Is there a non-vulgar version of “pulled it out of their ass” ? It's a useful phrase, but not one to be used in professional environments.
There is no way John’s projections for next year’s sales are accurate. He ____.
Pulled it out of thin air works well. It keeps the pulled which reminds people of the phrase you're avoiding, while out of thin air means from nothing. A (probably older) variation is plucked out of thin air.
You also hear pulled it out of their rear end/backside but I guess these versions don't really help much.
For a usage that implies that something (an object or idea, etc.) appeared from nowhere, you could say, "He pulled it out of thin air."
On the other hand, if what you want is a usage meaning that they are "bullshitting" (as in making something up), then you could say, "He fabricated it out of whole cloth."
If you really want to sound professional without anyone knowing that you made everything up you can say:
The data comes from applying the Stetson-Harrison method
From the entry on Urban Dictionary:
A general method for estimating various numerical values. The values are pulled out of a hat (Stetson), i.e. made up. The purpose of Harrison is to increase credibility.
I do not know how well known this is outside a nerdy subset of the academic world, but a lot of my friends would know what this means. YMMV.
That's a metaphor dating from when material was more expensive, and it was common for one item of clothing to be recycled into other items once it was worn out.
A tailoring metaphor, in that the suspicious estimates were not based on any pre-existing estimates or numbers. Instead every part was new and unrelated to prior work.
Conjured out of thin air. Conjured a solution right there and then.
Or something along those lines.
con•jure (ˈkɒn dʒər, ˈkʌn- for 1–5, 8–10, 12; kənˈdʒʊər for 6, 7, 11 )
v. -jured, -jur•ing, n. v.t.
The following express contempt in varying degree for unsupportable claims, or at least a need for caution.
Another variant of "...out of thin air" uses plucked:
...while the underpinning notion is sound (that denser gases increase heat retention) typical climate models have been force-fitted to recorded data with constants and scalars plucked from thin air, and fail to predict even the past...
In this excerpt the meaning is "selected without any scientific basis".
And now, for your entertainment, the inimitable Sir Humphrey Appleby:
Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple, and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems, of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.
1.There is no way John's projections for next year's sales are accurate. He materialized them.
When Mrs. Bell fell ill, the Bell Witch caused a bunch of grapes to materialize out of thin air for her to eat. (Poltergeists: and Other Hauntings by Nigel Cawthorne, Rupert Matthews)
2.There is no way John's projections for next year's sales are accurate. He invented them.
(Oxford Living Dictionaries) verb 1.1 Make up (an idea, name, story, etc.), especially so as to deceive someone.
Origin: Late 15th century (in the sense ‘find out, discover’): from Latin invent- ‘contrived, discovered’, from the verb invenire, from in- ‘into’ + venire ‘come’.