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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Office Idioms 1


What is a "parachute" used for? What is a "fuse"?


Let's look at some idioms that might be used in business situations, or even in everyday conversation:

Match the idioms to a related term. The answers are in the "Notes."

1. bush-league
2. circular file
3. ego trip
4. eighty-six
5. golden parachute
6. gung ho
7. short fuse

a. self-centeredness
b. amateurish; not of the best quality
c. very aggressive
d. easily angered
e. a kind of benefits package
f. waste basket
g. get rid of


1. bush-league (b): This term comes from baseball. "Bush" here refers to "the countryside." If you were a mediocre ball player, you wouldn't be in the major leagues; you'd be in a "bush league."
2. circular file (f): This is a humorous reference to a trash can or waste basket.
3. ego trip (a): Ego simply means "I" or "the self." Everyone has an ego, and it can generally be an OK thing. But some people are very self-centered, or selfish. We call them "egotistical."
4. eighty-six (g): To eliminate. Originally, it meant that a restaurant had run out of something: "Hi, can I have a chocolate sundae?" "We're sorry, sir, the sundae has been 86'd." Later, it became more generally used as a synonym for "get rid of," as when a manager tells an assistant to fire someone.
5. golden parachute (e): Originating in the 1980s, this is part of the benefits package for a high-level manager, either upon retirement, or even if he has to be fired. Properly called "termination benefits" or the like, it means that when you "jump out of the airplane," you won't be hurt because your parachute--made of gold--will carry you down safely.
6. gung ho (c): This means very aggressive. As you might have guessed from the sound, many sources say it's based on a Chinese term. Some suggest gongye hezhoushe, or industrial cooperative. They say that these work units were very hard working, almost unstoppable; an American Marine Corps officer noticed this and coined the term.
7. short fuse (d): This is when someone gets angry easily. Some people are injured using illegal fireworks during their New Year's celebrations because their firecrackers have short fuses, and "go off" too soon. Just the same, if you know someone with a "short fuse," he or she may get angry too soon.


Use the seven terms above in the following sentences:

1. The boss said to put out old reports in the __________.
2. Before you sign a contract, be sure to arrange for a __________.
3. That salesman is very __________; he's going to do very well here.
4. Brad is always telling us how wonderful he is; that guy's on such an __________.
5. You don't want to be around Mel when something goes wrong; he has a really __________.
6. Most of the sales force is very effective, but not Bill; he's sort of __________.
7. Mark's not doing his job anymore; I think we need to __________ him.


1. Write your own sentences using these terms.
2. Create a dialogue with these terms, and practice it with a friend.


1. circular file
2. golden parachute
3. gung ho
4. ego trip
5. short fuse
6. bush-league
7. eighty-six

This lesson is ©2012 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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