by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
40 YEARS AFTER “NINE TO FIVE” - OFFICE JARGON WITH A BISL YIDDISH
In 1980 Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton starred in the 110-minute movie, “9 to 5.”
Nevertheless, its “strong,” “sassy” protagonists exhibit “amazing chemistry and are a joy to match” and Parton’s theme song sure is “catchy.”
The song “9 to 5” not only reached number one on the country charts, but also, in Feb. 1981, reached number one on the pop and the adult-contemporary charts.
20 years later, what office/business jargon will today’s secretary/administrative assistant face on a daily basis? The words “typing pool” are so yesterday. Let’s examine some newer and older jargon from A - Z:
Al Desko (adj.) Describes any meal eaten at an office desk (You have our sympathies if it’s dinner). Ex. “I slept in so I’m having breakfast Al Desko.”
ALAP (adj.) As late as possible. Ex. “I finished the report last week, but I’m going to submit it ALAP.”
All-hand meeting (n.) “ale-hant begegenish” A mandatory meeting for all employees.
Alpha pup (n.) Trendsetting young people. The coolest kid on the block. Ex. “If the alpha pups like it, we can roll out nationwide.”
Anecgloat (n.) A story designed to make the speaker look good. May be partially fictional.
Anointed (n.) “gezalbt” An employee that can’t seem to do anything wrong in the eyes of management.
Apple polish (v.) “epl polir” To suck-up; flatter (“khanfenen”)
Bacon job (n.) “beykon shtele” A project with no shortage of volunteers; a plum position.
Balls in the air (exp.) Number of outgoing tasks. Used when feeing maxed out like a busy juggler. Ex. “Let’s meet again when I have fewer balls in the air.”
Bell (n.) A phone call. Ex. “Give us a bell before you leave work today.”
Big enchilada (n.) An important person within the organization.
Bloombergsmanship (n.) The art of using Bloomberg’s signature financial news terminal so well that it makes up for a total lack of experience in finance.
Blue hairs (exp.) “bloy kherz” a derogatory term for female seniors.
Break your crayons (exp.) To harm of insult another. Ex. “I don’t mean to break your crayons, but your performance has been terrible lately.”
Brown-bag (v.) “broyn (paper) papir zekl” To discuss topic over lunch. Ex. “Let’s brown-bag your idea and get this meeting back on track.”
Business-macho (adj.) “gesheft matsho” Describes a male office worker with his shirt opened too far at the neck—at least one “knepl” (button) beyond what could be considered business casual.
Stir Fry (exp.) (“kokh preglen”) Can I stir fry an idea in your think-wok? Can I have your opinion on this issue?”
Captive lunch (n.) “gefangener lontsh” When management wheels in the sandwiches at 12 p.m., just when you thought you could escape to run a few errands.
“Chaim Yankel” (Yiddish exp.) A mister nobody in the office. His favorite cubicle color is beige.
Circular file (n.) “kaylekhik teke” Old-fashioned term meaning “the garbage can.”
Cowboy (n.) “kovboy” A worker that is difficult to supervise (“ufpasn”).
CPS: Certified Professional Secretary; Conducting Personal Business (during business hours)
Cubicle vultures (n.) “kubik valtsherz” Those who gather office supplies from the desk of a fired co-worker.
Cyberslacking (v.) Wasting company time by casually browsing the internet or instant messaging (“rege mesijing”).
Deceptionist (n.) “opnar” The receptionist whose job is actually to delay or block potential visitors. Ruthless with a polite, perfect smile (“shmeykhl”).
Desk dive (n.) The painful crawl (“krikhn”) underneath your desk to unplug equipment or fetch a dropped item.
Desk jockey (exp.) “shraybtish zhokey” An office worker (“ofis arbeter”)
Deskfest (n.) Breakfast (“frishtic”) eaten at your desk
Enail (n). Not a typo. An email sent for the sole purpose of making a point in writing, usually at another person’s expense.
Fairy dust (n.) “feye shtoyb” The finishing touches on a project. Ex. “Sprinkle the fairy dust on that one for me, will ya?”
File thirteen (n.) “teke 13” The garbage can.
Free cell (n.) “frey kubik”—cubicle. An empty cubicle that was formerly inhabited by someone who played too many games of Free Cell.
Hot-Desking (v.) The practice of having a group of employees share a section on unassigned desks.
ITL (adj.) in the loop “in di shleyf” Aware of key issues.
Jingle (n.) A phone call. Ex. “Just give me a jingle before you head home today.”
Jobstopper (n.) A tattoo on a part of the body that isn’t covered by business casual.
Keyboard plaque (n.) “kibard plan” The collection of greasy dirt that builds up on keyboards. “Schmutz.”
Knot up (v.) To don a tie for a particular meeting or presentation. Ex. “Clients are here in 10…time to knot up, boys.”
Mommy track (n.) “Mom shpur” The dead-end career path on which those with family responsibilities sometimes find themselves.
Office philosopher (adj.) “ofis filosof” Worker who hangs this sign: THIS PRINTER IS HERE TEMPORARILY. IN THE GREATER SCHEME OF THINGS, AREN’T WE ALL?
Office pretty (adj.) “ofis sheen” A female coworker that is attractive only in comparison to others at the office. Ex. “After I ran into Shulamith, I realized she was just office pretty.”
OT mail (n.) OverTime mail. “mit di tseyt post” The procedure of sending your boss a superfluous email, just to let him know how late your were working.
Phone shui (n.) In thick buildings, this is the art of adjust- ing the placement of your cellphone to find a signal.
Photox (v.) Improving the appearance of one’s face in a using photo editing software.
Ping (v.) To contact or notify. Ex. “Ping the boss about this one later.”
Presenteeism (n.) The practice of working ridiculously long hours.
Putting socks on an octopus (v.) Attempting an impossible task. Ex. “Closing these latest prospects is like putting socks on an octopus.”
Safe harbor (n.) “zikher port” The office bathroom. Often the only place to find a moment of peace at work.
Shirt size (n.) “hemd grey” The quantity of effort required to complete a task, as S, M, L, etc. Note the higher absentee rate when the task is recorded as XXL!
“shoys-komputer” - Yiddish word for “laptop computer.”
SME (n.) Subject Matter Expert (“untertenik mumkhh) The resident guru for a given topic. “I can’t remember how to work this damn photocopier. Which secretary is the SME for this “machin”?
Speaker-phone voice (n.) “redner telefon kul” The characteristic value level that people feel they must use when on speaker phone.
Strange new trend (exp.) “modne na gang” People putting names on food in the company fridge. Today I had a tuna sandwich named Kevin!
Suggestion box (“forshlog kestl”) Warning: Suggestions can be “sakonedik” (dangerous) to your career.
Tree killer (n.) “boym killer” Someone who insists on printing every email, document, and webpage they come across.
Tasked (v.) “taskt” Ex. I’ve been tasked with bringing fresh coffee to “di zitsung” (the meeting).
Twobicle (n.) A cubicle built for two - “geboyt far tsvey”
Unkeyboardinated (adj.) When you’re unable to type w/o repeatedly making mistakes. They haven’t learned that “one typo can mean the difference between hired and fired.”
Vubicle (n.) A cubicle that abuts a window; a cubicle with a view (“oysblik”).
Woods, Rose Mary - FYI - Woods was a blazing typist and master of Gregg shorthand. As President Nixon’s secretary she thought she might have actually erased 18 1/2 minutes of a tape when she reached to answer her phone and her foot extended to the “erase” lost pedal, in 1974. Her typewriter (“shrabmashin”): an IBM Exec. Model D. The “prayz” (cost): $995.
Xerox subsidy (n.) “xirax” The practice of using the company’s photocopier, printer, or fax machine for personal reasons.
XXL (exp.) Ex. “I’m working from home today. I’m not doing any work today.