Too often we hear terms in meetings that we don’t understand. Yet, too embarrassed to ask for clarification. Sometimes its okay to stick out like a sore thumb. 

Sometimes these are terms that are mentioned by colleagues, managers, vendors and even customers.  Not knowing these terms and the context for using them can risk your credibility. Not speaking the same language can impact your ability to get things done and can alienate you from the group.

The risks can be significant. Lives could be on the line. Or at least careers. 

If you DON’T know the slang … you AREN’T in the club. Your ability to communicate with a group using these terms is limited or at best stilted. 

Why you should not stick out like a sore thumb.

Why Learn The Slang?

If you are looking to find a new job or break into a different segment of your company or into an entirely new market … learn the slang. Learn the lingo. 

Knowing the slang will enhance your ability to maintain credibility. It will  increase your ability to connect and perhaps to secure a job. It will also put others at ease. They’ll know you are part of the same conversation.

Whether you are changing roles within your company or whether you are seeking a new role in a new industry … Knowing the Slang is critical. 

How to Learn The Slang?

Ask the question. When a term is used that you don’t know … either ask about it right then and there and ask for the context. Or depending upon the nature of the meeting make a note of the term and ask for clarification later.  Other options include finding someone on the inside and asking them for guidance. Of course, you’ll want to make sure they are a friendly contact and open to answering questions.

If in doubt … Ask the question!

  • Why?
    • Because it’s better to be seen as clueless for a few minutes than to be clueless forever for not knowing.
    • A Risk is … Taking the wrong action based on your assumption of what you think a term means could be disastrous.
    • In some industries … this could mean life or death (think Medical care). In others it could just be the death of your career.
    • If in doubt … Ask the question!

Acronym Soup to not stick out like a sore thumb.

Every industry has it’s own terms and slang. Every industry has it’s own lingo. For example in the tech industry, where I have worked for quite a while, there are different terms for meeting requests and the actions to be taken after the meeting. Microsoft uses the term “S+” which means SchedulePlus. If you know this term, you’ve worked with Microsoft for a while and using this term will let others know that you know the lingo. Other companies use the term “MR” for Meeting Request. This is a simple and obvious mnemonic for an action or request to setup a meeting. Intel uses the term “AR” for Action Required. And the military uses the term “AAR” for After Action Report — many companies have adopted this term for their business dealings too.

The point is that every industry has it’s own slang, it’s own lingo. The medical industry, the legal industry, firefighters, teachers, etc. Knowing the slang and lingo for the industry identifies you as an insider. Even if you are new to an industry knowing some of the slang and lingo can help you.

Remember, if you DON’T know the slang … you AREN’T in the club. Your ability to communicate with the group using these terms is impacted. 

If you don’t know the slang … you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Take the time the learn the slang to learn the lingo. The career you save may just be your own.

Bonus Question — What terms are used in your industry and what do they mean? Add them to the comments so we call can be a little more clued into another industry.

Related Post: How to Not Ruin Your Holiday Christmas Party


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.