Schlagwort-Archive: idiom

Idiom 111 – Dead heat

We are currently looking for a new staff member for my team. We’ve had dozens of applications, but only two have been interesting. We have invited them both for interviews. I hope it becomes clear who is better for us, because at the moment, based on their CVs, it’s a dead heat (Unentschieden).


Another idiom that comes to us from the world of horse racing – where a dead heat is a race in which two or more horses finish exactly equal. But why the words „dead“ and „heat“? As mentioned in a previous post the word dead also has an additional meaning besides not alive. This meaning – exact, or precise which gives us expressions like deadline, dead ringer, or dead centre  –  is what is meant in this idiom. A heat is the name of a qualifying round in a race before the final.

Idiom 110 – The ether

Yesterday I was working on an important report that I have to give to my boss today. I’m sure I left it on my desk yesterday when I left the office. But when I came in today, it wasn’t there. I’ve looked everywhere, I just can’t find it – it’s disappeared into the ether (das Nichts).

In the modern scientific world, ether is a chemical  which is used as a solvent and, formerly, as an anesthetic. But idioms referring to the ether generally come from an older meaning. Ether was a substance once believed to fill all space beyond the  the moon, holding in it the stars and planets and providing a medium for light to travel through. It was invisible and mysterious.

Corporate speak

Have you actioned any blue sky thinking recently? Are you leveraging your core competencies and synergising for optimal output? If so, you have probably fallen victim to corporate speak (A.K.A. management speak, marketing speak). Characterised by long and unnecessary variations of common English phrases, corporate speak tries to hide the real meaning of what is being said, make the speaker sound more important and disguise negatives to make them look more attractive.

One of the truly terrible things about corporate speak is the way it is sneaking into other languages. Phrases like „Ich weiss nicht, ob ich das rechtzeitig gegreenlighted kriege“ or „Wir müssen die Relationship mit dem Stakeholder verbessern“ are not uncommon in German offices (both examples come from the SPIEGEL’s Bullshit-O-Mat)

If you need a little help formulating your own corporate speak, try The Corporate B.S. Generator.

And to end, a lesson from a master of corporate speak, David Brent from the TV show The Office (the „inspiration“ for Stromberg)


Idiom 109 – Walk on eggshells

The LINGUA FRANCA Spachschule blog hopes you all had a wonderful Easter. To celebrate – an egg themed idiom!

Cracked Eggs by AbsurdWordPreferredMy boss is not an easy person to work with. He can become angry very quickly, even on a good day. But today is not a good day. This morning we found out that our biggest client was moving to our biggest competitor. Everyone in the office has been walking on eggshells (Eiertanz aufführen).

This is just one of many egg-based English idioms. See some more at the links below:

You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs

Idiom 108 – Go the extra mile

The LINGUA FRANCA Sprachschule is today presenting an idiom with roots (like so many idioms) in the Bible.

We have decided to stay with our IT service provider. They are not the cheapest, but they always go the extra mile (sich besonders anstrengen), which is very important when your company is as dependent on its IT systems as ours is.

During the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Ch 5 v 41) Jesus says, „whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.“

This refers to a law which gave a marching Roman soldier the right to demand that any passing Jewish citizen carry his equipment for a mile. Jesus wanted his followers not just to do this but to go a second mile voluntarily. In the short Bible passage above we also see the origin of the idioms „turn the other cheek“ and „give the shirt off your back“

Idiom 107 – Face the music

The LINGUA FRANCA Sprachschule blog is today introducing you to an idiom that is all about taking responsibility for your actions.

We recently made an offer for a really big, important project. But there was a mistake in the price calculation, which meant we were too expensive. As a result, the project was awarded to our competitor. Nobody in our company knows who was responsible for the mistake – except me. Because I made the mistake. Now I have to decide whether to keep my mouth shut and hope no one finds out or face the music (geradestehen) and tell my boss I made the mistake.

John-crozier-ramsey-expelledLike so many idioms, the origins of face the music are uncertain. The explanation that seems most plausible to me comes from the military world. Traditionally, when a soldier was expelled from the army for dishonourable behaviour, his exit would be accompanied by the playing of drums (see illustration). To face the music being played by the drums was to take the responsibility for your mistakes.

Idiom 106 – Can’t make head or tail of it

Recently we changed the supplier for our telephone system. The old system was good, but simply too expensive. Our new system is much cheaper, but very difficult to use. It’s been installed at our office for two weeks and I still can’t make head or tail of it (werde nicht schlau.) idiom comes from the name of the two sides of a coin in English. On one side is the „head“ and so the opposite side is called the „tail“ (no matter what picture is show on the coin).  For example, if you toss a coin to help you make a decision, while the coin is in the air, you call either „heads“ or „tails“. So the idiom „can’t make head or tail of it“ means that something is unclear and confusing no matter what side you look at it from.

Idiom 105 – Take for a ride

The LINGUA FRANCA Sprachschule blog wishes you a happy Monday morning from a wet and grey Berlin. Today’s idiom is one I hope not too many of you have had to experience directly.

My aunt phoned me yesterday. She was very excited because she had received an email from a very nice Nigerian millionaire who needed her help getting his fortune out of the country. In return for the $500 he needed to set up a foreign bank account he would pay her $250,000. I had to tell her that it was a trick. There was no millionaire, just a scammer trying to take her for a ride (reinlegen).

To hear an example of this idiom in use, have a look at the following from the BBC Learning English team:

PDF Script of recording origin of this idiom is even more sinister and criminal than what you can find in the examples above. It comes from the American gangster underworld of the 20s and 30s. If a gang was unhappy with you for some reason, you would be invited to „take a ride“ in a car with a couple of their members to „discuss“ the problems you were having. Normally that was the last anyone saw of you. Maybe the police would find your body some days or weeks later. Maybe not.

New Year’s Traditions From Around the World!

Happy New Year from the LINGUA FRANCA Sprachschule blog! Berlin’s streets are looking a little better again after the annual civil war that erupts every New Year’s Eve. How did you ring in the New Year (Silvester feiern)? A quiet one at home? Or did you paint the town red (richtig einen draufmachen)?

To see some traditional ways that people around the world celebrate the start of the new year, have a look at the video below.
If the language is too fast for you, you can find the text here.

Idiom 104 – Have your work cut out

Welcome to today’s idiom from the LINGUA FRANCA Sprachschule blog. If you are desperately trying to finish important things at work before the Christmas break, this is the idiom for you.

My team was just given a huge new project for an important client. We have to finish it before the end of the month. On top of that, we have 3 new team members who we still have to train fully, and who won’t be working at full speed for some time to come. In other words, we really have our work cut out (all Hände voll zu tun) for the next few weeks!

T idiom originates from the 1600s. It is connected to the work done by a tailor. When a tailor has cut out the cloth needed for the piece he or she is working on, it becomes clear just how much work there still is to be done. So to have your work cut out means it’s easy to see that there is a lot of work that you still have to do.