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?



Anonymous 29 June 17 22:05

The overuse of "query" can be annoying, but surely this is just part of the long legal tradition relating to the Latin "quaere", which has been found in law reports for centuries to preface a proposition which was the subject of discussion.

Anonymous 28 June 17 01:30

Yes, "piece" is also a problem where I work. Not one used by lawyers, but mostly those in financial or commercial roles. So, when we are giving advice about an indemnity in a contract, it is "the indemnity piece". Why is it not just "the advice about that indemnity"? This is just pure jargon and is used as a kind of "barrier to entry". I am always reminded of a Simpsons episode invovling the executives who make the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons, who use words such as "proactive" and "paradigm shift". One of the cartoonists says: "Proactive, paradigm shift? Arent these words that dumb people use to sound smart?"

So is the case with "piece", unfortunately.

Anonymous 28 June 17 18:22

It's not all bad. I recently worked in a firm where we did quite a bit of solar DD. We had one young thruster who was responsible for "conducting due diligence as to whether the vendor had all of the appropriate access rights to the distribution network such that it could sell the electricity its solar farm was able to generate".

He shortened this unintelligible nonsense to "doing the grid piece" which is both shorter and snappier than the convoluted explanation above but, more importantly, marks the user out as being one for the future, a rising star, apart from the crowd.

Anonymous 29 June 17 03:11


Unfortunately for your young friend, as well as the moron who came up with the convoluted description in the first place (itself being pure over-crafting for the sake of it - "such that"?), there is a middle ground, understandable by all:

"whether the vendor has all required authorisations, licenses or permits".

Let's not mangle the English language, nor make being a lawyer any harder than it needs to be.

Anonymous 29 June 17 23:04

Piece is a personal non-favourite of mine. Also action used as a verb.

Anonymous 30 June 17 09:36

Another irksome word beloved of commercial types is "space". We should consider this in the solution space for the indemnity piece.

Anonymous 30 June 17 09:54

As an in-house lawyer, honestly, if anyone talks to me at all I'm grateful for the attention.

Anonymous 30 June 17 13:01

The very worst offender is "to the extent that", when used in place of "if" - e.g. "to the extent that you have any queries, please let us know."

Anonymous 04 July 17 15:32

The word "revert" when used to mean reply. You're going to revert to me? That'll be interesting. I don't remember you being me previously, so allowing you to turn back in to me now.

Anonymous 10 July 17 13:10

It's not peculiar to the legal profession but "space" is my real pet hate. Everything now occupies an abstract "space."

Anonymous 11 July 17 07:56

Sounds like you need to download this and start playing buzzword bingo during meetings -