Let’s unpack this. This phrase probably comes from the unpacking videos that have become common particularly after the launch of an iPhone -pictures of taking gadgets out of the ornately packaged boxes have been au courant for several years. This vicarious enjoyment of opening a Christmas present has leaked into the language as “let’s unpack this.” I hear it on news shows. I hear it during business meetings. Now I hear it applied to casual discussion of golfers. It’s too much.
Business-speak has invaded regular speech, and it’s become common in the medical field where management practices, including long business meetings with Powerpoint decks, have become as common as grand rounds. How many times have you heard, “low hanging fruit?” When they become verbal tics, filler words, they become maddening. That’s unfortunate, because it makes everything less interesting. Words are meant to excite. You want to sprinkle in flavor crystals, not table salt. Jargon takes an interesting speech and drowns it in the cheap cologne of timeshare sales presentations.
I suggest some alternatives. Appealing to imagination, I charge you to shape your speech to communicate your thoughts with pizzazz.
- “Let’s cut it open and see what’s inside.” This is a great bit for a surgical meeting where you after you introduce a topic, you start in on the details.
- “Let’s undress this.” A little creepy, but appropriate if you are talking to an audience of creeps.
- “Let’s chew on this a bit.” A twee jargon-y, but acceptable. Exactly what you mean to say when you unpack something, it always goes down well when you bring in food.
- “Let’s pop the hood and see what’s going on.” Active verbs like this keep the audience engaged.
- “Let’s go see what’s in the medicine cabinet.” In the right context, in front of the right audience, it’s not only exactly what you mean, but what you already do -you can connect!
- “Let’s send this fellow through the scanner.” Conveys mastery of the topic. A bit dickish, but sometimes you want that.
- “Let’s batter down the door and search the premises.” If you are talking to an audience of people who do this, instant rapport.
- “Let’s go see how the sausage is made.” Again, appealing to food is universal, particularly if it is a sausage eating crowd.
- “Let’s pull back the curtains on this show.” Implies mastery, or at least ring-mastery.
- “Let’s pick these ticks off this hog” Conveys sociability to a broad audience.
- “Let’s run down sniff these toes, 1-10.” You get it. Flavor!
- “Let’s rummage through this wallet!” Again, know your audience, you know…