NPR logo Overheard at the Water Cooler (in Translation)

Overheard at the Water Cooler (in Translation)

Just another day at the cube farm: prairie-dogging, facemailing and more .... iStockphoto hide caption

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A very bad play in (mercifully) one act, otherwise known as a crash course in cube-speak. Two colleagues in an office somewhere in America take a water-cooler break.

Not hip to cube-speak? Never fear: Below is our play in translation, with definitions from Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms by Paul Dickson. (Click here to read without translations.)

Britney: Boy, I needed a break from the cube farm [office filled with cubicles].

Kevin: No kidding! Did you catch the prairie-dogging [heads popping up over the tops of cubicles trying to see what's going on when something loud happens] when Caitlin's coffee-maker exploded?

Britney: At least it provided a little drama. I was seriously glazing [corporate-speak for sleeping with your eyes open; a popular pastime at conferences and early-morning meetings] this morning. Although did you get that weird e-mail that was being forwarded around?

Kevin: No, I think the digital hygienist [person who vets employee e-mails for obscene jokes and complaints about the company] struck again.

Britney: What are you working on?

Kevin: Oh man, I need to get granular [generally, and rather peculiarly, used in tandem with the verb "to get," meaning to examine the fine details] on the latest fire drill [crisis (usually imagined) that requires immediate and sustained attention].

Britney: Yeah, Irving is such a seagull manager [a manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, poops over everything and then leaves]. It's like, you gotta have triorities [the three important jobs your boss wants you to do at once] with that guy. I can't believe how long the obfun [obligatory fun; team-building exercises that are not optional, usually scheduled on top of the normal team meetings] lasted yesterday, as if we didn't already have enough to do.

Kevin: At least they served lunch. Did you see Tiffany's canfusion [bewilderment that results from staring too long at the free drinks in the kitchen cooler, trying to decide whether to have a Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, caffeine-free Diet Coke, etc.]?

Britney: Yeah, and the catering vultures [people who flock to an unattended catering site to pick through the remains of meeting food; these vultures are quite benevolent and reduce the amount of waste we produce] lurking in the hallway? Don't those people have any shame?

Kevin: Anyway, there was a cloud of bozone [the substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating; from Bozo the Clown] in that room. Where are all our idea hamsters [people who always seem to have their idea generators running]?

Britney: I think they realized working here was a big fat wombat [acronym: waste of money, brains, and time].

Kevin: Amen to that. Well, I guess I better get back to my cube. Nice facemailing [backward means of communication, clearly inferior to voice mail or e-mail; involves actually walking to someone's cube and speaking to him or her face-to-face] with you.

Britney: Excuse me, my cell is vibrating.

Kevin: Shhhh! Don't go all yellular [speaking with a raised voice in response to a bad cellphone connection, in the misguided hope that talking louder will improve the connection].

Britney and Kevin exit, stage left. Irving emerges from the shadows by the water cooler. He is their boss.

Irving: Darn those young people. I didn't understand a word they said!

Definitions from Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms by Paul Dickson. Published by Walker & Company.

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