Joshua Friedman traces this strain of peevery back to the early 20th century ("Jargon: It’s not the business world’s fault! Why we blame the wrong people for our most annoying phrases", The Boston Globe 9/15/2013):
“The spoken [English] of the Americans is now taking on a very pronounced commercial colour,” wrote the British expatriate editor Douglas S. Martin in a 1914 article for The Academy and Literature. “At the tea-tables in the St. Regis, in New York, and the Copley Plaza in Boston…the breezy gossip of the American woman is simply redolent of the broker’s office, the curb market and the warehouse.”
No realm was safe from this commercial talk. Young clergymen, for instance, were warned not to speak of “selling” a new idea to their congregations. “Just a bit envious of the precision and efficiency he notes in his visit to the president of the tomato-can factory,” wrote Lloyd C. Douglas in the Oct. 12, 1922, issue of The Christian Century, “he even finds it pleasant to adopt the tomato-can president’s business lingo, and tries to think of himself as a manufacturer. He is a manufacturer of ideals, he says.”
But when one looks closer at the complaints about business language being leveled in the 1910s and 1920s, one discovers a surprise: The offensive terms were generally just the slang of the moment. Here’s a partial list of words and phrases that Martin railed against: “stop in,” “deliver the goods,” “win out,” “the straight dope,” “make good,” “get away with it,” “put one over,” “show down,” “come across,” “get wise,” “on the level,” “bawl him out,” “got his number,” “get his goat,” “get warm around the collar,” “hit the ceiling,” “fall for it,” “get busy.” Why did people hear these expressions as business talk?
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