Zhooshing up your business language with made-up or unusual words

By Laura Bergells on
the word Zhoosh

“Zhoosh”. It’s a word that’s fun to say, but hard to spell.

It has its roots in Polari, the slang language of low creative and underground subcultures. And yet, I used the word “zhoosh” in a client work email last month.

Was I being professional? In the context I used it, it was a low creative risk.

It worked as a piece of flair to zhoosh up an otherwise dry, workaday missive.

As Stan Phelps of Purple Goldfish fame writes:

Wouldn’t the world be a brighter place if we all strove to put a little more zhoosh into the lives of others? Here’s a handful that I’m trying my best to make a small dent in the lexicon of life:

Lagniappe – similar to Zhoosh, a little something extra that’s added in customer experience for good measure. Mark Twain called it a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get.

Plussing – coined by Walt Disney, it’s kind of the verb of lagniappe. The act of looking at something and dong a little more to improve it and make it better by plussing it up.

Flawsom – the art of embracing what’s weird or weak, because our flaws hold the key to what makes us awesome.

Humanware – improving how our brain functions by sharpening our soft skills as we manage ourselves and perceive others.

Diamond Rule – the art of managing yourself under pressure and addressing the needs of others to avoid their triggers.

What unusual, risky, or completely made-up word choices have you used lately in a professional setting? How’d it work out for you?


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

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