American Jargon
and
Baffling Idioms
What are some examples of language
proliferation in American English ?
Old Terms
New Terms
Personnel Director
Director of Human
Resources
Director of Risk
Management
Someone who is in
charge of
Insurance
Salesperson
Account Manager;
Service
Representative
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.
What does the sentence mean: “ It is
clear that America faces a
communications crisis that neither
Berlitz nor bytes alone can solve” ?
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
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
Don’t “Frenchify” your American
pronunciation.
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.
Reasons:
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.
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.
Jargons
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.
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…
General Confusion in Command
Jargons used in the military and the
space program affect the way people
use the language.
“reentry”
“burnout”
“abort”
“facility”—”a relief facility”
Oxymoron
Jumbo shrimp
Metal wood (golf)
Fair tax
Epic miniseries
Guest host
Bitter sweetness
“laptop”
“desktop publication”
“read my lips”
“spin doctor”
“catastrophic health insurance”
Business Slang
“hog heaven”
“gridlock”
“leveraged buyouts”
“number crunching”
“power lunch/breakfast”
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."
Officialese
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
ILGWU
ASCAP
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.
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.”
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?”
Other Languages,
Other Misunderstandings
Am English
Knickers
At the end of the day
British English
plus fours
Sth. will never be done
Backlog
(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
Am English
Fill him in
(provide him with
some info.)
British English
(hit someone
over the head)
My presentation bombed.
failure
a great success
In Spain:
Discuss

argue
“discutir”
Support 
financial aid
Embarrassed 
pregnant
“Estoy embarazado”
In France:
Demand
Actual
In Japan:
You


ask
present
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.
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American Jargon and Baffling Idioms