you ask for is never happening” or “you need to mind your own business” or otherwise firmly shut the person down, then I should do the same. This is certainly a WWCD situation. Tough to navigate since this person is a boss, but he’s trampling so many boundaries (and really being utterly unprofessional for a boss) that OP has a good reason to push back.

      1. Quill*

        Now I have Miiiiiiiister Crowley in my head.

        And Good Omens.

        Sometimes we all need a little snake demon in our head to remind us that we can just say no, I’m not ending the world.

  43. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I just had a thought about #2. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrote an add-on to email apps that, once the Send button is hit, would replace every buzzword in the email with, I don’t know, “kittens”? Or doggolingo? I’d be much happier to get an email full of “puppers” and “bamboozled” and “you did me a frighten” than “ask” and “solutioning”. (Not seriously suggesting this, of course, but wouldn’t it be nice.)

    1. Lady Heather*

      I’m all for this. I also doubt it would have any effect on the clarity of the message whatsoever.

    2. pancakes*

      It would not be nice. Heckin’ doggo talk irritates me more than work jargon ever has!

  44. Uranus Wars*

    #1 this is ridiculous and condescending. I think Alison’s scripts are spot on!

    Are you cc’d on other emails where you notice a pattern of this against females in your in general? As interim, does this mean he will be a peer going forward, or does he have another sales assistant he’ll be assigned? Either way, I hope your new boss puts him right in his place on the heels of you doing so.

  45. WonderMint*

    I have a question related to #5…
    I was with a company for 9months, then they asked me to join their new spin-off company. Will that look like job hopping? Does anyone have any advice to clarifying that in my resume?

    1. Quill*

      I’d assume that you could list something like “moved with the alpaca team to Alpaca Grooming Inc.” and then list the job at Alpaca Grooming. By the time places are making decisions about “job hopping” I assume there’s an actual human reading your resume and they’ll be able to make the connection.

    2. Colette*

      Was it the kind of thing where a division of the company was sold of? If so, no. (I think this is what you mean.)

      If someone left the company to start a new company and you went along, then yes.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


        Just be explicit. Use the word “spinoff”, people know what that means.

      2. WonderMint*

        Thanks everyone for your replies!

        It was neither – The original company had a product that got so big, they decided to ‘spin it off’ into its own separate entity. Something like, Alpaca Grooming Inc had a line of shampoos, but the Sloth Shampoo became such a big product, it’s now its own company, Sloth Shampoo Inc.

  46. Lady Heather*

    Funny anecdote about jargon:

    It’s not easy being a radiologist.

    Every medical specialty has jargon and abbreviations.
    Radiology deals with all specialties.
    A radiologist might have three specialists asking for ‘CT for MCI’ and one wants a chest CT for a myocardial infarction, one wants a head CT for a mild cognitive impairment, and one wants a knee CT for a medial cruciate ligament.

    I am not a radiologist so I can’t give any more examples, but apparently there are hundreds if not thousands abbreviations like this. It’s not just a radiology problem – MS can mean multiple sclerosis, mitral stenosis, myasthenic syndrom, magnesium sulphate, and morphine sulphate. ‘Patient with MS needs MS twice daily’ – good luck figuring out what the patient has and what drug they need to take.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      This is a different matter. You’re talking about industry-specific terms. That’s fine. What bugs people is the made-up “ted talk” style terms that don’t have any real purpose other than to sound cutting edge.

  47. Van Wilder*

    You know. Like a detective solutions a murder.

    I just laughed so hard and so unexpectedly, I almost spit out my soda.

    1. Van Wilder*

      FWIW, I think your idea of bringing up this jargon as part of your training on voice is a good one. Perhaps if you specifically say “inauthentic”, it will get people’s attention, especially if they’ve heard about these criticisms.

  48. Essess*

    For letter #1, the letter doesn’t mention if OP has checked with coworkers. Does this person send the same “calm down” to other coworkers? If so, it is to both men and women, or is it only to the women? Is it only to you? The answer affects my advice. If it is just to you, I would follow Alison’s advice to ask him why he feels you need to be told to calm down in every email. If he is doing it to everyone, you might mention it to him once to ask him why, but then grit your teeth til the new boss arrives since this is an email ‘tic’ that the current boss has. If you find out that this is sent to each (or many) of the women, then I would have a word directly with HR about it.

  49. Granger*

    OP2 “remember, we want to communicate like human beings, even to each other.”

    *like human beings*
    *even to each other*

    THIS MADE MY DAY. I laughed so hard it brought tears to my eyes!


    1. Granger*

      Managing and dealing with people in the workplace has never felt so much like herding cats (or babysitting?) as it does these days.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My High School Programming Teacher had two pieces of paper framed and hanging on the wall in his office.

      One said “Computer code is composed by and must be legible to human beings. Compilation and execution are secondary.”

      The other said “Always remember your maintenance programmer has a chainsaw, your home address and anger management issues.”

      I would totally burn PTO to sit in his classroom for a day he’s teaching one more time…

  50. MissDisplaced*

    OMG! Buzzwords and Acronyms are rampant at my work. It’ is so bad that someone put out a glossary of common company acronyms, which included about 200 entries! And even that didn’t cover all of them!

    The buzzwords are horrible too. Unfortunately, once they infiltrate a company they tend to stick and if you don’t use them people will act like YOU are the weird one. My most recent peeve is calling everything an “ecosystem.” And yes, I have also heard “solutioning” thrown around. Sometimes, it’s so much marketing-speak I feel like a Golgafrinchan. I often wonder where it comes from… but then again Marketing. LOL! When I interviewed customers, they will often say they just want plain speak: what do you have and what it does for them.

    1. JustaTech*

      We have a list of company acronyms too, and in general they’re useful.
      I’m in a technical industry and my company has a lot of things that are specific to us and no one else in our industry.
      So it’s totally reasonable for me to say to my coworker “Put the BDS in the SC with the A” and have them understand what I want them to do. But I would never say that outside of a few specific departments (let alone outside the company) because no one else uses those things, so they wouldn’t have the faintest idea what I was talking about.

      My issue is when the bosses (who are exposed to the more business-y side of the company) start using “business” terms in science discussions. We’re already got plenty of jargon! Don’t add to it!

  51. Remote HealthWorker*

    #5 I once had 5 bosses in one year due to crazy reorgs. That division leader was very impatient. If he didn’t see progress in 2 months poof new org chart.

    The way I handled it was to lump it under my latest job title since the duties were similar and name my accomplishments through all the reorgs under one header.

  52. Nanc*

    OP2–I’m so sorry your senior leadership is treating you to lunch at the Business Jargon Buffet where the only dish available is Word Salad. It’s not tasty and you’re always hungry 15 minutes later plus now you have to edit it to the style guide and depending on who is reviewing mark every edit with the section of the style guide wherein the rule exists.
    I once broke a C-suite executive of her favorite buzzword by pointing out the definition in We did not want that in our content!

  53. DCalc*

    #2) At my Old Company buzzwords were a huge thing….happened multiple times over the years I worked there. The latest biggest one before I left hung around WAY too long – the horribly obnoxious ‘ask’. As in, “Jane, our manager has an ask of you (blah blah)” or, “what is your ask of me today?”. It made me BONKERS and so many people jumped on board with the ridiculous phrase. At the end I decided these people were simply ask-holes. :)

  54. Jean*


    That’s not even a buzzword it’s just straight up not right. That’s like sending a follow up email that says “As we were discussioning before, I will proceed with X Y and Z.” Like poorly translated furniture assembly instructions.

  55. Jungle Juice*

    Wow, OP 1, this made me sad. My last company was extremely misogynistic. I don’t remember a time when I was told to calm down, but I never felt listened to in any meeting and had other dismissive tendencies directed at me. It makes you feel like a child or at the very least, inferior. You should use Alison’s script and let us know what happens, but as Alison points out, he may be such a jerk that you even responding to “calm down” reaffirms why he uses it.

    I don’t know how old he is and some may feel like that information is obsolete, but I find men of a “certain age” (45+) act like this towards younger women especially. It’s very condescending and sexist.

  56. CatPerson*

    LW2, I really feel for you. At my company, we “decision” things instead of deciding or making decisions. EVERYTHING is a journey where I work. How’s this: “A journey accelerated.” Gag. I have given up telling people that ask is a verb, not a noun. Once senior leadership uses a new one, then everyone uses it. We had a new senior officer who always replied “livin’ the dream!” when someone greeted her using the standard “hi, how are you?” Then everyone was livin’ the dream in response to greetings. It’s hard not to sprain my eyeballs some days.

  57. Luna*

    LW1: I would’t even point out there being a long history of women being told to calm down to this guy. Just point out that you find it very condescending and demoralizing. It doesn’t matter what history a woman being told to ‘calm down’ has. I’m sure even a man who was told to ‘calm down’ in every email would get annoyed.
    The sex/gender of the person it being told to is not important.
    It being told to begin with is important.

    LW2: Those buzzwords sound weird. Like the person had a momentary brainfart and forgot what word they actually meant (“solutioning”?) and instead just said what came to mind, never realizing how off it sounds.

  58. Batgirl*

    OP1: I would personally make him explain the thinking there. I always get very curious with sexist stuff and see if they can name it as sexist without me having to.
    You: “What is that, by the way? The calm down thing.”
    Him: “It’s a joke.”
    You: “I don’t get the reference, is it a meme?”
    Him: “No it’s a joke, it means calm down”
    You: “Did you think we were both fans of Dads Army? I’m not”.
    Him: “No…its a joke”
    You: “Oh. Why is that funny then?”
    Him: “I’m not explaining the joke/some people have no sense of humour”
    You: “Yes, I’m totally baffled here!”
    (It should stop – but if it doesnt)
    You: “There’s that calm down thing again. You know if other people don’t understand the reference either, its going to come across as either sexist or baffling. You should really retire that one.”

  59. RagingADHD*

    OP 1, I don’t know if this is the “correct” way, but I’d just start leaving the boss off of all emails that aren’t absolute emergencies, and tell him so.

    So something like, “You seem to think I’m upset or something when I run routine information by you. I hate to worry you, so I’ll just handle stuff myself without copying you unless it absolutely requires your signoff. I’m happy to do that and it would save a lot of time.”

    Based on my experiences, guys like this just want things to happen automagically, so they don’t have to think about it. And so they interpret anything that needs their attention as some type of escalation.

    Maybe not, but it might make him change tactics if he thinks he’s going to be left out of the loop.

  60. soon to be former fed really*

    Just like in medicine, prescribing medicine for a condition the patient doesn’t have will likely not result in improvement. Correct diagnosing is a critical aspect of practicing medicine, and some practitioners are better at it than others. Throwing solutions at an ill-defined problem will result in much wasted effort, but folks are often in too much of a hurry to arrive at a solution due to pressure. This pressure has to be resisted, as does the risk of paralysis by analysis. There must be balance for effective performance.

    Sorry for the double post, I meant to add this on to the prior comment.

    1. Lady Heather*

      Once you clearly define the problem and formulate a question narrowly, you rarely need to ask it – the answer often becomes self-evident, or you’ll realize where to find the answer.

      By clearly/narrowly, I mean:
      ‘The peg won’t fit in the hole, what do we do now?” is broad, and does not have an answer.
      “The square peg won’t fit in the round hole. The peg is an heirloom piece, the hole is just something we drilled into a boring wall.” does have an answer: provided that is all relevant information, the answer is ‘make the hole an appropriately-sized square’. (You might still need to ask whether making the hole appropriately-sized is allowed, in budget, etc.)

      But even if the answer isn’t self-evident, a clear definition of the problem is helpful.

  61. TechWorker*


    I’d be tempted to start signing off
    ‘Yours calmy, Jane’ but I’m not sure if that’s actually professional (and might read weirdly to others). It would amuse me though…

  62. soon to be former fed really*

    I need to calm down after reading the calm down post. Telling someone this is almost always condescending, as are other variations of this phrase (calm your t*%s, untwist your panties, etc.). Notice the female slant of all of these remarks. I wouldhave to fin a way to shut this down OP, as interim manage is behaving very unprofessionally, injecting emotion and attributing it to you when there is none. He is being deliberately provocative, it’s fairly common knowledge that telling someone to calm down rarely obtains that result. When I really think someone is getting too upset, I may suggest taking a few deep breaths or something, but this is when speaking to them personally. This email stuff is nonsense.

  63. Anti-Buzzword*

    OP#2, you have my sympathy!
    I have one jargon-heavy colleague and I’m losing my mind. If it spreads to the whole team or organization, I will lose it.
    Why do they do this? My colleague seems like he is in a word-of the-month club. One month he was “syndicating” information instead of sharing or sending it. Now, he’s “socializing” it. I’m at a loss to understand why this is a thing. Combined with excessive passive voice, it hinders clear communication.
    Good luck.

  64. Tidewater 4-1009*

    Solutioning? Yikes! And I thought calling a request an “ask” was bad. :o

  65. Snarkastic*

    If anyone ever used the non-existent words “solutioning’ or “architecting” in front of me, I think my head might explode.

  66. lilsheba*

    On the buzzword issue I’m so sick and tired of the ones that corporations come up with. Instead of just calling employees what they are, employees, they are “team members” or “associates” Just call them employees ffs! Or my job title, it’s changing from phone banker to “customer success associate” or some damn stupid thing. Just use normal language.

  67. yala*

    Ah, the two most useless words in the English language. “Calm down.”

    I’m sorry, OP. That sounds so rough.

    Gonna say though, the idea of asking “Could I ask that you stop? It’s demoralizing to hear that in response to every work-related communication I send” would make me nervous. I asked if a co-worker could stop saying “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear” every time they brought my checked work back with mistakes (I was still learning), and my manager has used that against me as an example of how I’m “too sensitive.” Like, in my co-worker’s case, I knew she didn’t mean anything about it, but it REALLY is demoralizing to hear it every time.

    But *your* coworker sounds like he’s doing it to deliberately be a jerk. If you can hold out until new boss starts, that’s what I would do. Then, as Allison says, loop him in IMMEDIATELY. Because that needs to STOP.

  68. Laura*

    OP 1, your post reminded me of a boss I had that would always say, “gee tell us how you really feel” anytime I raised a concern or pointed out a potential issue. It really used to bug me, finally I started replying with, “I will, thank you!” And he eventually got the hint.

  69. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #2 Buzzwords. Hate them. But what I hate even more is when I start using them myself. When I write an email I take some time editing it to get rid of anything that looks like Corporatese.

    corporatese. Noun. (uncountable) The jargon used in corporations and other bureaucracies

  70. LogicalOne*

    #2. I always thought that mimicking higher ups’ vocab and jargon was sort of a kiss-ass sort of thing. Brown-nosing anyone? Ugh…buzzwords…..

Comments are closed.