Archive for Jargon

Much ado: more about corporate jargon

Comments (11)


Recently, we've had occasion to discuss how waitpersons in restaurants tend to say "perfect" no matter what we order (see, for instance, in the comments here).  Lately, I've noticed how the craze for perfection has spread to the grocery business.

I have a habit of carrying cash (my Chinese students barely know what cash is) around in a change purse (for coins and dollar bills) and a billfold for fives, tens, and twenties.  When it comes to paying, I have two general rules of thumb:

1. If possible, I like to pay the exact amount of the bill

2. I like to get rid of an excess of heavy change and bulky dollar bills that rapidly accumulate in my purse

To meet both of those desiderata, that sometimes entails fussing around a bit to count out the right amount.  It might mean that I end up giving the cashier slightly more than the exact amount.  Sometimes I even come up a penny or two or three short, in which case the cashier might make it up from the kitty.  No matter what, they almost always say "perfect" — especially  if I give them the precise amount owed, or close to it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)

Eco-Language and the Anthropocene

In his blog post, "Grassland logic, Agrilogistics and Hanspace Cosmologies — Robin Visser’s Disruptive 'Questioning Borders'", Bruce Humes called this new book by Robin Visser to our attention:  Questioning Borders: Ecoliteratures of China and Taiwan (Columbia University Press, 2023).

Here's the book description from the press:

Indigenous knowledge of local ecosystems often challenges settler-colonial cosmologies that naturalize resource extraction and the relocation of nomadic, hunting, foraging, or fishing peoples. Questioning Borders explores recent ecoliterature by Han and non-Han Indigenous writers of China and Taiwan, analyzing relations among humans, animals, ecosystems, and the cosmos in search of alternative possibilities for creativity and consciousness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

On-the-job jargon

There seem to be a lot of people complaining about it these days, so maybe there's something to worry about here.  Francois Lang, who called this current wave of criticism to my attention asks whether academia is isolated from such horrors.

FWIW, here's what it's like in business:

"A look at the most annoying workplace jargon and why people are bothered so much"

NPR (September 5, 20235:15 AM ET), Heard on Morning Edition

I'll mention my favorite right off the bat:  "reach out to you".  I don't think it made the NPR list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (57)

Have a good / great (rest of [your / the]) day

In the "old days", when you were departing from a store or other premises, people would say to you, "have a good day".  In some cases, they might replace "good" with "great".  Within the last year or two, however, I've been hearing people who work in shops more and more say "Have a good rest of the day" or "Have a good rest of your day".  When I first heard such goodbyes, especially the latter variant, I thought they were unnatural.  I am still somewhat taken aback when I hear this sort of adieu, but since so many shopworkers and other people are saying it to me nowadays, I am gradually beginning to take it for granted, and am almost tempted to say it to others instead of "goodbye" once in a while, but it will take some time, maybe years, before I grow accustomed to saying it myself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (20)

Ask LLOG: Furniture?

Bob Ladd wrote to ask about the word furniture, found in a note at the end of an online Guardian story (Ollie Neas, "‘Burned the hill down’: billionaire’s runaway fireworks spark New Zealand furore", 1/3/2023), which read

This article was amended on 3 January 2023. The original furniture said the fireworks display was on Christmas Eve. This was incorrect and has been removed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)

Wait until leader clears the lunar

Riding the trolley from West Philadelphia going to University City,

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

Chinese fuzzwords and slanguage of the year 2021

If you want to get an idea of what preoccupies Chinese people, one good way is to take a gander at current lingo. SupChina provides a convenient compilation from two authoritative sources.  In the past, I've been disappointed by many Chinese words of the year lists because they seemed to have been blatantly chosen by government bureaus with a political bias in mind.  The lists assembled below strike me as more genuine and less skewed toward the wishes of authorities.  That is to say, they match well with my own perception of what people are thinking and talking about on a daily basis, and the words they use to express themselves.  So here goes:

"China’s top buzzwords and internet slang of 2021"

Two year-end lists of popular slang words and internet catchphrases were published this week. The words offer a glimpse into what’s on the minds of Chinese internet users and Chinese government officials. Here are all 16 words on the lists.

Andrew Methven, SupChina (12/8/21)

The fact that four of the expressions appear on both lists is reassuring that they represent actual preferences of Chinese citizens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

The statistical meat axe

A note from Neville Ryant:

I was just reading Bradley Efron's original paper for the first time in years and couldn't help but chuckle at this gem in the acknowledgments:

I also with to thank the many friends who suggested names more colorful than Bootstrap, including Swiss Army Knife, Meat Axe, Swan-Dive, Jack-Rabbit, and my personal favorite, the Shotgun, which, to paraphrase Tukey "can blow the head off any problem if the statistician can stand the resulting mess."

Just imagining writing in a paper that "the meat-axed 95% confidence intervals are presented in Table…"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

The source of "cum-ex"?

"It May Be the Biggest Tax Heist Ever. And Europe Wants Justice." NYT 1/23/2020:

Martin Shields and Paul Mora met in 2004, at the London office of Merrill Lynch. […]

Today, the men stand accused of participating in what Le Monde has called “the robbery of the century,” and what one academic declared “the biggest tax theft in the history of Europe.” From 2006 to 2011, these two and hundreds of bankers, lawyers and investors made off with a staggering $60 billion, all of it siphoned from the state coffers of European countries.

The scheme was built around “cum-ex trading” (from the Latin for “with-without”): a monetary maneuver to avoid double taxation of investment profits that plays out like high finance’s answer to a David Copperfield stage illusion. Through careful timing, and the coordination of a dozen different transactions, cum-ex trades produced two refunds for dividend tax paid on one basket of stocks.

One basket of stocks. Abracadabra. Two refunds.

You can learn more about this from the source at But since this is Language Log rather than Evil Bankers Log, I'm going to focus on the claim that "cum-ex" is from the Latin for "with-without".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)


Here's a simply titled article from China Daily:

"Opening up of financial market continues" (9/26/19).

The article may have a plain title, but it is full of gibberish.  The concluding sentence takes the cake:

Therefore, the securities market as the focus of the internationalization of the entire financial market must be targeted in order to truly realize the internationalization of the market and the internationalization of finance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (16)

Hong Kong protesters' argot

The whole world is transfixed by the gutsy rebellion of Hong Kong citizens against the militarily powerful PRC imposed government under which they live.  Language — spoken, written, and gestural (see the "Readings" below for examples of all three types) — plays an important role in maintaining their solidarity and camaraderie and in emphasizing their identity as Cantonese citizens.  Their common mother tongue of Cantonese already sets them off from Mandarin speakers from the north, but their development of a unique jargon further distinguishes them from Cantonese speakers who are not part of their movement:

"Hong Kong's Protestors Have Their Own Special Slang. Here's a Glossary of Some Common Terms", Hillary Leung, Time (9/6/19):

Although many would accuse the protesters of making light of violent unrest, the use of slang “keeps people sane,” argues Wee Lian Hee, a language professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. “If [protestors] talk formally all the time, I suspect the movement would soon become tiresome,” he tells TIME.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


An anonymous correspondent reaches out (cf. "May I ask you a question?" [6/12/17]):

So, from one jargonista to another: here’s a frustrating set of related neologisms, again from my increasingly confused and pathetic campus administration:

We’ve gone from “interdisiplinary” and “crossdisciplinary” to “multidisciplinary”, but the new buzzword on our campus is “transdisciplinary” (not sure if hyphens are used in some cases). Our entire campus is trying to recluster itself around 5 key “Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence”, of all things.

Perhaps not worth analyzing, but a deplorable sign of the times, when academic institutions are focused on “branding”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (24)