All workplaces have their own language. In the hierarchy of words, a few lucky ones receive fantastic, if unlikely, promotions. Once, they were rarely used, unconfident words. Now, they take centre stage, thrusting themselves forward at every opportunity.
Take city law firms and you might think of the word ‘capacity’ or, my personal favourite, ‘query’, as in, ‘Query whether we should attend the meeting?’
Of course, one could save the voicebox an unnecessary workout and simply say, ‘Should we attend the meeting?’ - but where’s the fun in that.
It used to bother me at primary school when a new trend, like yo-yos or stickers, appeared, fully formed, as if overnight. Who started it? Who wields such power? These days, I apply my curious mind to the question of who started using these pesky words. There had to be a first, right?
These types of word cross law firm boundaries. They seep from firm to firm like an inert gas, homogenising the lawyer-language. But when you go to work for a company it’s a free-for-all; you don’t know what you’ll get until you’re there.
In the office I work in, the word of the moment is ‘piece’.
Inoffensive, you might think.
Well think again.
Everything we work on has become a ‘piece’. Not an ‘issue’ or an ‘area’ or a ‘work-stream’ – always a ‘piece’. I sat in on a conference call the other day in which the word ‘piece’ was used eighteen times by one woman. We were asked to consider the ‘accounts piece’, the ‘recruitment piece’, the ‘PowerPoint piece’. In other words, we had to think about the accounts, recruitment and PowerPoint.
I was thinking about none of the above. I was thinking about the word ‘piece’ and debating banging my head against the desk.
Perhaps there is something wrong with me. I feel particularly intolerant of these repeated words. I get to a point on calls like the one above where my entire body is clenched in fury. I can barely speak. I grow increasingly nervous that if someone says the word ‘piece’ one more time, I will snap, throw my laptop across the room and stab myself with a pencil.
Query whether I am the only person with this problem?