I HATE THE PHRASE “OPEN THE KIMONO”
… And that’s all I really wanted to write in this post but I feel like I should say something more than just 7 words.
It’s the worst and it should be struck from your vocabulary.
WHY IT’S THE VERY WORST PHRASE
The meaning is pretty obvious: It’s an analogy used to describe a full revelation, drawing on the image of someone taking off their Asian wraparound garment to bare their nakedness. Apparently the phrase came about in the 1990’s. It shouldn’t have been said then yet it persists annoyingly today.
“We really need to open the kimono on these financial reports”
“If that company wants us to acquire them, they’ll need to open their kimono on their client-base.”
“Bob, I’m going to open the kimono here and tell you how I really feel about your workplace performance.”
I’m trying to articulate why it repulses me so much and I think there are five reasons but I reserve the right to add more reasons as I think of them:
- It’s distracting to suddenly insert a weird phrase into a sentence. It reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live sketch in which regular English-speaking people suddenly start pronouncing words like “tortilla” and “salsa” with exaggerated Mexican accents).
- It serves little purpose because it’s a 3 word analogy that replaces a more useful and meaningful single word.
- It seems to be frequently used by people who want to sound smarter and more cultured. (Yeah, that’s not always the case and if you used it, I’m sure you’re the exception, but that has been my general observation).
- We wouldn’t dare use an analogous Western version of the phrase. We would never sit in a conference room and say: “Take off your pants and underwear”. (“Bob, I’m going to take off my pants and my underwear and tell you how I really feel about your workplace performance.”)
- The phrase has a touch of exotic wisdom, as if Confucius or Sun Tzu uttered this phrase many years ago. And although Confucius and Sun Tzu were wise men, their wisdom is frequently (and abhorrently) applied to business. (Clarification: I’m a huge fan of Sun Tzu’s Art of War and I think there are some parallels between war and business but my complaint is against the trite fortune cookie usage of ancient wisdom).
10 THINGS YOU CAN SAY INSTEAD OF “OPEN THE KIMONO”
- Pull back the curtain
- Lay bare
- Lift the veil
Wow! So many great words that mean the same thing, they are clearer, they are less about nudity, they are shorter, and they won’t make you sound like you’re trying to impress everyone with your ability to use already-overused business jargon!