People in business say the most bizarre things…they’re called corporate buzzwords. But what do they actually mean?

The next time you feel like touching base, or thinking outside the box, by all means do it. Just find out where the offending pieces of corporate jargon comes from might be surprised.

You’re fired!

Lord Sugar's famous phrase originally described a more heinous tribal act that occurred centuries ago.

In order to remove unwanted people from their clan, other clan members would burn their houses down. It was actually seen as being a favourable alternative to killing offenders.


Actionable actually used to be a legal word that referred to anything that had grounds for legal action.

Alas, the saying has been commandeered by the business world. We now use it to describe anything on which an action can be taken.

Lend me your ear

Like many famous phrases, this one comes from the wordsmith himself, Shakespeare.  In the play Julius Caesar, Mark Antony says, "Friends, Romans, countrymen; lend me your ear.”

Let’s touch base

Naturally, most people think that this office favourite comes from baseball.

However, touching base in the sporting sense is an isolated act that’s far removed from collaboration, which is what the ‘touching base’ of we pencil pushers has come to mean.

Others believe that the phrase has nothing to do with sport, and everything to do with the military. Military units on missions have to regularly check in with their base to let them know how everything is going.

A less popular theory is that it comes from music, where touching base is going back to the fundamentals of the melody.

Think outside the box

This one is fairly recent, and came from 1960s America. The box, of course, represents a rigid and restrictive structure that prevents you from finding a solution.

It’s all tied into the nine dots puzzle, where you have to connect a box of 9 dots, using just 4 straight lines. Click here to see the's a hint - try drawing outside the box, too.

All hands on deck

As its name suggest, this piece of nautical slang was originally used to call all crew members to a ship’s deck. It’s used in a less literal sense now, of course.

Exit strategy

Again, business world has latched on to military lingo. This saying started being used after the Gulf War, and the military interventions in the Balkans, the Caribbean and Africa.

During this time emphasis was placed on defining a clear plan to get all troops out of a foreign country before launching an overseas attack.  This was called an exit strategy.

By Tirebuck Recruitment

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