Lingua Analytica, or How to Impress your Boss with Sniglets

Attorneys like to use phrases like "res ipsa loquitor" and "crimes of moral turpitude." Doctors talk about pharyngitis and rhinorrhea rather than sore throats and runny noses. Language can give an aura of authority, not to mention result in a slate of prime-time TV dramas.

If data analysts are to be appreciated as the keystone of the knowledge economy, we need to develop a language of our own. We need phrases and terms that mask our meaning from outsiders and provide a short-hand for common situations and struggles.

It starts here—with your help. We’ve collected a few of the words, phrases and sniglets ("a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn’t") that capture the flavor of our profession. But there is more work to be done; share your ideas in the comments and we will update this post on the fly. With any luck, we can be bamboozling your data-phobic friends in no time.

A starter list:

1. Chart-based encryption: A chart that has managed to fully masked the message of the data through poor design.

2. Execu-hole: A senior manager who requests analysis and reporting but doesn’t appear to read, comprehend or otherwise absorb the information.

3. Chartjunk: Popularized by Edward Tufte, "unnecessary or confusing visual elements in charts and graphs. Markings and visual elements can be called chartjunk if they are not part of the minimum set of visuals necessary to communicate the information understandably." [Wikipedia]

4. Pimp my chart: The process of creating reports, dashboards or individual charts that have a shiny surfaces, 3-D elements, and other exaggerated design elements. Related to chartjunk. Pimped-up charts are sometimes mistakenly presented as well-designed executive dashboards.

5. You sunk my battleship: When someone requests a meeting time that conflicts with one of only a few events you have on your calendar.

6. Atomic baloney slicer: Massive and complex enterprise software solution that attempts to do more than is necessary to solve the problem.

That’s a start, but we need your thoughts on these:

7. __________: A presentation that attempts to distract from the lack of substantive content or evidence with use of screenbeans, clip art, and other stock pictures or illustrations.

8. __________: A data file with more than 65,536 rows, thus making it impossible to load in Excel versions prior to Excel 2007.

9. __________: Charts that are left with the default Excel formatting.

10. __________: A spreadsheet that has grown organically to become thoroughly incomprehensible outside of the mind of the owner.

11. __________: A situation when someone describes a series of complex-sounding statistical techniques (e.g. multi-variate logistic regression, cluster analysis, ANOVA) in an attempt to impress others.

12. __________: An organizational problem where there is an excessive number of reports being generated and little understanding of the purpose.