Apr 6, 2019

1 generational thing: Are we speaking the same language?

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Being a millennial writer with a boomer editor has hiccups. Some days, I wonder if my editor, Steve, and I are speaking the same language.

Like the time he posed this question about a story pitch: "Is this about the man in the grey flannel suit?"


  • Steve explained that the idiom went back to a hit novel and film and cultural touchstone in the 1950s. It refers to a corporate cog in the machine — "just another man in a gray flannel suit."

This linguistic gap can make me nervous. Once, Steve inserted the phrase "inside dope" into one of my articles.

  • "My story has nothing to do with secret weed, if that's what you mean," I wrote Steve, with some sarcasm. But what the heck was the dope reference?
  • Slang for insider info, I learned.

More recently, Steve asked if a company I cover had established a "beachhead."

  • This one, I Googled. I now have a starting list for boomer military references.

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The big picture: COVID-19 has killed over 82,000 people and infected 1.4 million others globally as of early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Global recoveries have surpassed 301,000. Spain has reported the most cases outside the U.S. (more than 141,000) and Italy the most deaths (over 17,000). Half the planet's population is on lockdown.

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