State of Normalcy: Freedom of Acronymed Speech

Something struck me recently as I caught up with an old college friend whom I hadn't seen in three years. It was almost an out-of-body experience; I heard myself describing my job, my commute, and the general experience of life and work in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area with such matter-of-factness. I realized how many things I have come to accept as normal after living and working here for nearly seven years, but that mean nothing to visitors or newcomers. How many words and acronyms have become part of my vocabulary, how many expectations I have adopted about time and systems and resources, how many particular articles of clothing or accessories I'm "supposed" to have in my wardrobe...Some aspects of this adopted normalcy are admirable qualities of DC and its inhabitants/commuters. Some of them are truly ridiculous and could withstand some gentle mocking. So this is where we're headed next on the blog: an exploration of this somewhat precious, somewhat cringe-inducing State of Normalcy.

TSIR (The struggle is real)
We'll begin with a cursory examination of the dialect spoken by the District's professionals. Whether a 21-year-old Congressional aide desperate to climb the ladder or a disillusioned federal division director just trying to make it to retirement, they have all had to integrate at least some of these words into their vocabulary for survival. Then they go home to Main Street USA for Christmas and realize that no one knows, or cares, what logistics management means.

I was going to make this like a super-cool Buzzfeed experience and have you score yourself against this list to assess your level of DC-windbag-ness, but I decided that would be too depressing. Special thanks to my roommates for contributing some gems from their workplaces to this list!

  1. Circle back - “Can you circle back with Andy to let him know the strategic plan deadline?”
  2. Loop back - “I don’t know for sure, but I will loop back to confirm.”
  3. Connect with - “I want to make sure he connects with the VP about the board meeting agenda.”
  4. Ping - “I just pinged Jeff for an update, but no response yet.”
  5. Touch base with - “Hey, can I touch base with you on fourth quarter membership numbers?”
  6. Reach out to - “Let’s reach out to his assistant.”
  7. Follow up - “I’ll follow up shortly with a calendar invitation to confirm.”
  8. NLT - No Later Than
  9. COB - Close of Business (but really they mean right now)
  10. FYI - For Your Information (= you probably don’t need to know this, but they're forwarding it to you anyway because it makes them feel powerful)
  11. FYSA - For Your Situational Awareness (= you REALLY don’t need to know this, but they're forwarding it to you anyway)
  12. Heads up - "Heyyyy, just giving you a heads-up that I'll be submitting that presentation proposal today."
  13. On the same page - "It just feels like the leadership team isn't on the same page about our strategic priorities."
  14. Leverage - "We could really leverage some of our relationships in the nonprofit arena."
  15. Implement - "They have great ideas but they don't know how to implement any of them."
  16. Synergy - "Let's grab a coffee and discuss any possible synergies."
  17. Sync up - "I'm CC-ing my assistant on this; she'll make sure we sync up soon."
  18. Maximize - "We've got to maximize our resources in the remainder of the quarter."
  19. Front end - "I'm handling all the front end logistics of the conference..."
  20. Back end - "...and I need you to be there on the back end to make sure everything goes smoothly."
  21. Low-hanging fruit - This makes me very uncomfortable.
  22. Face time - Real life, not the app.  “It would be really good for you to get some face time with the VP.”
  23. Take it to the next level - What does this even mean, executives? Your minions don’t know what you want.
  24. Drinking from a fire hose - “The new employee orientation was overwhelming; it was like drinking from a fire hose!”
  25. Analytics - “Can you dig up some analytics to make this presentation look vaguely quantitative?”
  26. Baseline/Re-baseline - “You’ve got no slack left in the schedule. We’re going to have to re-baseline this pos.”
  27. Scope/Scope out - “Can you scope out the problems with the scope? I feel like we have some scope creep issues.”
  28. QA/QC (Quality Assurance/Quality Control) - “So many typos in that slide deck! It’s like we have no QA/QC in this joint.”
  29. Boil the ocean - “Let’s not try to do the whole system at once. I mean, we’re not trying to boil the ocean here.”
  30. Focus group - AKA, we’re going to ask you questions and then ignore your answers.


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