Microspeak: On-board (verb)

Raymond Chen

Here are a few citations. On a list of activities:

  • On-board a new team member.

Presumably they mean bring on board. What makes this particularly interesting is that they didn’t convert a noun to a verb; they converted a prepositional phrase to a verb, demonstrating once again the malleability of the English language. Here’s a snippet from a blog post which seems to use the same meaning, but dispensing with the hyphen:

Over the past 4 weeks, we have been onboarding customers slowly.

On the other hand, there are usages whose intended meaning I can’t quite figure out. Some titles from documents I don’t have access to:

How to On-Board Tools on the Extranet
On-Boarding Kit

And a subsection from an old document:

On-Board Schedule

Milestone Target Date Status
Attend a client planning meeting Dec. 2005 Complete
Frooble analysis Meeting daily with ABC team to map out migration
On-Board to client dev Feb. 2006
Client dev TBD
On-Board to client test TBD
Client test complete TBD
On-Board to DEF TBD
DEF sign-off by GHI TBD
File migration TBD
Go-Live TBD

ABC, DEF, and GHI were TLAs I did not understand. Frooble is a made-up word substituting for the actual word in the schedule. (And yes, “Go-Live” is a noun.) As a final example, there is somebody at Microsoft whose official job title is Senior Onboarding Manager. If you can figure out what on-board means, you’re smarter than me.

Pre-emptive clever comment: Verbing weirds language.


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