Here at EuroTalk, we love learning languages, and between us we speak quite a range, including Spanish, Hungarian, Russian, Japanese, German, Portuguese, Latvian, Slovak and more. But one language that the Brits in the office tend to forget about is our own – English.
Recently, we’ve had several conversations about the English language, usually inspired by one of our colleagues from overseas asking us what we mean when we use a particular word or phrase. Then Ioana found this article about British slang phrases and wanted to know how many of the listed expressions we use on a regular basis (quite a few, actually).
We thought this might make quite a fun blog post, so here are just a few of the English words our colleagues have discovered since arriving in the UK, along with others that we Brits feel everyone should know…
Discovered by Richard and Pablo
A pantomime (or ‘panto’ for short) is a very British tradition; it’s a musical comedy play performed each year over the Christmas and New Year period. Each town has its own panto, which is usually based on a children’s story and features certain conventions, including the pantomime dame and audience participation (‘he’s behind you!’ etc). It’s something that anyone who’s grown up in Britain tends to take for granted, and is surprisingly hard to describe, as we discovered earlier this week when the guys said, ‘What’s a pantomime…?’
Toad in the hole
Contributed by Gloria
A traditional British dish, consisting of sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter. Tastier than it sounds – and there are no toads in it, so we’re not quite sure how it got its name.
Discovered by Ioana
We think this might actually originate from the USA, but put simply, a food baby is when you’ve eaten so much that you look a bit like you might be expecting. It’s also Ioana’s new favourite expression.
Contributed by Amy
This is basically an affectionate way of calling someone an idiot. If you hear someone say, ‘No, you numpty!’ it means you’ve got something wrong, but don’t be too offended – there are far worse things they could call you. (Another version of this is calling someone a muppet.)
In the doghouse
Discovered by Symeon
If someone’s in the doghouse, it means they’re in trouble, just like a dog that’s been kicked out of the house and made to sleep outside.
Pardon my French
Contributed by Safia
Confusingly, this has nothing to do with speaking other languages. In fact, it’s a way of apologising for swearing, in an attempt to pretend the rude words are a foreign language, even though everyone knows they aren’t. It’s thought the expression originates from the 19th century, when people actually did apologise for using French words, assuming that whoever they were talking to didn’t understand.
Pigs in blankets
Discovered by Franco
Enjoyed particularly as part of Christmas dinner, pigs in blankets are small sausages wrapped in bacon. And they’re delicious. Fun fact: pigs in blankets are known as ‘kilted sausages’ in Scotland.
In a pickle
Contributed by Nat
This one derives from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and means to be in a tricky situation or ‘a spot of bother’ (another English phrase for you, there).
Discovered by Ioana (again)
Sniggering is laughing – but not in a nice way. A snigger is a quiet laugh, often under your breath or behind a hand, at the expense of someone else. We don’t recommend it; it’s mean.
Contributed by Luke
Not to be confused with ‘botch’, which means to do something very badly, to ‘bodge’ something is to fix or build something temporarily, using whatever materials you happen to have lying around. The result may not look great, but it isn’t necessarily bad – in fact a bodge job is usually a sign of resourcefulness.
Does anyone else have any great English words you think everyone should know? Or have you learnt a fun English expression you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the USA, and around the world! Before we know it, it’ll be Christmas, and then we’ll be into 2015. Time flies!
Here in the EuroTalk office, we enjoy a bit of healthy competition, and with the new year approaching, we’ve decided it’s a good time to take some of our own advice and try learning a new language, using our uTalk app. We’ll all be taking on different languages, and competing against each other to see who can learn the most in the 31 days of January. What could possibly go wrong?
The rules are simple:
1. The winner will be the first person to score maximum points on uTalk in the language of their choice, or the person with the highest score on 31st January.
2. The language chosen can’t be one we already speak.
3. Competitors must start from zero points on 1st January.
4. To join the challenge, we’ll need to have access to an iPhone or iPad with the free uTalk app installed.
If you fancy taking up the uTalk challenge for yourself, we’ll be very glad of the company, so drop us an email with the language you’ve chosen, and we’ll send you over a code to unlock the Essentials upgrade (worth £6.99) so you can get started completely free on January 1st.
And in the meantime why not let your friends know which language you’re planning to learn? (There are 100 to choose from, but don’t panic – you’ve got a month to think about it!)
So far, our competitors include:
Ioana, who’ll be learning French
Nat, taking on Icelandic
Steve, who fancies a go at Thai
Al, tackling Chinese (Mandarin)
… and Liz, who took a while to decide but eventually settled on German.
Wish us luck!
Today’s post was contributed by Mark James, Copywriter at Crunch Accounting.
It’s been just over a year since I traded academia for the office, my three years spent studying English coming to an end and my career as a copywriter now starting to take shape.
In that past year I’ve had to make an array of adjustments; getting used to waking when the sun comes up rather than when it goes down and trading clubbing plans for pension plans amongst the changes I’ve felt. Getting to grips with corporate lingo is something I’ve faced too – an English dialect of its own that can be just as baffling as Scouse or Geordie (perhaps even more so).
Concerned about its influence, the Plain English Campaign has tried to contain its spread, going so far as to say that it’s damaging the economy. That’s probably a tad extreme but there’s no doubt that office jargon’s causing contention, certain phrases creeping outside of the workplace and into our everyday language.
As such, if you’re planning on spending some time on these shores it might be a good idea to learn some of the basics. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular…
Heard in offices across the country, confusingly this doesn’t refer to playing baseball, it simply means to establish contact with someone, perhaps through telephone, email, or a meeting in person.
Example usage – ‘David, I think you ought to touch base with Boris. His political aspirations are getting way out of control.’
You’ll hear this in meetings a lot. Essentially, it translates as ‘in the future’. Why ‘in the future’ isn’t deemed good enough again confuses me, but hey ho, people seem to like using it.
Example usage – ‘I’ve got my eye on a Bugatti Veyron, so going forward I propose we cut costs and outsource to India.’
An acronym which stands for ‘Key Performance Indicator’, you’ll often hear this in appraisals and the like. Basically, the term encompasses anything that management can use to manage the effectiveness of a strategy or, you as an employee.
Example usage – ‘For someone brought in to increase productivity by 200%, Tarquin’s KPIs are woefully low. Clear his desk whilst he’s away at lunch.’
‘Thinking outside the box’
This phrase must be a nightmare for a non-native speaker, as there’s no boxes involved, it simply means to think unconventionally.
Example usage – ‘To prosper in the global race, we’ll need to increasingly think outside the box.’
Another acronym that I thought needed explaining, this stands for ‘Return On Investment’. Put simply, it refers to how much cash an investment in something like property or a marketing campaign reaps in the long term.
Example usage – ‘We invested £200 billion in subprime mortgages but our ROI appears to be less than 300 billionths of that. In other words, we need a government bailout.’
In my first year of office work, these five terms are the ones that I’ve come across the most. There’s many more though, as this article from the BBC reflects, and if an episode of The Apprentice is anything to go by, there’s plenty more where that came from. I’d start developing an office jargon app if I were you, EuroTalk…
Mark James is a Copywriter for Crunch Accounting. If you’d like to touch base with him going forward, find him on Twitter at @MarkJames891.
And if you’re interested in learning some business English, you might want to try Talk Business, which is available as a download or a CD-ROM. It may not include the jargon above, but it’s a good place to start!
Image credit – arenagroove
Gloria’s post today is about her work on the EuroTalk roof garden, which is a lovely place for us to enjoy in the summer sunshine. Getting it that way hasn’t been easy, but the end result shows that sometimes it’s worth persevering. The same could be said for learning a language!
When I was first handed responsibility for looking after the roof garden at EuroTalk I felt quite smug. Easy – or so I thought! And a good reason (or excuse?) for removing myself from the computer screen quite often. I have a large garden at home, so I already have a lot of experience in planting, pruning, weeding and watering etc. What’s more – I know it’s an ongoing task for at least nine months of the year, so I expected a lot of hard, back-breaking work in the open air. I wasn’t wrong!
What I didn’t bargain for was the changing face of EuroTalk.
Last summer (2012) I had a beautiful display of colours blending up on the roof. My favourites are the pinks and mauves, so I’d planted a whole lot of flowers in these colours. By June the roof garden was looking really healthy and beautiful and I felt that all my backaches had been worth it. Then it happened!
In July the builders moved in. They erected scaffolding on the terrace and moved a lot of the pots to safer places while they worked on building a new room and putting in a panoramic window which formed the entire exterior wall of this extension. But this took time – nine months, to be exact. I could have had a baby in that length of time (well I couldn’t, but one of our younger staff did!)
The two canvas sails, which had created shade for anyone sitting at the huge wooden table, were removed and allowed to hang up against a wall, thus preventing both light and rain water from reaching a number of the troughs and pots throughout the autumn and winter. Builders rubble appeared out of nowhere – bricks, cement, wood, plastic bags and sacks etc. – you name it and it appeared on our lovely roof terrace. I sat and cried, and vowed to myself that someone else could sort it all out once the building work was finished. I’d had enough. I felt totally disillusioned at all my hard work being destroyed.
Although I went on to the roof garden several times during those dark months, I wasn’t able to do much other than put some water on the dried out pots and cross my fingers!
Then finally, in March 2013 the building work was completed. On the third attempt, the panoramic window was finally fitted satisfactorily and the scaffolding eventually disappeared. The rubble was cleared away and all the pots were put back into place. The builders did a very good job of cleaning the roof garden and the artificial turf began to look like real grass once more. Even the cigarette ends disappeared.
Then began the task of resurrection. A number of visits to the garden centre worked wonders. Then the automatic watering system caused a number of problems. Not all pots had feeds off the main, so this had to be sorted out. Once we had additional bits and pieces, again I thought it was finished. Not so. The older bits didn’t like working with the newer ones so another visit to the garden centre was required. With help from two of my colleagues (Alan and Steve) it is now working correctly. Fingers crossed again!
I split and transferred the crocosmia so that both cauldrons now contain orange crocosmia and a potentilla – one yellow and one white. The main pots and troughs are back up and in full flower, mainly pinks and mauves of course, but with a few other colours added for variety. I’d managed to salvage the lavenders, but it took a lot of T.L.C. and I’m now happy once more with the result – a verdant, lush, colourful display.
With the constantly changing colours and differing amounts of foliage as the year progresses, I see it as a kaleidoscope of never-ending challenges. And I’m currently rooting some chocolate mint on my desk to replace the one that shrivelled from lack of water. Yipppeeee – it’s working.
But I’m begging our bosses, please don’t plan to do any more extensions. My back and my temper can’t take it…….