A desi take on corporate English

Do you use any of the terms below? I know I use many of them, but  I thought it would be fun to poke fun at the way we talk and write in a professional environment.

  1. Business casual: Explain this to me please. A collared shirt is “casual”. Now, add a man with a stick riding a horse and a 90 dollar price-tag. You now have “business casual”.
  2. Stakeholders: Is anyone physically holding a stake? Avoid this term unless you are in the business of supplying stakes to vampire-killers.
  3. Complimentary: Just call it a booby prize instead. Complimentary is a patronizing euphemism for minor frills that the client has already paid for, such as complimentary nuts with a 1000 dollar registration fee.
  4. Different timezones: This is usually a valid reason to miss a teleconference. India needs different timezones. We usually miss or are late for meetings, but this would give us a consistent excuse.
  5. Great men think alike: What a meaningless meme! Idiots think alike too. How else would you explain the Holocaust? The only reason to say “great men think alike” in a corporate setting is to steal credit for an idea.
  6. Leverage: Unless you lift heavy objects with a crowbar, you should not use leverage at work. Use “exploit” “bribe” or “blackmail”.
  7. Living document: You almost expect a living document to start flapping. Always keep a can of insecticide in your office. Spray anyone holding one.
  8. Moving forward: Moving forward, moving forward will not be necessary. Smart people will just use future tense. Now you decide.
  9. Networking: Something we are all expected to do, but which isn’t fun at all if you forget to bring your needle and thread.
  10. Office climate control: Air-conditioning controls temperature.  If you’re going to call it climate control there should at least be a monsoon setting.
  11. Season change: At any time of the year when someone says they have a cold, you should feign sympathy and say that it is due to season change. This is the polite yet uninterested answer.
  12. Testimonial: This one is unavoidable these days, I’m afraid. Ten years ago it was enough to tell someone that he or she was a good person. Now everyone expects a testimonial on Orkut or Linkedin.
  13. Witch-hunt: The use of this term in everyday conversation is unfortunate. Usually used in the search for a scape-goat. On a related note, I’m really glad we don’t use “bride-burning” idiomatically in India.
  14. Work-life balance: Whoever came up with work-life balance made sure both were distinct and that one came before the other.
  15. Turnkey solutions: If you use this unfortunate phrase make sure you leave out the “n” in the first word and that you just call it a typo.

Disclaimer: I’ve posted many of these on Twitter. This living document is a joke of course. My intention is not to offend anyone here, and the thoughts here are solely my own. Moving forward I hope to leverage existing synergies to create even sillier posts!

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban


34 thoughts on “A desi take on corporate English

    1. Hahaha… thanks for commenting Aashish. Maybe we can start out own consultancy? Or maybe just talk about starting one like everyone does?

    1. Thanks for reading. I’ve been following your blog for a while. Some of the idioms used in the English derive from times when bigotry was probably even more widespread than it is now.

  1. lol very very good Anirban and i sincerely pray that you never chair interview boards for hiring.Your understanding is just too good to trust the freshers who, poor things come with these hollow sentences that sound good but are just too hollow…and so chances are that u might land up rejecting everybody.
    Do they have any leverage here…hahaha!!!
    You are just too good in this post and i admire ur deep understanding. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Shivani. I come across more hard-boiled here on this blog than I really am. As I said, I think I use some of these myself, but I should be a bit more careful so I don’t come across as a hypocrite.

      Best wishes.

    1. Thanks, Vikas.

      That one is a bit more diplomatic in nature and a very good ploy to avoid embarrassing situations. Dialogue often goes something like this:

      “That is an excellent question and we are actively pursuing this area. I don’t have the numbers in front of me right now, and let us take this offline. We can discuss details in a smaller group.”


  2. I was also thinking of a post on the same lines, afterall “Great men think alike” 😀 😀 …

    Brilliant Ani, felt real good to read this stuff…I was craving for something twisted and here i got …

    1. Thanks, Rachna. I’ve had some other posts from my blog get picked up by Blogadda for Spicy Picks before. Feel free to browse and comment on some other posts too.


  3. “taa bolle ki hobe”….Lol !! I was planning to do a similar post, slightly different. Will still go ahead and do mine. Will tag you in it. For completeness. I have heard all of the above and do not have words except … “pitti jole jaye” .. !! Though I do not really exactly precisely know what “pitti” is..but I am “moving forward” with this “living document”… 🙂

      1. Thanks! That is awesome. I’ve got more ideas where that came from and I’m sure you do too. Let us keep “ramping up” these posts until either of us gets fired.

  4. I remember reading in Chetan Bhagat’s One night at the call center the use of the term ‘right sizing’ as euphemism for downsizing. I was very tickled by that one.

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