Don't Say "Pick Your Brain"

Please just say whatever you mean

My brain is frazzled and very scabby from too many people picking at it and I’d be happy to talk to you it’s just we need a new euphemism for “ask you for something vaguely career-related (either mine or yours).” Thank you, Hairpin alumna Jazmine Hughes, for reminding me of this linguistic scourge. Before you go searching your Gmail archives: am I personally guilty of having done this before? Sure. Who wasn’t twenty-three once and considering doing a post-baccalaureate degree in order to apply to medical school so that she could once and for all get out of this toilet mess that is the New York Media Scene??? So maybe this is a PSA to twenty-three-year-olds, but according to the Google Ngram it’s definitely A Thing and it’s on the rise, and I would guess it comes up in corporate America too, if not nearly as much as “reach out.” Now that one should be ruled illegal.

Although the animus is hard to explain — and although, as we’ll see, contact has a tainted history of its own — the reasons for reach out’s steady rise are easier to, well, grasp. For one thing, reach out fills a need that isn’t addressed by any synonym. “The prime minister reached out to members of the opposition party” may mean that he phoned, emailed, or wrote letters — or it may mean all of that and more. What’s suggested by reach out are the intent and the effort.

Does "Reach Out" Overreach?