English: Double Talk

By Sandra Fletcher

Learning to speak any new language is difficult. But, having said that, experts believe that once you learn to speak a second language, then a third or fourth or even fifth language becomes easier to learn.

Many newcomers to Canada have to learn the language before they are able to find employment. And, even once they start their new jobs, many may be forced to learn yet another language. It may SOUND like English but sometimes the business language spoken in the Canadian workplace can be just as difficult to learn as English!

What’s the Buzz?

Many Canadian phrases and words have double meanings. Some defy logical translation altogether. We have decided to help you navigate your way through the maze of “business speak” of buzzwords and catch phrases.

Between a rock and a hard place – in business there are no actual rocks and no real hard places. The true meaning of this phrase is when you find yourself being forced to choose between two options, neither of which are pleasant – both of which are hard or difficult, it is going to be unpleasant whichever decision you make.

Big picture – The big picture doesn’t really refer to photos or pictures of any kind. What it does refer to is the whole issue or problem being dealt with, taking into account everything involved.

Brainstorm – This does not refer to a weather situation in your head. What it does refer to is usually a meeting where people say whatever ideas they have about a topic. No idea is wrong in a brainstorming session – it is simply a method of bringing out all ideas on a subject.

Come to the party – There will be no actual party. There will be no cake or dancing. Coming to the party means bringing all of your best ideas to the meeting and being prepare to give it your best.

Dog and pony show – A dog and pony show is usually a presentation where the presenter brings their very best, their most important information and puts on a show of their topic or idea. (Show meaning best possible performance.) The dogs and ponies refer to dog shows and horse shows where animals compete for prizes and perform – but they don’t show up for the actual presentations!

Drill down – While drilling down sounds painful, it simply refers to the process of getting to the bottom or root of a problem or idea.

Fast track – The fast track has nothing to do with running or racing at all. The fast track is the route that gets to the end result the quickest way possible.

Get all your ducks in a row – If someone tells you to get your ducks in a row, you will not need birds but you will need thoughts and proof of your ideas. Getting your ducks in a row means to get your plan, think it out and prepare for it to be examined.

Glass is half full – This refers to having a positive attitude about whatever you are dealing with. If the glass is half empty you have a negative attitude.

Go the extra mile – To go the extra mile does not imply that you need to travel at all. And while Canada does use the metric system, the expression is still not go the extra kilometre. This phrase means to perform beyond what is expected of you.

Have your cake and eat it too – If you have your cake and eat it too, it means you have the best of all outcomes. However, you will not eat, nor will there be any cake at all.

Heads up – If someone gives you a heads up they are making you aware of something. While not literally turning your head in any direction, they will be raising your knowledge of something.

Low-hanging fruit – Low hanging fruit refers to fruit that hangs from a tree which is close enough for you to grab easily without much effort. But, as with all things, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with fruit. It has to do with ideas, quick results and easily attained outcomes.

Nailing Jell-O® to a tree – Jell-O is a wiggly jiggly gelatin based food. This expression is usually “It’s as easy as nailing Jell-O to a tree.” Well, it’s impossible to nail Jell-O to anything! Really, in this case, it is an impossible situation to achieve!

Not rocket science (or Not brain surgery) – If something is referred to as not rocket science, it means that it is not a complicated subject. There are very few things that are as difficult as rocket science.

On the same page – If you are on the same page as someone, literally you would be reading the same things. So, this expression refers to having the same ideas and the same knowledge as the person who says it.

Out of the loop – A loop is pretty much the same as a circle. A continuous line that goes around and around on itself. If you are out of the loop, you are not engaging in the same process as everyone in the circle and aren’t therefore following the crowd.

Outside the box – Outside the box sounds similar to being out of the loop, but it is not. What is inside the box are the ideas that everyone can see. Thinking outside of the box means coming up with new ideas, or looking at something from a different angle. There is no actual box to be outside of – but it’s a good place to be.

Talking points – Talking points are not actual sharp points. Talking points are the main topics that you want to speak about in a meeting or conversation.

Tip of the iceberg – Icebergs are known for being very small above the water and huge underneath the surface. If something is the tip of the iceberg, then it is the beginning of something much larger than it appears.

Train wreck – This is not an actual accident. It is a phrase that refers to an incident or thing which is not only unsuccessful but will also be messy and time consuming to clean up. Train wrecks are not easily fixed!

It’s hard enough to find your way through a new job, a new language and a new country. We may not be able to teach you all you need to know – but let’s hope, since this will be just one more language you need to learn, it’s easier to pick up!

CNM

For help with your business English training you can find many programs in your area.

LINC classes and assessments are offered in almost every community in Ontario and provide basic instruction in ESL. You can find more information at Service Canada

More industry specific training can be found. For example, in Toronto, ESL for Newcomers working in IT is available through Job Start.