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Business idioms!

Date: Jun 12 2007

Topic: Idioms and Slang

Author: TanyaPeterson


Here's a list of helpful business idioms taken from the book/audio CD "Speak Business English Like an American." More coming soon! 

at a premium

at a high price; at a relatively high price

Example: When flat-screen televisions first came out, they were selling at a premium.


back-of-the-envelope calculations

quick calculations; estimates using approximate numbers, instead of exact numbers

Example: I don't need the exact numbers right now. Just give me some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

Note: This expression refers to the quick calculations one would do informally, as on the back of an envelope.


reduction of expenses

Example: When worldwide demand for software decreased, Microsoft had to do some belt-tightening.

(to) bite the bullet

to make a difficult or painful decision; to take a difficult step

Example: When demand was down, U.S. automakers had to bite the bullet and cut jobs.

Origin: This idiom comes from the military. During the Civil War in the United States, doctors sometimes ran out of whiskey for killing the pain. A bullet would be put in the wounded soldier's mouth during surgery. He would "bite the bullet" to distract him from the pain and keep him quiet so the doctor could do his work in peace.

bitter pill to swallow

bad news; something unpleasant to accept

Example: After Gina spent her whole summer working as an intern for American Express, failing to get a full-time job offer from the company was a bitter pill to swallow.


a big success; a huge hit

Example: Eli Lilly made a lot of money with the prescription drug, Prozac. It was a real blockbuster.

Origin: This term comes from the blockbuster bombs used during World War Two by the British Royal Air Force. They were huge and created a large explosive force. Blockbuster ideas similarly create a big impact - and hopefully don't cause destruction like blockbuster bombs!

brownie points

credit for doing a good deed or for giving someone a compliment (usually a boss or teacher)

Example: Sara scored brownie points with her boss by volunteering to organize the company's holiday party.

Origin: The junior branch of the Girl Scouts is called the Brownies. Brownies earn credit to then earn a badge by doing good deeds and tasks. When applied to adults, the meaning is sarcastic.

cash cow

a product, service, or business division that generates a lot of cash for the company, without requiring much investment

Example: With strong sales every year and a great brand name, Mercedes is a cash cow for DaimlerChrysler.

(to) cash in on

to make money on; to benefit financially from

Example: Jamie Oliver, star of the TV show The Naked Chef, cashed in on his popularity by writing cookbooks and opening restaurants.

(to) climb the corporate ladder

advance in one's career; the process of getting promoted and making it to senior management

Example: You want to climb the corporate ladder? It helps to be productive and to look good in front of your boss.

(to) compare apples to oranges

to compare two unlike things; to make an invalid comparison

Example: Comparing a night at EconoLodge with a night at the Four Seasons is like comparing apples to oranges. One is a budget motel, and the other is a luxury hotel.

Note: You will also see the related expression "compare apples to apples" which means to compare two things of the same type. This means that you are making a valid comparison, as opposed to when you're comparing apples to oranges.


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Russian Federation

Thank you for very interesting information!!!!!!!!!

03:04 PM Jul 26 2007 |


Viet Nam

cash in on

10:33 AM Jul 24 2007 |

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