Mouths wide shut

July 23, 1999

A while back I suggested that the word "totally" be dropped from the English language because of overuse. Now there’s something else I think should be dropped because of overuse. I can’t say it should be dropped from English because it’s not English. In fact, it’s not even a word. What I’m referring to is the grunt. At one time I thought the grunt was only used by teenagers and most people who work in the fast food industry. You’ve probably had the experience of placing an order in a fast food place, no pickles please, or asked the kid stocking the shelves in the grocery store where to find something, and gotten "Unrgh" (the closest approximation in written form) as an answer. Recently, though, I’ve realized that the grunt crosses all boundaries, including gender, age, and apparent economic standing. I’ve gotten into elevators with men in three-piece suits. When I say something like, "Would you please press the button for the seventh floor?" they reply with, "Grulgph." Translated, this apparently means, "Yes, certainly, I’ll be happy to, since I’m a complete jackass who insists on blocking anyone else from reaching the button panel." I’m not sure what the full implications of widespread grunting are, but I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities: the first is that human speech is making a remarkable leap forward, and that the almost imperceptible differences between one grunt and another carry levels of meaning which I’m not advanced enough to comprehend. The other possibility is that evolution has suddenly thrown itself into reverse. Of course it’s probably neither. Documented cases of teenagers being unable to communicate with anyone older than they are date back to the Roman Empire. Since fast food restaurants and grocery stores are mostly staffed by teenagers, that explains most of the grunting there. As for the men in the three-piece suits, I can only speculate that they’re part of the upper-level management in some large corporation, which means that they are evolutionary throwbacks. But, hey, somebody had to fill the position of Assistant Vice President of Post-Operative Customer Shipping Documentation. I know it sounds unlikely, but it would explain the pickles I found stuffed in my paycheck.

Enjoy this week’s articulate offerings.

You know you work in Corporate America if…

You sat at the same desk for 4 years and worked for five different companies

Your company welcome sign is attached with Velcro

Your resume is on a diskette in your pocket

Your company logo on your badge is applied with stick-um

You order your business cards in "half orders" instead of whole boxes

When someone asks about what you do for a living, you lie

You get really excited about a 2% pay raise

You learn about your layoff on CNN

Your biggest loss from a system crash is that you lose your best jokes

You sit in a cubicle smaller than your bedroom closet

Salaries of the members on the Executive Board are higher than all the Third World countries’ annual budgets combined

You think lunch is just a meeting to which you drive

It’s dark when you drive to and from work

Fun is when issues are assigned to someone else

Communication is something your group is having problems with

You see a good looking person and know it is a visitor

Free food left over from meetings is your main staple

Weekends are those days your significant other makes you stay home

Being sick is defined as can’t walk or you’re in the hospital

Art involves a white board

You’re already late on the assignment you just got

When 100% of your time means 20 hours, with 40 more hours on the other 100% of your time.

You work 200 hours for the $100 bonus check and jubilantly say "Oh wow, thanks!"

Dilbert cartoons hang outside every cube and are read by your co-workers only

Your boss’ favorite lines are "when you get a few minutes" or "when you’re freed up"

Your boss’ second favorite lines are "This isn’t exactly what we need. It may be what we asked for, but things have changed."

Vacation is something you roll over to next year, or you try to use up three weeks between Christmas and New Years because otherwise you will lose it, or you get a check for it every January

Your relatives and family describe your job as "works with computers"

Change is the norm

Nepotism is encouraged

The only reason you recognize your kids and friends is because their pictures are hanging in your cube

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