Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Business English: Idioms II.

(to) keep one's eye on the prize
to stay focused on the end result; to not let small problems get in the way of good results
Example: I know it's difficult going to class after work, but just keep your eye on the prize. At the end of next year, you'll have your MBA.

(to) keep something under wraps
to keep something secret; to not let anybody know about a new project or plan
Example: I'm sorry I can't tell you anything about the project I'm working on. My boss told me to keep it under wraps.
Note: "Wraps" are things that provide cover, so if something is "under wraps" it's covered up and hidden.

mum's the word
let's keep quiet about this; I agree not to tell anyone about this
Example: Please don't tell anybody about our new project. Remember: mum's the word!
Origin: The word "mum" comes from the murmur "mmmmm," the only sound you can make when your mouth is shut firmly. Try making other sounds besides "mmmmm" with your lips and mouth shut firmly, and you will see that it's impossible!

my gut tells me
I have a strong feeling that; my intuition tells me
Example: It's true that I don't know him well, but my gut tells me that James is the right person for the sales director position.
Note: The "gut" is both the intestines and stomach and also the innermost emotional response.

nothing ventured, nothing gained
If you don't try to do something, you'll never succeed.
Example: It's risky to spend so much money developing a new brand, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

on top of trends
modern; aware and responding to the latest tastes
Example: The Gap is on top of trends. They always have the latest styles in their stores.

(to) pass the buck
to shift the blame; to blame somebody else
Example: It's your fault. Don't try to pass the buck!
Origin: This expression comes from the world of poker. In the nineteenth century, a knife with a buckhorn handle (the "buck") was passed to the next dealer when it was his turn to give out the cards.

(to) plug (a product)
to promote a product; to talk positively about a product
Example: American Express often hires famous people to plug their credit cards. No wonder people pay attention to their ads!

(to) pull one's weight
to do one's share of the work
Example: Don't rely on others to get your job done. You need to pull your own weight.
Note: You will also hear the variation: to pull one's own weight.

(to) pull the plug
to put a stop to a project or initiative, usually because it's not going well; to stop something from moving forward; to discontinue
Example: After losing millions of dollars drilling for oil in Nebraska and finding nothing, the oil company finally pulled the plug on its exploration project.
Origin: This expression refers to removing a plug to make something stop working - when you pull the plug out of the wall, your appliance doesn't work. In the 19th century, when this term originated, the plug was for a toilet. To flush the toilet, you had to pull out a plug.

(to) put a stake in the ground
to take the first step; to make a big move to get something started; to make a commitment
Example: Our business in California has grown steadily over the past two years. Now is the time to put a stake in the ground and open a regional office there.

(to) rally the troops
to motivate others; to get other people excited about doing something; to do something to improve the morale of the employees and get them energized about doing their work
Example: After the lay-offs and salary cuts, the airline president organized a meeting torally the troops and plan for the next year.
Note: The verb "to rally" has several definitions, but in this case means to "call together for a common goal or purpose." Troops is an informal way of describing a group of employees. The term comes from the military - a troop is a military unit.

reality check
let's think realistically about this situation (said when you don't like something that's being suggested because you don't think the other person is thinking practically or logically)
Example: You think we can start selling our products through our website next month? Time for a reality check! Nobody at our company knows anything about e-commerce.

(to) scale back one's hours
to reduce the number of hours one works
Example: When Christine had a baby, she decided to scale back her hours and just work part-time.
Synonym: to cut back one's hours

Shape up or ship out!
improve your behavior or leave; if you don't improve your performance, you're going to get fired
Example: Martin finally had enough of Todd's negative attitude. "Shape up or ship out!" he told Todd.
Origin: This expression was first used in the U.S. military during World War Two, meaning: you'd better follow regulations and behave yourself ("shape up"), or you're going to be sent overseas to a war zone ("ship out").

(to) step up to the plate
to take action; to do one's best; to volunteer
Example: We need somebody to be in charge of organizing the company holiday party. Who'd like to step up to the plate and start working on this project?
Note: This expression comes from baseball. You step up to the plate (a plastic mat on the ground) when it's your turn to hit the ball.

(to) throw cold water over (an idea, a plan)
to present reasons why something will not work; to discourage
Example: Pat presented her boss with a plan to expand their business into China, but he threw cold water over her plan and told her to just focus on developing business in the United States.

though the roof
very high; higher than expected
Example: No wonder people are complaining about the cost of heating their homes. Oil prices have gone through the roof!

(to) turn around one's business
to make a business profitable again; to go from not making profits to being profitable again
Example: The telecom company was able to turn around its business by developing a popular new line of services.

(to) work down to the wire
to work until the last minute; to work until just before the deadline
Example: The investment bankers need to turn in their report at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, and they've still got many hours of work left on it. They're going to be working down to the wire.
Note: This expression comes from horse racing. In the 19th century, American racetracks placed wire across the track above the finish line. The wire helped determine which horse's nose crossed the line first. If a race was "down to the wire," it was a very close race, undecided until the very last second.

(to) work out the (or some) kinks
to solve the problems with
Example: The company announced that they will delay the launch of their new product by two weeks. They still need to work out the kinks with their packaging process.
Note: A "kink" is a problem or flaw in a system or plan.

yes man
an employee who always agrees with the boss or does whatever the boss says
Example: Don't expect Larry to argue with the boss. He's a yes man.

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