There are several phrases that are often used in marketing and communications that it’s time to retire, if there was ever a place for them. I’ve grouped them into two groups. The first group is primarily related to the use of military and gun metaphors and similes when referring to tactics. This is especially notable as I often work for clients that are involved in education, both software and services and with universities. The second group of words are those that are just tasteless and often I find that people don’t know the true origin of the phrases.
Military and gun phrases:
- “Boots on the ground.” – Most often used to refer to staff being onsite for an event with the original phrase referring to the placing of soldiers in harms way.
- “Bullets in the chamber.” – In PR it’s talking about how many opportunities still exist but in real life it’s referring to how many shots you have left after you’ve already fired.
- “Keeping our powder dry.” – I’ve heard people use this phrase to refer to holding something in reserve such as a tactic or a critical piece of information that they’d like to pull out later. Now, it’s been a long time since the primarily method of firing guns included pouring black powder into a gun and then following it with a wad and a ball, but when it did, it was necessary to keep the black powder from becoming wet so it would fire properly.
Phrases that I swear most people don’t know what they mean they use them:
- “Drinking the kool aid.” – This is used to describe believing in your own product or service and using it. Often used interchangeably with, “eating our own dog food.” The origin of this is the mass forced suicide/murder of 900, including several hundred children, followers of Jim Jones in the jungles of Guyana. He led them there after enthralling them in San Francisco, then when he believed the circle was finally closing in on him he forced them to drink grape Flavor Aid that was laced with cyanide.
- “Money shot.” – Generically used to refer to a big finish to a campaign, this is hysterically close to the original usage, but in that case it referred to a climactic shot in a porn movie. I’ll let you get specific.