The language of office mates

Becky
filed under: psychology
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Right off the bat, this post is in no way piggybacking on all the obesity-your social circle debate. I've worked in a ton of different workspaces--part of that is the (desultory) nature of my business, part of that I attribute to an especially roiling tween & teendom. But everywhere I've worked, there were always a few people with whom I experienced a workaday yet still severe kind of infatuation--either out of desperation because the job was either scary or boring or actually dangerous, or sometimes because the job was too good to be true and so was everyone in the office. What grew out of these infatuations, was, inevitably, lingo. A shared language. Of course there are always inside jokes 100% endemic to your suite number, and conversations that pick up exactly where they left off at the next lunch or coffee or perhaps smoke break. But I'm talking about the lexicon that develops at a work place, and its staying power.

Now, of course this verbal appropriation happens in close friendships and romantic relationships, but I'm particularly interested in how our officemates shape our phraseology--mostly because office life and language is more functionally public, more sanctioned, and perhaps more in need of verbal ciphers.
At my current office, I find myself calling everyone "Mary Louise." It's not because this is the name of anyone I know or aspire to know (though I'd love the opportunity!)--it's just a saying one of my coworkers started, and it took over the entire office. Any proper pronoun is now predicated by "Mary Louise." And anytime someone needs to be corrected on a work-related issue, we firmly say: "Absolutely not." Often: "Mary Louise! Absolutely not." This habit has so inculcated my daily routine that I now find myself addressing cars as such: "Mary Louise! Absolutely not."

Via another office, I found myself saying (wince) "For sure!" to any request, and then just in place of "Got it," or "I understand," in place of all affirmations: "For sure"--though it eventually morphed into a single Frrsurr. In all my West Coast offices, I quickly learned that everything was "hateful" instead of horrid or rotten or anything else, and I was quick to conform. Hateful, hateful, hateful. But beyond the workplace, I'm not sure my friends took these developments in my vocabulary to heart, but maybe that's because I was too busy noticing the words and phrases they'd picked up. The offices where this kind of magical sparring was most prevalent were all busy offices, and I suppose all this talk was a shorthand I haven't even begun to psychoanalyze--any linguistic determinists out there who'd like to try? Every place I work seems to turn into its own Wayne's World. Otherwise, have you noticed/spearheaded anything like this in your workplace?

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July 31, 2007 - 8:12pm
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