Tag Archives: work slang

Work Slang: Rate-Limiting Factor

Main Piece: 

“One of my favorite expressions that we use in my industry… It’s a common phrase that’s used in chemistry, in a chemistry classroom. Because I work with a lot of scientists, they use it for our projects, and it’s the expression ‘rate-limiting factor.” So, a rate-limiting factor in chemistry is, you know, whatever causes the reaction to go the slowest, but a rate-limiting factor on a project might be that fact that we don’t know what the budget is or that we haven’t gotten a site up and running.”


My informant is a freelance medical writer for a variety of pharmaceutical companies. She describes the industry as a relatively enclosed one, but one in which you can bounce between companies. She’s heard this slang term only in her industry but all around within it. It was a term she’d only heard in chemistry classes before entering her field. She presents it as a catch-all term for anything slowing a project down.


Occupational folk groups are bonded by the fact that they share the same day-to-day experiences and ostracized from each other by judging each other on merit of skill. Robert McCarl states that new entrants into an occupational folk group are subject to scrutiny from the “in-group.” I believe that this work slang, the understanding of which is based on a certain education background that the majority in the industry share, is a way of creating an in-group. By using a scientific term, this in-group could be able to scrutinize new entrants to see if they have the proper knowledge base.