Office newspeak? Corporate bullshit? Linguistic thriftiness goes hand in hand with the pressure for workplace efficiency. Abbreviations for English business phrases and industry phrases have become so natural for us Czechs that in many cases we don’t even bother to seek Czech equivalents.
A company office is a social ecosystem of a sort, and one of the things that interlinks it is its own special language. It reflects the type of business, the company culture, and the level of communication among workmates. Some call it office newspeak or corporate bullshit. Some complain of awkward Anglicisms with Czech endings
One good introduction to the Czech of our age — an introduction that reaches far beyond just the office — is the printed version of the Čeština 2.0 website, released a few weeks ago by Melvil Publishers in Brno under the name Hacknutá čeština (“Hacked Czech”).
If you have some basic Czech knowledge, but this office-speak is a mystery to you, we recommend that you keep this book on your desk. (If you don’t have the good fortune to have your own permanent desk, at least leave it in your locker.) It will especially come in handy when you’re feeling gloomy, or after the kind of absurd situation your colleagues might call a “kokotoč”: endless wrangling over an unimportant issue.
The Čeština 2.0 project was launched in 2008 by Martin and Alice Kavka, who were soon joined by their friends, and later by language “donors” from the public. It’s still ongoing, so if you too have noticed some Czech linguistic gems, definitely don’t leave them for yourself.
A Brief Glossary of Office Newspeak
Asapák = someone who wants everything ASAP. An asapák is someone to whom you just can’t explain that you’re not their coffee machine. (source: Jobs.cz, Hacknutá čeština, p. 15)
BYLO – Before You Leave the Office = a stronger ASAP (source: Michal, Byznys Trip, p. 98), sometimes EOD – End Of the Day (source: Roman, December 13th, 2018)
Benevtip = “Vtip” means “joke,” and “benevtip” means a badly configured employee benefit that doesn’t offer any advantages, or that can’t realistically be used. “They offered me a benevtip at work. They say they’ll give me a work laptop… but I’m a programmer.” (source: José, Hacknutá čeština, p. 24)
DL – Deadline = just like in English (source: Roman, December 13th, 2018)
Kokotoč = endless wrangling over a meaningless issue (source: pepa, Hacknutá čeština, p. 119)
LTT – Len Tak Tak = a purely local Slovak abbreviation – “hardly” or “only just” (source: Michal, Byznys Trip, p. 98)
NTVL – No Ty Vole = a purely local Czech abbreviation, same meaning as LTT (source: Michal, Byznys Trip, p. 98)
PNR – Point of No Return = when a project can no longer be called off and has to be completed no matter what the cost (source: Roman, December 13th, 2018)
PowerPoint karaoke = the reading of entire slides during PowerPoint presentations (source: KTweetuje, Hacknutá čeština, p. 184)
Sedět za fíkusem = “Sitting behind the rubber plant,” trying to be as invisible as possible, so as to avoid a task or work. Maruška has been sitting behind the rubber plant for 15 years. And now the new boss is here and is turning up the heat. (source: Libor, Hacknutá čeština, p. 205)
Klioš = a universal name for the client, used in the services sector. Single-field variants also exist, like “pacoš” (for patients) in the medical sector. (source: Markéta, December 19th, 2018)
Preska = a press release. The favorite style exercise of PR agencies and companies’ press departments. (source: Markéta, December 19th, 2018)
Dělat socky = to prepare campaigns on social networks; marketing slang (source: Markéta, December 19th, 2018)
Photo by Jason Rosewell/Unsplash