EEEzy-FEEEzy does it for business jargon starting with E and F

Does your company’s canteen serve food that’s “finger lickin’ good,” or does it taste “fishy” and so doesn’t “fit the bill?” Enjoy these English business and general jargon terms – and their often surprising origins…

business jargon and its origins explained

I hope you don’t expect me to “foot the bill” for this “fender bender…”

English Business Jargon from E to F

Embedded in: the literal meaning of “to embed” comes from the late 17th century and means to establish something firmly within something else. Although originally this term – later on – may have been used to describe stones being embedded into cement, today in business and other areas it’s used figuratively to describe – e.g. – a method or process that is introduced and included into an existing way of doing things.

Every cloud has a silver lining: a lovely old-fashioned term that aims to uplift and cheer up people and issues that have been rained on from those same clouds. It was the British poet John Milton who first used the term in “Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle,” in the early 17th century. How he used it was, “Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud … Turn forth her silver lining on the night?” Milton’s clouds with silver linings have been quoted in literature (and in business) ever since. It’s a term used to promote optimism even in when things look bad.

Excuse my French: (also “pardon my French”) is a rather silly term used by people who swear / use a rude word, probably by accident, and then realize they may have offended someone as a result. It comes from a time in Britain where hardly anyone spoke French and so the swear word in question was assumed to be like a foreign term. The author Michael Harrison used it in his book “All Trees were Green” in the 1930s, in the phrase “A bloody sight better (pardon the French!) than most.” However some say the term’s origins go back further, when British people would use French expressions but feel they should apologize as not many people would understand. This rather pointless usage goes back as far as the early 19th century.

Far cry from: means a considerable distance away from, either literally or metaphorically. The term’s origins are vague, but common sense suggests that the word “cry,” meaning as it can to be a loud noise made by a human, suggests a long distance or space. Adding the word “far” makes that distance or space even greater. In business, you might hear the term used as in – e.g. – “the marketing agency’s projection of how well their inbound campaign would work possibly is a far cry from the reality, given their somewhat inaccurate forecasts.”

Feel at home: this is not a hard term to define, because it means – simply – that you should feel comfortable, relaxed and appreciated as you would in your own home. It’s a term you may hear in connection with your arrival into a new job, or perhaps when you join a networking group, or a customer’s team.

Fender bender: a US/Canadian expression meaning a light, non-serious road traffic collision. In the USA a “fender” refers usually to the front bodywork of a car that covers a wheel: in the UK this is called a “wing.” In some cultures where English is spoken, a “fender” can also mean a mudguard on a four-wheeled or two-wheeled vehicle.

Finger lickin’ good: the tagline of the ubiquitous Kentucky Fried Chicken brand, and a term that often is applied – perhaps humorously or ironically – to business issues where a description of brand superiority is called for. The term is based on the notion that you eat the food with your hands, and the fact that it tastes so good you will lick you fingers to gain the best possible taste and value. Not something that appeals to the more precious of gourmet gurus … but one that appeals to many!

Fishy: this term goes back far and away to the late 15th century in Britain and other countries when fish, although gladly eaten, given inadequate food conservation facilities would stink to High Heaven within a couple of days or so of being presented to its potential consumers … although some vendors probably would try to sell outdated fish all the same. Hence why “fishy” – as a smell in those days, and as a metaphorical “smell” today – is still a term that describes something suspicious, unsafe, or even unlawful. And the other comparative point is that fish – when alive (for a change!) are slippery, which is often used in a metaphoric way to describe people and companies in business whose ethics are questionable.

Fit the bill: to “fit the bill” means to fit into the required conditions, criteria and/or circumstances. This often is used in relation to your suitability for a job, project, contract, etc. The origins here are a little uncertain but may be related to 19th century British interpretations – both in theatrical terms (fitting into the bill of a theatrical offering) as well as business terms, where a “bill” was related to a “bill of fare” or, in today’s parlance, a menu.

Flabbergasted: if you are flabbergasted, you are utterly dismayed, shocked, surprised and/or any combination thereof. Its origins are a little vague but some say the term goes back to the late 18th century in England where someone in literary circles decided that “flabbergast” was a popular word in the south-east, possibly derived from combining the words “flabby” (probably meaning older and less “au fait”) and “aghast” (meaning horrified, going back to English roots in the 13th century.)

Flunk out: means to fail, not perform, or otherwise not attain what you want. This term is said to come from US jargon related to school and university. Now is used quite widely to describe someone or something that fails to work.

Fly off the handle: a lovely term meaning to lose your temper. This term originates in the USA (although it could originate from almost anywhere else) and refers to the way the head of an axe can fly off its handle, especially if handled or drive wrongly! The idea of the term goes back to the mid-19th US century literature.

Foot the bill: to “foot the bill” means to pay it yourself. Some say that this term’s origins come from the way that the “foot” of something – let’s say being the “foot” designated to pay for an event or other activity – is how the term has come into being.

Watch out for more “English Business Jargon” … being published as a series here on HTWB and as a book in 2018 by Business Expert Press, USA.

In the meantime if you think of any English business jargon that should be explored and explained, please share it here in the comments!

Photo thanks to deeksdj.

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