Everyday there’s a lot of business jargon that gets flung across the conference table. Whether it comes out of the mouths of pricey consultants or tumbles from the lips of your cubicle mates, most business speak is simply slang—a colorful shortcut to what you really mean to say.

Are any of the following business euphemisms unfamiliar to you? You need the 411 on them, and don’t worry, you’re covered with the definitions.

Boil the ocean: Anything that requires you to boil the ocean is a very ambitious, possibly impossible project, one that could very well be a waste of time.

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Ducks in a row: Ever taken aim in a shooting gallery? You know it’s easier to hit your target if all your ducks—the targets—are in a neat row, ready to be picked off. If you have your ducks in a row, you’ve got everything organized and well-thought out. Conversely, if you don’t have your ducks in a row before the big corporate meeting, my friend, you’re toast.

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Table stakes: It’s like ponying up to play poker; there’s a minimum pay to play. The minimum requirements to engage in business are the table stakes. If you don’t have them, you’re sunk before you even get started.


Phone it in: It used to be that newspaper reporters called their editor with a late-breaking news story, so they could get it into the next edition. Nowadays, when you phone it in, it means you’re not trying very hard, and that your heart isn’t in the project. You’re just phoning it in, doing the minimum required to get by.

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Bleeding edge: More cutting-edge than, well, cutting-edge, to be on the bleeding edge means you have brought out the latest, shiniest newest product, the one all other companies in your industry would die to have developed first. Apple and Microsoft are always trying to one-up each other in this regard.


The Uber of [fill in the blank]: Uber must love all the free publicity they’re getting with this catchphrase. For instance, “ArticleBunny aims to be the Uber of Content Marketing.” It means that ArticleBunny’s product—expertly written content—is at your fingertips and available on demand 24/7.


Strategic vs. Tactical approach: The strategic approach is goal-oriented, big picture thinking: “We will see sales doubled this fiscal year through the roll-out of our new product line.” The tactical approach is hammering out what needs to happen to turn that goal into reality: “Then we need to insure our new product line is ready to roll midsummer.” Tactical approach follows closely on the sexy high heels of strategic approach. It’s the “how” of getting stuff done, the detailed action plan. Companies need both approaches to succeed.


Now that you’ve got the 411 on the jargon, feel free to begin using these phrases in a meeting. Or see if you can impress your next Hinge date when you casually drop one into conversation. Need to see these phrases in use first? Check out this “Stuff Business People Say” video from Avaya.