Beyond Words - Language Blog

Low-Hanging Buzzwords: The Etymology of 3 Corporate Favorites

Is your company pushing the envelope to create disruptive innovations outside the box? Have you considered how scalable your department’s synergy really is? Can your sales reps proactively leverage their resources to snatch up the lowest-hanging fruit? And is that a win-win situation for all?

Whether corporate buzzwords are a well-loved part of your daily conversations or an insufferable strain on the eardrums, there’s no escaping this prepackaged form of office vernacular. A recent article in The Atlantic gives some great insights into the notions these terms are meant to trigger in employees – a theory of business that touches on psychology, linguistics, and social trends. It’s also a management tactic that stretches back to the 1960s. Today’s bosses are far from uncharted waters when they request to sync up, reach out, and buy in. Below you’ll find 3 more corporate buzzwords and their origin stories.


The standard by which all other corporate buzzwords are measured, “synergy” is that desirable state of cohesion achieved through sustained “synergizing”, until the total effect produced is greater than the sum of its parts. Its Greek root synergos, meaning “working together”, conveys the word’s adaptability and broad application. It rolls off the tongue and is flexible enough to find a home in physics, chemistry, biology, behavioral science, and pharmacology, among other disciplines.


When an activity or task is said to be “in one’s wheelhouse”, it means that the person possesses a unique set of skills and expertise to get the job done. While the original meaning refers to the structure from which a captain navigates a ship, the term’s modern usage stems from the way the phrase has been used in baseball. When referring to a batter, the “wheelhouse” is the area of the strike zone that allows for best contact with the ball. The highest chance of hitting a home run happens when the ball is pitched “in one’s wheelhouse” – an idea that dovetails nicely with success in business.

Low-Hanging Fruit:

This highly-visual term has worked its way into a sales context to refer to easy customers. That usage first surfaced in the 1980s and has steadily beat out contenders like “easy as pie” and “like shooting fish in a barrel.” Language Log, a site run by University of Pennsylvania phonetician Mark Liberman, offers a fascinating mini-study into usage over time of five similar phrases, concluding with a set of literary examples.