Strange untranslatable words that organizations use

I love words. Strange words. Rare words. Swear words. Words in three languages I speak and words in languages I do not understand. Even when does not understand a word, you can learn about its’ meaning from the context.

I especially love words in one language that have no equivalent in another language.

In French there is “connective” word “d’ailleurs”. Speak to a Frenchman or even a French woman, or read a newspaper article, or watch France 24, and that word appears again and again. It has about ten meanings, none of which I can understand. When I try to use the word, I use it improperly, much to my chagrin. D’ailleurs, I will give another example! ?

In Hebrew there an often used untranslatable word: davka. The word is used extremely frequently, in various contexts. Very few non-Hebrew speakers can understand it. Nevertheless, I will davka give it a try.

  • In a contrarian fashion. As in, he davka called her at 10 PM, although he knows she goes to bed at this time.
  • An unexpected contrast. As in, he davka went to the anti-government demonstration, although he voted for Bibi in the last election.
  • Indication of a negative surprise. As in, I travelled half way around the city to get to the License Authority and davka they were closed.
  • Indication of a positive surprise. As in “I got the Shingrix vaccine and davka felt fine; my brother was weak some time after he was vaccinated.”

I also have a thing for words that organizations use to show and hide real meaning. Most often strange words and terms both hide and show meaning. The words and terms may be code words. Or they may be words “sui generis”, one of a kind  to describe something that goes on in the organization.

Here are a few examples I have encountered over the past decades.

One t(w)o Five O. This indicates the first five members of the organization who are still around. But they are worth zero, yet hold important positions. It is indicative of management by seniority.

You saw it, you own it. This indicates a culture where in lieu of organizational clarity, issues are owned by champions, who push issues to conclusion. It is indicative of the refusal of an organization to scale.

Test for Basic Functionality.  This means, we know we promised something that can do 500 things, but really can’t. Can it do anything at all? If it can, let’s install it. This is indicative of a highly over committed organization.

Product Expert Troubleshooter. This indicates that there are product issues that very few people can solve, except for a few so called experts. The expertise, however,  often exists only because the product is undocumented, or written in spaghetti code, or those who developed it have left, except for the last Mohican, ie, the product expert troubleshooter.

Client Expectation Management This means that we are screwing our clients in the meantime, so someone needs to “cool the mark” down until we give them something beyond basic functionality.

What does all this mean for the OD consultant. If you use pre-packed OD tools, it means nothing. But if you are old-school OD, I suggest the following.

D’ailleurs, if you have any questions on the methodology of creating the dictionary, click the link.

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