American jargon and baffling idioms
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American Jargon and Baffling Idioms. Old Terms Personnel Director Someone who is in charge of Insurance Salesperson . New Terms Director of Human Resources Director of Risk Management Account Manager; Service Representative.

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American Jargon and Baffling Idioms

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Old Terms

Personnel Director

Someone who is in charge of Insurance


New Terms

Director of Human Resources

Director of Risk Management

Account Manager; Service Representative

What are some examples of language proliferation in American English ?

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Why is American English so proliferated?

  • Because it is full of:

    buzzwords, cusswords, puns, gags, show biz zingers, hyperbole, euphemisms, Latinisms, local colors, jargons, slang, and officialese.

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What’s the meaning of the following idioms?

  • As nervous as a long-tailed cat

    in a room full of rocking chairs

  • Flat as a pancake

  • Safe as Fort Knox

  • Old as Methuselah

  • Funny as a rubber crutch

  • Raining cats and dogs

  • Flying by the seat of your pants

  • Coming up roses

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  • Make waves

  • Keep a low profile

  • Leave someone out in left field

  • Ballpark figure

  • Get to first base

  • Play for all the marbles

  • A whole new ball game

  • Get someone into hot water

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  • Don’t “Frenchify” your American pronunciation.

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Don’t show off by using the Latin/Greek equivalent of English expressions, such as per se, ad hoc, quid pro quo, and a priori, unless you are in the field of religion or law.


  • You may misuse or overuse them.

  • You may embarrass your non-native English-speaking associates.

  • You may mispronounce them.

  • You may make grammatical mistakes when using them.

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Other points about “how” to say things:

  • Tame the down-home accent and word choices.

  • Beware of drawls and twangs.

  • Speak at normal speed—not too fast and not too slow.

  • Try to repeat sometimes.

  • Respect the “silent period” among the Japanese during business meetings.

  • Keep in mind that your words may be taken literally by your foreign counterpart.

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  • Most jargons die out quickly.

  • Using yesterday’s buzzword today is as fatal a career move as rolling a Hula Hoop to the office.

  • Jargons don’t always come from the high-tech heritage, some low-tech words that have been around a long time and have been studied by foreigners may be a challenge for native speakers to understand.

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Coast Speak

  • A lot of idiomatic expressions in American English come from California.

  • For example: “share” the life story with you

  • “consciousness-raising”

  • “workshop” on anything

  • the use of the verb: take a meeting, do drugs, flow…

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General Confusion in Command

  • Jargons used in the military and the space program affect the way people use the language.




    “facility”—”a relief facility”

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  • Jumbo shrimp

  • Metal wood (golf)

  • Fair tax

  • Epic miniseries

  • Guest host

  • Bitter sweetness

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  • “laptop”

  • “desktop publication”

  • “read my lips”

  • “spin doctor”

  • “catastrophic health insurance”

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Business Slang

  • “hog heaven”

  • “gridlock”

  • “leveraged buyouts”

  • “number crunching”

  • “power lunch/breakfast”

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The You Nobody Knows

  • Avoid using expletives (swear words) or slang expressions that have the four-letter words connotation (e.g. “ smart ass”) even when the business seems to be officially over.

  • Avoid the usual ephemera such as “with it,” “go for it,” and “no way,” even “scratch the sushi."

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  • Acronyms should be avoided. Unless everybody knows what you are shortening, the best policy is to say the words out one by one.

  • “Found Under Carnal Knowledge”

    APEC—Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation

    OPEC—The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries



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Leave the Locals Local

  • Don’t imitate your host’s accent even though it is intended as a friendly joke or compliment.

  • Never try to get a chuckle at the expense of the national cuisine or architecture or government.

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Words and Grammar

  • Exaggeration and Euphemism can be taken literally.

    “fantastic” “fabulous” “disaster”

    “idiot” “slave driver”

    “powder room” “comfort station”

  • Grammar

    “I couldn’t read hardly a word of your contract.”

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Me Tarzan, You Jane

  • Never go on to the next point until the last one is thoroughly understood. But never speak condescendingly, either.

  • Ways of checking comprehension:

    “It’s a complicated subject. Did I go too fast?”

    “Sometimes I speak too quickly. Shall I go over that again?”

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Other Languages, Other Misunderstandings

Am EnglishBritish English

Knickersplus fours

At the end of the day Sth. will never be done


(a list of order waiting (a hopelessly

to be filled) overstocked inventory)

Tabling an item at a meeting

(put the discussion off) have the discussion

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Am EnglishBritish English

  • Fill him in

    (provide him with (hit someone

    some info.) over the head)

  • My presentation bombed.

    failure a great success

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In Spain:

  • Discuss  argue


  • Support  financial aid

  • Embarrassed  pregnant

    “Estoy embarazado”

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In France:

  • Demand ask

  • Actual present

    In Japan:

    You very rude to address someone directly

  • No There is no real “no” in the Japanese lg.

  • “Our thinking is in parallel.” We are in disagreement.