Speak Business English Like an American
Speak Business English Like an American is a book & audio CD that teaches over 350 of today's most important idioms and expressions related to jobs and the workplace. The book features 30 conversations on everyday business situations. Click here for more information about this book & CD. Practice your business English now with the first chapter of the book:
Talking about a New Project
Carl, Greg, and Anne work for WaterSonic Corporation. Recently, the company has come up with an idea for a new electric toothbrush.
Carl: I think we’ve come up with a winner.
Anne: I agree. The new Brush-o-matic toothbrush should be a blockbuster!
Carl: Our designers have already made up some prototypes. The toothbrushes have a tooth-whitening attachment and many other bells and whistles.
Greg: We should fast track this project. Let’s try to launch it in time for the holiday season.
Anne: This will be a great stocking stuffer!
Carl: We definitely need a big win for the holidays.
Anne: This is a great idea. We’re going to make a killing.
Greg: Let’s not talk about this project to anybody who doesn’t need to know. We’ll keep it under wraps.
Carl: I agree. Mum’s the word. We don’t want any of our competitors to get wind of the idea and rip it off!
Anne: Right. Let’s meet again on Monday morning and discuss our game plan for getting this project off the ground!
IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS
(to) come up with a winner
to think up a very good idea
EXAMPLE: Everybody likes Pepsi’s new advertising campaign. Their advertising agency has come up with a winner.
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!
bells and whistles
extra product features, usually using the latest technologies; product features which are attractive, but not essential for the product to function
EXAMPLE: Our office just got a new copier with all the bells and whistles. I’ll probably never learn how to use all of its features!
(to) fast track a project
to make a project a high priority; to speed up the time frame of a project
EXAMPLE: Let’s fast track this project. We’ve heard rumors that our competitors are developing similar products.
a small gift given at Christmas time
EXAMPLE: These new mini travel pillows will make great stocking stuffers!
NOTE: This expression comes from the practice of kids hanging up stockings that Santa Claus fills (or “stuffs”) with small gifts.
a huge success; a successful product
EXAMPLE: The drug company spent millions on research and development, hoping that one of their new products would be a big win.
(to) make a killing
to make a lot of money
EXAMPLE: Suzanne made a killing on her Google stock and retired at 40.
SYNONYM: to make a fortune
(to) keep something under wraps
to keep something secret; to not let anybody know about a new project or plan
EXAMPLE: I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything about the project I’m working on. My boss told me to keep it under wraps.
NOTE: “Wraps” are things that provide cover, so if something is “under wraps” it’s covered up and hidden.
mum’s the word
let’s keep quiet about this; I agree not to tell anyone about this
EXAMPLE: Please don’t tell anybody about our new project. Remember: mum’s the word!
ORIGIN: The word “mum” comes from the murmur “mmmmm,” the only sound you can make when your mouth is shut firmly. Try making other sounds besides “mmmmm” with your lips and mouth shut firmly, and you will see that it’s impossible!
(to) get wind of
to find out about something, often sensitive information
EXAMPLE: When the restaurant owner got wind of the fact that one of his waiters was stealing money from the cash register, he was furious.
(to) rip off
to copy an idea; to steal
EXAMPLE: Why doesn’t the Donox Company ever think up any original ideas? All they ever do is rip off their competitors!
NOTE: “Rip off” is also a noun. Example: We were charged $10,000 for a small advertisement in the newspaper. What a rip off!
an action plan; a plan for how a project will proceed
EXAMPLE: The software company’s game plan is to expand its operations into China and India over the next year.
ORIGIN: In football, a “game plan” is a strategy for winning.
(to) get something off the ground
to get started on something, often a project
EXAMPLE: We’ve been sitting around talking about this project for months. It’s time to take action and get it off the ground!
QUIZ: PRACTICE THE IDIOMS
Choose the best substitute for the phrase or sentence in bold. When finished, click the "Check your answers" button to get your score. Have fun!
Answer Key: 1) b; 2) a; 3) b; 4) a; 5) c; 6) c; 7) a; 8) b