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.