In my ongoing series of blogs about the weird things we say in the corporate world, I am continuing with my strategy of finding people who are far, far away from the corporate world and asking them to define some of the corporate expressions we lob around on a daily basis. In previous blogs, I have directed my questions to my mom and a group of retired school teachers as well as my niece and a group of middle school “tweeners.” As I continue my quest to become a real journalist who doesn’t just interview his mom, I determined that I needed to move beyond my family for my hard hitting interviews. It was time to take this to a group of total strangers. And in the spirit of one of my favorite movies, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I took it straight to the heart of America – the local Circle K. Hey, why not? In the movie, it helped Bill and Ted uncover who the historical figure, Marco Polo was, and real life is exactly like movies about time traveling baffoons. So I decided to give it a shot.

sticky wicketI decided to ask a group of perfect strangers who shopped at Circle K if they knew what a “sticky wicket” was. How did I arrive at sticky wicket? I happened to be working on a project at one of my clients with a team member who used the expression regularly. Like many people, I was too insecure to admit that I didn’t know what it meant. So I of course researched it on my own. Here are some other interesting responses from people who were very much like me in their ignorance of the term when I approached them about sticky wickets:

  1. “Sorry, I’m not interested. I don’t contribute to public solicitors…” (I think in this case the person thought I was selling sticky wickets but I do fully support his desire not to be confronted with public solicitation)
  2. “Is it a candy? Do they sell it here?” (It certainly isn’t a candy, but I’m pretty sure that if someone came out with a candy called the Sticky Wicket, I’d probably buy it)
  3. “Huh. Never heard that one before. Is it something you use to stick things together?” (Not a bad guess, I suppose given that the word “sticky” was in the expression)
  4. “I know what sticky means but have no idea what a wicket is…”
  5. “It means kind of like the expression, ‘being between a rock and hard place’. A tough situation…”

Now to the actual definition of this strange corporate expression. Survey says:

“A sticky wicket, (or sticky dog, or glue pot) is a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance. It originated as a term for difficult circumstances in the sport of cricket, caused by a damp and soft pitch.”

The conspiracy theorist in me says that Circle K shopper #5 had to be a plant by someone in the corporate world. I can’t prove it, though. Turns out he was correct! As I contemplated the other responses I received, I suspected that most people in Corporate America probably haven’t played an extensive amount of cricket in their day. And it certainly seemed as though my Circle K sample hadn’t either. Maybe I’ll become a truly global journalist and take this to the streets the next time I’m on a business trip to Australia, the UK, or India.  Until then, just know that a sticky wicket isn’t a candy.

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