GEEE-whizz … English business jargon terms starting with G

Would you “go ballistic” if your local election was affected by “gerrymandering?” Some interesting business and general jargon terms beginning with G … enjoy!

Business jargon starting with G explained on HTWB

You had better “give it a shot” if you don’t want to “get the ax…”

English business jargon beginning with G

Game changer: an expression that is loosely taken from the world of sport and means anything – or anyone – that causes a major change (usually positive) to become possible. It’s used in a casual sense where by the game changer might be stroke of luck or an unforeseen opportunity, and is also used to describe an individual who acts as a catalyst for (usually positive) change. Finally it is used to describe an entire company or other organization that “changes its game” by completely altering its business plan, and even product/service range, in order to keep up with changing times, benefit from new technology, cure failing profits, etc.

Generation X, Y, Z: a mainly marketing term developed in the USA and referring to people born since the Baby Boomers (when things returned to normal after the tragedy of World War Two, late 1940s to about 1960.) There is also the term “millennials” which refers to people born around the turn of the 20th-21st centuries. However the exact dates involved vary quite a bit from one source to another.

Gerrymander: as a verb, to gerrymander is to create new boundaries of electoral regions in the United States, in a way that favors one particular party and is disadvantageous to another. It can also be used as a noun to describe an act of gerrymandering. This all started back in the early 19th century when the then Governor of Massachusetts, a Mr Elbridge Gerry, redrew (or “redistricted,” as they term goes) the electoral boundaries of his state. Amusingly when the “redistricting” was complete the map of Essex County in Massachusetts looked like a salamander (an amphibian that looks like a lizard). Local wits at the time thought it entertaining to combine the two words and created a grotesque cartoon of a salamander-like monster which was published in the Boston Weekly Messenger. The term “gerrymandering” stuck and used to this day.

Get go: the very beginning of something. Its origins are unclear but it’s thought the term was first used in the USA in the late 1960s, possibly by African Americans to begin with.

Get into a flap: if you “get into a flap” you become unnecessarily agitated or upset about something that normally shouldn’t warrant it. The term’s origins are not easy to find but common sense suggests it could come from the way chickens in a farm yard flap their wings excitedly at the slightest provocation.

Get the ax: also “get the chop,” which as long you know what an ax is, is pretty much the same thing! If someone or something – e.g. your job – “gets the ax” it means it has been stopped suddenly and very firmly. There are numerous variants of this slang idiom with origins going back to the 19th century in the USA.

Get your ducks in a row: this means for an individual or company/organization to make the necessary preparations for a new or extended activity, or to tidy things up when there has been an upheaval, etc. The origin of the phrase is argued; some say that it comes from the way a mother duck tidily lines up her baby ducklings in a neat row to waddle along behind her. Others say that it comes from the word “duck” when used to describe an easy pot in the game of pool, and if you’re lucky you can line up the other balls appropriate and so have “all your ducks in a row.” Another theory is that it comes from the row of mechanical ducks that appears for you to aim at in fairground shooting galleries; and yet another theory is that if you are a hunter you can line live ducks up and so kill more than one at a time with your gun. A wide choice, but the most popular currently is the first, i.e. the mother duck and her ducklings.

Gig economy: using the word “gig” as musicians do today – a self-contained performance for which they get paid a finite sum of money – this term refers to the way companies get work done by hiring freelancers or contractors on a self-employed basis, rather than as employees. Depending on your point of view this can either be seen as a practical way of doing business as there are far fewer tax, benefits and other involvements for the company and a sense of “being your own boss” and freedom for the individual … or as a risky way that does not guarantee staff loyalty, and offers no security to the individual. “Gig” as a word that seems to have a colorful history. It’s variously said to come from the old French word giguer, from an early Italian dance form, or possibly from late 18th century English when the word “gig” meant a flighty girl and things that whirled – which could be the link with today’s meaning of impermanence! The word was adopted by jazz musicians probably from the early 20th century in the USA, and is still widely used by jazz and other musicians today.

Give it a shot: also “give it a whirl” and other variants, means to try to achieve something even if you may have doubts about accomplishing it successfully. Origins are vague but some believe they may be 16th military, when the term “give it your best shot” meant to get the best shot amongst your soldiers to tackle the enemy accurately. Later on the word “shot” became used to mean “try,” roughly from the 18th century onwards, and its use was closely connected with sports like billiards and boxing.

Give my word: this has a similar meaning to giving someone your promise. Also said as “give my word of honor,” and earlier “my word is my bond.” Many experts say the origins could be in the Christian Bible, taken from the parable about the centurion. It’s worth guessing, too, that before the days of written contracts business deals were clinched on the strength of participants’ “words of honor.”

Give the green light to: a simple metaphor that refers to green traffic lights, or in other words signalling that something should start off and go ahead. Traffic light metaphors have become popular in many English language markets in the early 21st century with various large organizations operating “red, amber and green” systems by which to judge performance, customer service, and other issues.

Gloves are off: a term taken from the sport of boxing. As you know, padded gloves are worn in boxing to avoid players causing too much injury to each other. However when the “gloves are off,” there is nothing there to protect them. Another theory is that in past centuries most men would wear gloves while going about their daily business, but if a physical argument was threatened they would take off their gloves before getting into a fight. In business and other circumstances, when “the gloves are off” is a time when anything goes – overt disputes and dirty tricks are used, people’s feelings are offended, and sometimes even illegal things are done.

Go ballistic: as ballistic missiles are somewhat explosive in nature, if someone “goes ballistic” it means they erupt, usually in ferocious and excessive anger! Interestingly, though, the term has been around since the late 18th century when it meant anything connected with thrown objects, which in turn came from the Greek ballein, which meant “to throw.” Ballistic missiles were first sent off in the mid 20th century and the term “go ballistic” became widely used by the early 1980s.

Go Dutch: to “go Dutch” refers to a way of splitting the bill when you go out for entertainment, meals, movies, etc., whereby each person pays for themselves. The origins of this term vary wildly but the most frequently seen theory is that the term goes back to the Anglo-Dutch wars in the 17th century when relations between the two countries were poor, to put it mildly. Another interesting idea is that the term refers to a “Dutch door” which is split horizontally into two equal parts, like a modern stable door. A less amusing, but probably more likely origin is that in the Netherlands it is very common for people to “go Dutch” when going out for meals, drinks, business entertaining, etc.

Go for broke: this term would appear to come from the betting/gambling world, meaning as it does to put everything and every effort in something no matter what the risk. However it seems the term comes from Hawaiian dialect meaning “to wager everything” in craps games, and was adopted by American Forces in World War Two as a motivational motto in the armed conflict with Japan.

Go viral: a contemporary expression this time, referring to items posted in social media that despite being aimed at a specific audience initially, get shared very widely – in fact in many cases right across the internet with millions of shares. It seems that the earliest reference to “going viral” in England, at least, was when the term first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1989, where it was said to mean “the rapid spread of information.” It’s probably true to say that the idea of going viral is related to the way in which viruses – whether medical or digital – can spread very fast and exponentially.

Go whistle: also “go whistle for it,” and other variants. Essentially it means to forget about whatever you’re hoping to achieve, as according to the person saying it you may as well “go whistle” for it – you won’t get it from them. Much as this term has been popularized in the 21st century by British politician Boris Johnson, in fact it has been around for several centuries in the English language. It seems the earliest mention of something along the same lines was in popular in the mid 15th century in Britain. Shakespeare used the term, too, in The Winter’s Tale, in a quote by Clown, the shepherd’s son.

Goody Two Shoes: a person who deliberately puts themselves across as good, pure, innocent etc. and who uses those attributes to gain favor. It seems this term goes back to a children’s story that was published in the late 19th century in the USA, called “The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes.” No-one is sure who the author was and many arguments still take place about who it might have been. However its legacy lives on and the term’s use has spread not only across North America but also across the other main English language markets.

Grain of salt: (also pinch of salt) … to “take something with a grain/pinch of salt” is to appreciate what someone is saying, but realize that it may not be quite what it seems – an exaggeration, perhaps – so you need to view it in what you judge to be the right context and proportions (not necessarily those of the person sharing it.) The origins here go back many centuries … in fact to Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, 77 A.D. In those days not only was food assumed to be/taste better with “a grain of salt,” but also the salt content was more likely to save you from being poisoned. (True: even today salt is a very effective anti-bacterial treatment.) The ongoing logic here, then, was that were you to take an opinion, piece of information or other “fact” with a “grain of salt,” you were less likely to be poisoned if it turned out to be wrong.

Grandstanding: a term which basically means speaking and showing off to an audience, even if in so doing you could be harming yourself or your organisation. Usually applies to politicians but also to anyone who tries to attain unearned fame by doing something to attract attention, whether as a speaker, performer, entertainers, or whatever. This originates from the first half of the 19th century in the USA when, we assume, grandstands were being built and used by increasing numbers of groups, sports and other activities.

Graveyard shift: normally a term that refers to a night shift or other work timing that is considered socially undesirable. This is an Americanism that dates back to  the early 20th century. However prior to that in Britain, rumours suggest that the term dates back a lot further, when people short of money worked “the graveyard shift” to help dig up coffins as the graveyards – even then – were becoming overcrowded. Making additional room in graveyards then – and let’s not go into how it was done – involved workers toiling surreptitiously, hence ” the graveyard shift.”

Gray matter: means your brain! Popularized by Agatha Christie in her portrayal of Hercule Poirot, the Belgian super-detective whose “little grey cells” solved numerous heinous crimes, the term still remains a reminder of what you need to use to work out pretty much anything. Of course there is a solid foundation to this term as according to most scientific sources grey matter (or gray matter) is a major component of the central nervous system. So there…

Greek to me: a term which should embarrass English speakers and warn English-as-a-second-language speakers, too. This merely refers to written information in languages that English speakers can’t read or understand. There is nothing wrong with Greek: only that as an English speaker you might find it hard to pick up the language, especially as its alphabet is different from that of the English language. (Mind you that’s true of Russian and numerous other languages world-wide.) OK: if something is “all Greek to me” it means that you don’t understand a word of it. Understandable, of course, if your original text is in Greek, but unforgivable – especially in a business context – if your wording doesn’t convey your business message properly.

Green thumb/fingers: something for people working in or interested in horticultural business, in particular. Someone with a green thumb (USA) or green fingers (UK) is someone who understands how plants work and knows how to grow them effectively. However according to  a certain James Crockett, “it comes from the fact that algae growing on the outside of earthenware pots will stain a person’s thumb (and fingers) if he or she handles enough pots. Hence, a person who is always working with flower pots has a green thumb.” Another notion is that the term came from the reign of King Edward I in England. It seems he liked peas and employed a few servants to shell them when peas were in season …the servant who was judged to have the “greenest thumb” won a prize. Who knows!

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!