Are you willing to 'shoot the puppy'?

Ever performed a muppet shuffle? Gone to the bleeding edge? Although most people find them annoying, the bizarre corporate metaphors just keep coming. Here's the MoneyWeek guide.

Two in three people find workplace jargon "annoying or very annoying" and think it is used mainly to show off rather than convey information, says Tony Thorne, head of the Language Centre at King's College in London. Unfortunately, this hasn't prevented more and more bizarre corporate metaphors from joining the lexicon. Thorne's latest book Shoot the Puppy (Penguin, £12.99) collates and explains all the latest expressions. Some of the most colourful examples include the following:

The bleeding edge: some way beyond the well-known business clichs leading edge' and cutting edge', this takes us "several steps further into the unknown", says Thorne. It has become popular in the US among young entrepreneurs.

Big uglies: this refers to established firms in traditional sectors the Old Economy'. The expression originated in America, where big companies in the mining or oil industries were deemed ugly because they caused environmental damage.

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Jumping the shark: the point at which a good idea turns bad. This has its origins in an episode of TV series Happy Days, when an overly desperate plot device heralded the show's subsequent decline. Tom Cruise's antics on Oprah Winfrey's talk show spawned jumping the couch' an embarrassing misjudgement.

Kicking dead whales down the beach: unlike pushing rocks uphill or nailing jelly to a tree, the phrase doesn't refer to an impossible task, but one that is deeply unpleasant, seemingly endless, but often essential. It probably surfaced during the 1980s, when companies began to shift from mainframe to desktop computers, a transformation that created backbreaking workloads.

Muppet shuffle: a charmless euphemism for underperforming or troublesome employees, it refers to shifting them to other unsuspecting departments or creating new roles that effectively neutralise them.

Thoughtshower: supposedly a more politically-correct successor to brainstorm, it achieved notoriety two years ago when the BBC was reported to be insisting on its use in internal training courses.

Shoot the puppy: is all about ultra-macho decision-making, several steps beyond "grasping the nettle" or "biting the bullet", says Thorne. Although now used satirically to describe ruthless business decisions, it originally referred to how far contestants on US television game shows would be prepared to go for cash or fame.

by Graham Buck

Graham Buck

Graham has spent the past three years as a cash management editor at Deutsche Bank. Graham started off as a Risk Management Professional editor at Perspective Publishing for two years, then became a writer at The Treasurer for 5 years and then an editor at for 5 years. He then freelanced for 5 years where he reported on corporate treasury issues, risk management, insurance/reinsurance and pensions. Graham has a degree in English Literature from the University of Bristol and he has contributed to MoneyWeek’s share tips.