Lyrical Language

There are anywhere between 3,000-6,000 languages spoken in the world. Everyday new words emerge, languages disappear and old terms come back in vogue. It’s all up to us to preserve, invent and discard.

Words Adam Jacot de Boinod

Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of The Meaning Of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World, published by Penguin Books as well as The Tingo App For iPhones – The Unusual Word Game App


Great words from around the globe.

pozzy-wallah (British Tommies’ slang 1914-18) a man inordinately fond of jam

wo-mba (Bakweri, Cameroon) the smiling in sleep by children crambazzled (Yorkshire dialect, England) prematurely aged through drink and a dissolute life

smirting (US slang New York 2003) flirting between people who are smoking cigarettes outside a no-smoking office, Pub, etc.

mugwump (New York 1884) one who holds more or less aloof from party politics, Professing disinterested and superior views


The jargon of corporate life may seem absurd to the outsider, rich as it is in the most colourful of metaphors. But it’s certainly guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest day:

takeaway nuggets insights or information resulting from a meeting or interaction

sunset clauses stipulations that a contract or regulation will lapse unless renewed
to wash its own face to justify or pay for itself

Push the peanut to progress an arduous and delicate task forward

ketchup-bottle a long period of inertia followed by a burst of exaggerated activity; the unplanned release of pent-up forces swallow your own smoke to take responsibility for and/or suffer the consequences of your mistakes


But why are things so often discussed in animal terms? Is it because of a desperate subliminal desire to get out of the office?

shoot the puppy to dare to do the unthinkable

prairie dogging popping one’s head above an office cubicle out of curiosity or to spy on colleagues

lipstick on a pig an attempt to put a favourite spin on a negative situation

a pig in a python a surge in a statistic measured over time

boiling frog syndrome a company which fails to recognise gradual market change (as a slowly boiled frog may not detect a slow temperature increase)

moose on the table an issue which everyone in a business meeting knows is a problem but which no one wants to address

elephant in the room the big problem that is obvious to all but which everyone ignores or avoids mentioning because it might be politically or socially embarrassing

seagull manager a manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, and then leaves


In good times and bad, the highly-paid practitioners of both the City of London and Wall Street have couched their dubious activities in their own specialised jargon:

Jennifer Lopez / Jay-Lo (Wall Street 2004) the rounding bottom in a stock’s price chart

poop and scoop to drive down a share price by spreading malicious rumours

mattressing (UK 2008) the term used by other traders and bank managers to hide their results

barefoot pilgrim (1980s) someone who has lost everything on the stock market, but might still be persuaded to invest again

teddy bear pat (1980s) a letter or telephone call indicating that a suitor was about to make a takeover offer (this gave the target company a chance for a friendly merger)

catch a falling knife (2008) to buy a stock as its price is going down, in hopes that it will go back up, only to have it continue to fall

strong bear hug (1980s) a tender offer that named a specific price, so had to be made public (this tactic backed the victim into a corner because a company’s directors have a responsibility to the shareholders to accept any good offer; the offers were pitched to be marginally too attractive to reject)


Office Acronyms

SWOT Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (a favourite of consultants)
PICNIC Problem In Chair, Not In Computer
WOMBAT Waste Of Money, Brains And Time
POET’S Day Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday (essentially referring to Friday)


Once upon a time, we were all quite happy to say exactly what it was we did. But as status has become ever more important, some quite straightforward occupations have developed some quite preposterous titles:

vision clearance engineer
a window cleaner
stock replenishment adviser
a shelf stacker
dispatch services facilitator
a post room worker
head of verbal communications
a receptionist /secretary


Some short words or phrases ‘become’ tongue-twisters when repeated, a number of times fast (try it):

Thin Thing
French Friend
Red Leather, Yellow Leather
Sometimes Sunshine
Irish Wristwatch
Big Whip
Unique New York

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