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YOUR CAREER

Are the expressions you use dating you?

Certain expressions immediately make people think of another era. Among these are the cat’s pajamas, the apple of my eye, hold your horses, and a feather in your cap.

Perhaps your parents or grandparents peppered their conversations with these expressions; if so, these sayings, while outdated, might make you smile.

However, it’s unlikely you’d tell an employee that an accomplishment is a feather in his cap—and, if you did, he may not know what you mean.

Management professionals strive to keep up with the times, and this includes communicating in the language of the day, which involves using contemporary idioms. Yet there are expressions that creep into everyday conversation that aren’t contemporary. In fact, some are so outdated that they are no longer accurate.

What’s more, these expressions make you seem as old as the hills, even though you’re hip and happening.

Here are a few expressions you’ll want to avoid, now that you’re living in the 21st century.

Dial in. Are you really planning to dial in to a conference call or a webinar? Unless you still use a rotary phone, you shouldn’t use this expression. Instead, say “call in.”

In all fairness, individuals aren’t the only ones guilty of perpetuating this throwback term. Citrix, the provider of GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar platforms, gives users “dial-in numbers” and instructs them to “dial in.”

Nevertheless, because most businesses haven’t “dialed in” in decades, it’s recommended that you call in.

Broken record. Saying someone sounds like a broken record makes you sound outdated. And as with using the expression “a feather in your cap,” a staff member may not even know what you’re talking about.

It means to say the same thing over and over again. A vinyl recording, when scratched, causes the needle or stylus to get stuck in the same groove and play it over and over again, which is where the expression originated.

Even though there has been a resurgence of vinyl record sales, most people under a certain age have never had the “broken record” experience. With this in mind, you should nix this expression. And while you’re at it, you may want to avoid reminding your staff that you were at Woodstock.

Carbon copy. Saying that someone is a carbon copy of another person means that he is an exact duplicate.

The problem is most people in the workplace have never made carbon copies.

Carbon paper dates back to the days of typewriters. People would insert carbon paper between two sheets of paper before typing in order to create a duplicate or carbon copy.

Why didn’t they just use a copy machine? It hadn’t been invented yet. Xerox introduced the first copy machine, then known as a photocopier, in 1959. It took many years for the machines to become affordable, and even longer for portable copiers, like those used by many small businesses, to become available.

So, if you’re using the expression carbon copy it sounds like you were in the workplace in the ’50s or ’60s. Even if this is the case, you don’t want to remind your staff that you started your career before there were even copy machines.

These are only three expressions that will immediately date you. No doubt you can come up with others.

In addition, you’ll want to be aware of any tendency you might have to stereotype by gender. Although these are word choices rather than expressions, they fall into the category of using contemporary language in order to appear professional—and not date yourself.

Policemen, firemen, men in the military. People, especially those of a certain generation, sometimes still use these terms.

As with “dial in,” these terms are no longer accurate. In addition to making you look outdated, these word choices can make you look sexist. You may also offend a coworker or staffer who has a female family member serving in one of these capacities.

Instead, opt for the gender-neutral police officer, fire fighter, and members of the military.

When it comes to word choices and other expressions used in everyday conversation, you want to make sure you get with the program, which for the purpose of your career means continuing to appear contemporary and dynamic, regardless of your age. After all, those young whippersnappers have nothing on you.


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