The Problem With Sports Analogies and Jargon

I’m going to have to start reconsidering my reliance on sports terms and analogies after my coaching session yesterday with a Banking technologist from Great Britain.

For example, he explained to me that you have to be careful if you use the phrase “We had better just punt on this one.”

For me,  “to punt” is a reference to American football. When a team punts, it’s giving up, turning over the ball to the other team.  You might say,  “Things aren’t going well on this project. I think we need to punt.”

But my British client explained to me that as a Rugby player, he would take the phrase “to punt” to be the complete opposite. In Rugby, he points out,  when you punt, the kicking team has the chance to run down the field and get the ball, unlike in American football.  So even though it’s a risky play, it can result in a long gain.  If Rugby is your frame of reference, then you might use the phrase “to punt” like this: “This project is having trouble but I have an idea that might really help us. I think we should punt and see what happens.”

Take care when you select analogies and jargon. Make sure that your “punt” is the same as your audience’s “punt.”

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