Once upon a time in any given workplace, you could say this to anyone, and they would know what you meant, “So the whole team bought into this silly idea just because the CEO suggested it, it was so ‘emperor’s new clothes.’”
Today, if you were to say that to a Millennial, you would get a blank stare! You could translate, of course, to “Then they all drank the Kool-Aid!” (Though who even drinks Kool-Aid anymore?)
Therein lies the premise for this post. How long does a perfectly good and meaningful “shorthand” phrase last in pop culture? I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was a good time to review a few and see how they hold up. For the uninitiated, the origin of the “emperor’s new clothes” is a children’s story of a vain king tricked into parading before his subjects in his birthday suit by a tailor who claims he’s produced “magical” garments that only the worthy can see.
“This’ll get great PR, it’s a real Cinderella story.” In an informal poll, most 20-somethings know what the phrase means — “coming from rags to riches,” but not because they remember the glass slipper and original source material. They know it as the ultimate sports analogy, particularly in college basketball. Of course, were they to dig a little deeper, Cinderella is actually a tale of deception more akin to being “Catfished” today.
“Everything’s fine on the account; he was just crying wolf.” When I threw out this phrase, there was a vague sense that something called “Peter and the Wolf” existed, but when explained the parable, people immediately “got” that it meant inflating concern (over nothing) for attention’s sake.
“The minute we stepped into the presentation I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore.” The association to Oz was clear to most, but not the meaning of the phrase. Of course, through the years it has come to be shorthand for “we are way out of our comfort zone now.”
“Looks like we will be losing our client soon, since she just met her Prince Charming.” Easily understandable, but here’s the question for anyone reading. In what story does Prince Charming actually make his debut? I’m going with Sleeping Beauty.
Any examples of terrific shorthand that may not stand the test of time in your office? Let us know here.