English Language Business Expressions: Jan 3rd 2017

Am delighted to say this popular series is back – another 10 common English business expressions explained not only for those of you who speak English as a second language, but for anyone who wants to know – whether a native English speaker or not.

English language business expressions on How To Write Better

English language expressions you’ll hear in business and elsewhere, Jan 3rd 2017

Here are the next 10 such expressions that I find most interesting, and I hope you do too…

Bald men fighting over a comb: this expression has had various interpretations but essentially it means some kind of conflict or argument about something that really doesn’t matter very much. If you think about it, bald men fighting over a comb (when they haven’t even got any hair to use a comb on) is a silly and pointless exercise… That’s why it has become an expression used in business and also in politics to describe unimportant issues.

Best bang for your buck: a lovely American expression … but why? Without looking at the, er, perhaps “naughty” connections with this expression, all it really means is when it refers to something that is the best value for money you can get. As you probably know, a “buck” is a dollar, and the “best bang” refers to the best value. Simple, really: the best value you can get for your money, whether that’s on a personal level or applying to your business, any business, or even a major corporation.

Bring the drawbridge down: in ancient and other European countries important people (and their equivalent of important businesses) lived in castles. Many of these people had enemies so they dug deep trenches around their properties and filled them with water so the bad guys would have a lot of trouble invading their properties. To get into the properties, you had to go over a “drawbridge” which was a bride that could be lowered or raised depending on who want to come in. So in modern term to “bring the drawbridge down” means to open up to other people’s and businesses’ ideas – letting them come into your business and share what might work for you both.

Chew the fat: an expression that probably goes back to the days when people – especially sailors – discussed every day things with their friends and colleagues while chewing on tough, fatty meat over their meals. Today it means to chat and talk about relatively simple things with your friends and family. In a business context it means talking in a relaxed, informal way with colleagues and clients/customers.

Doesn’t bat an eyelid: we know that when someone is surprised, shocked or otherwise keenly interested in or upset by something, their eyes tend to blink more than normal. So when someone “doesn’t bat an eyelid” it means that whatever has just been said does not cause them to blink more as if surprised, shocked, etc. Beware though: people who don’t “bat an eyelid” can be trained not to do so, even when you  share surprising/shocking information with them.

For explanations and origins of dozens more English language terms and expressions like these, click right here on HTWB

Ivy League Universities: if you have graduated from one of these US universities you will be seen as very well qualified. But what makes them so special? Actually the universities concerned originally were brought together into this group because of sporting achievements, not the academic type. It’s only in relatively recent times that they have become known for their academic excellence. These days, a graduate from one of the 8 universities in this elite group gets a lot of attention, and kudos. More on that here.

No sh*t, Sherlock?: an expression you may not hear in formal meetings but you may well hear in casual business conversations. You may recall Sherlock Holmes, the famous (fictitious) British detective written about by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Sherlock was, of course a brilliant detective. When people use the expression “no shit, Sherlock?” It’s a sarcastic way of saying you think the person speaking is rather stupid and doesn’t understand things.

On stream: most likely (and understandably) an expression from the manufacturing world in which “on stream” means a product which is currently available and “streaming” through a design, engineering, manufacturing or distribution process. Can be used to describe services and facilities similarly being used now.

State-of-the-art: this phrase has become something of a cliché in recent years, mainly because people have started to use it to describe just about anything that is current and up to date. Correctly it means any process, product, service etc. that is the most recent and most advanced in its field.

Supply chain: much as this may seem a simple term, in fact it can refer to a very complex and lengthy process. It’s a system that involves various resources – from individuals to entire organisations – that essentially get a product or service from whoever makes it, to the end customer/user. And as you can imagine that involves a lot of activity and resources.

More English language business expressions to come …

…stand by! There are loads more and they’ll be on here every week from now on.

And if you think of some English language business expressions you feel we should share with our non-native English speakers elsewhere, please get in touch – either right here in the comments or on suze at suzanstmaur dot com.