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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Office Types 2


In Part 1, we learned some idioms to describe people in an office. Review them. Can you think of any more?


Following are slang words to describe five office jobs. Match the job title to the job:

1. bean counter
2. gofer
3. headhunter
4. high roller
5. pencil pusher

a. someone who helps find managers and other executives for a company
b. someone who takes risks to try to make a lot of money
c. someone who keeps records; a clerk or other low-level job
d. someone who worries about the company's finances
e. someone who goes and gets things for the company; and errand boy or girl


1. bean counter (d): Someone who cuts costs in an operation, often an accountant or auditor. It's not a nice thing to call a person. One story (probably not true) is that an airline accountant noticed that, if the company put one less bean on every salad served to passengers, they would save thousands of dollars a year.
2. gofer (e): A low-level employee who runs errands. His or her job is to "go for" things: gofer this and gofer that!
3. headhunter (a): Somebody who recruits executives for companies. It's a kind of joke: The original meaning of "headhunter" was a warrior who cut off heads as trophies! But now it's someone who "hunts" for the "heads"--that is, leaders--of organizations.
4. high roller (b): Originally a gambler who played for a lot of money, it's now a person who spends a lot of money, or, in a company, one who takes risks for high rewards. This is a benefit in many companies, where planned risk-taking is a valuable strategy.
5. pencil pusher (c): A clerk or bookkeeper who keeps records, involving a lot of writing. Again, this term is not very nice.


Use each of the above terms in one of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. I think his job is boring; he's just a __________ who spends all day writing.
2. Some __________ called me last week and offered me a management job in another company.
3. My office needs lots of things picked up and delivered, so we hired a __________.
4. If the __________ had their way, we would never spend money on small gifts for our employees.
5. The new department head takes a lot of risks; she's kind of a __________.


If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Which of the above jobs sounds interesting to you? Which sounds boring?
2. Do you know anyone who has jobs like these? Talk about what he or she does.
3. Can you guess the more formal names for each job?


1. pencil pusher; 2. headhunters; 3. gofer; 4. bean counters; 5. high roller

Possible answers to "Questions for Discussion or Writing" Question 3
1. bean counter: accountant, auditor, production manager
2. gofer: delivery boy or girl, errand boy or girl
3. headhunter: executive recruiter, human resources consultant
4. high roller: this is not really a job, but he or she might be called a risk taker or gambler
5. pencil pusher: bookkeeper, accountant, clerk, secretary

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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