• U.S.

How’s That Again?

2 minute read

Have you ever been to a Valium picnic? Or been guilty of scoodling? Or yearned for warm fuzzies? If those terms are totally bewildering, you may want to take a crash course in “biz speak,” the increasingly colorful, and sometimes off-color, language of the business world. The vivid vocabulary that bounces around corporate corridors has been collected and codified by Journalist Rachel S. Epstein and Nina Liebman, an industrial-development specialist for the New York State department of commerce, in their new book Biz Speak: A Dictionary of Business Terms, Slang and Jargon (Franklin Watts; $17.95). This handy compendium reveals, for example, that a Valium picnic is a slow day on the stock market, warm fuzzies are praise from the boss, and scoodling is actually unauthorized duplication of prerecorded music. Socks and stocks is the nickname for nonbanking companies like Sears that offer financial services. Daddy Mac is not a new kind of hamburger but rather a shared-equity mortgage in which parents become co-owners of their children’s home. Missionary selling is trying to unload products to consumers who may never have seen them before.

New uses of old words are bubbling up in almost every sector of American business. Wall Streeters talk about fallen angels (out-of-favor stocks at bargain prices), shark repellants (strategies used by companies to ward off takeover attempts) and fill or kill (an order to a broker that must be canceled if it cannot be completely and immediately executed). Management experts speak of skunk costs (money that cannot be recouped when a project is aborted), tin cupping (when one corporate division begs for management support) and deadheading (bypassing a senior employee in order to promote someone more junior). Computer aficionados complain about vaporware (software that has been announced but not yet produced). Advertisers refer disparagingly to white bread (consumers with bland tastes). And all business executives try to avoid a Mickey Mouse. That’s a major effort that produces paltry results.

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