A Girl’s Guide to Office Brocabulary

“Adorable” is the word Jennifer Lawrence uses to describe how women in business strive to sound. Wise beyond her years, the actress shared a story on Lenny Letter about how she was chided for speaking plainly to a male colleague. Her essay, a few weeks ago, kicked off a conversation about how “Woman in a Meeting” is a language all its own. Examples from The Washington Post, all of which I am guilty of: “This may be all wrong but…” and “Maybe? I don’t know? How does the room feel?”

Lawrence’s story:

I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!” As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.” 

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that!”

As someone without an Oscar on my mantel or a quiver of fiery arrows on my back (along with Katniss’ mad archery skills), I’ve challenged myself to a more modest goal: finding the least roundabout way of saying things like “no.”

Me in a meeting: “I wonder if we could take a minute to unpack your request a little bit, rethinking how we might redirect your energies…”

Man in same meeting: No.

See how that works?

Next up: While adopting speech closer to Man in a Meeting, let us not go to the dark side of male office-speak, also known as Broffice Brocabulary — collectively, a mash-up of sports metaphors and douchebag marketing jargon.

“Can we agree to harvest the learnings from this experience?” To which I want to say, “OK but ‘learnings’ is not a word. You douchebag.”

Quick backstory: I worked for decades in women’s media before landing my current job as an editor of branded content at Time Inc., a company that tends to hire as many men as it does women. Kind of like the rest of the world, but coming from women’s magazines, this was a challenge, mostly because I didn’t understand the language spoken. Now I know there are gals with marketing degrees/a fondness for organized sports who aren’t baffled by the jargon, but in case you’re not one of them, here is my Girl’s Guide to Broffice Brocabulary.

I’m going to call an audible in terms of our direction here.” 

Translation: Like the coach of a football team, he’s pointing out that what you’re doing is all wrong. See also pivot.

“Gonna have to ask you to pivot on this one.”

Translation: After the audible is called, you will be told to start all over again, AKA pivot.

“I have a hard stop on the backend.”

Translation: I need to end this call/meeting on time, to which I want to say no problem and also ouch!

Feel like we’re really moving the chains on this project.”

Translation: Making progress, much like how a football advances down the field, as measured by the chains the referees use.

We’re still early innings.”

Translation: We screwed up, yes, but there’s time to “course correct” (another one!). Substitute “days” for “innings” (why don’t you?) and the meaning is clearer.

“Let’s make sure we honor swim lanes as we move forward in the future.”

Translation: You did something that was not your job and someone complained. (Also, choose one: Move forward or in the future but not both.)

Can we agree to harvest the learnings from this experience?”

Translation: Learn from your mistakes. To which I want to say, “OK but ‘learnings’ is not a word. You douchebag.”

“Let’s try to move beyond the low-hanging fruit with our proposal.”

Translation: The super-obvious nature of what you’ve proposed means you just reached out to grab the closest banana on the tree. Why does this one sound squeamishly anatomical me?

“Do we know what best practices are for this?”

Translation: Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? This one is especially irritating because it assumes there’s some tome lying around that aggregates best-in-class (that’s another one) rules about how to do absolutely everything.


Translation: Reasons to Believe, followed by a bunch of “verbiage” (ack) “around” (this preposition is both mis- and over-used) why consumers should care about a marketing plan. Not said aloud (oh please, Lord) but as a slug at the top of brand briefs.

“She’s showing her lady balls.” 

Translation: She’s a bitch, so deemed because she speaks plainly. To which I want to respond by quoting Jennifer Lawrence: Fuck that.

(Photo: Stocksy.com)

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2 Responses

  1. Jessica

    Love this and would love to see a round two.

  2. Valerie

    Completely agree with “low hanging fruit”. As soon as someone says it I automatically think of balls. So awkward.


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