Firstly, what is an idiom and where do they come from? They have been in use since the late 16th century and the best way to think of an idiom is something that essentially ‘sums it all up’, which means that an idiom says in a few words how we feel about a particular situation or experience. The actual Latin root of the word idiōma means something closer to a peculiar or strange event rather than the idea of something. Today, we use idioms to talk about everyday things that communicate an idea of something experienced by other native speakers, and which are relatively commonplace.
Top ten list of idioms
- Go ballistic – It essentially means to go a bit crazy or angry. It has a double meaning whereby somebody could go ballistic on the dance floor for example in the UK (positive), or your clients will go ballistic if you increase your prices by 50% (negative).
- Dive off the deep end – In business this would suggest risk. I.e. You’re going to have to just jump in and get involved and take the risk that it might not work and the risk is that you may drown.
- Barking up the wrong tree – Your blaming the wrong person or company for doing something wrong and would be better off finding out who or what is actually at fault.
- The devil is in the details – A bit like those annoying contracts you sign in Germany for various services whereby a company can charge you for a lot of things you didn’t know about or read.
- Can’t see for looking – Yes, you were looking and couldn’t see an object that was right in front of you or in front of your nose.
- The bottom line is – The final point, summary or conclusion. Has a double meaning which shouldn’t be confused with improving profitability.
- Stuck in a rut – Unable to move forward in a job, career or life moment. Could be used for a company that is unable to grow further.
- Low hanging fruit – The easy sales or fast sales you can complete. They could be low-cost or highly profitable.
- Damned if you do, damned if you don’t – A dilemma of what to do next. Both options present results that look equally negative.
- Them’s the breaks – In effect, someone is saying “Oh well, too bad” or is using a nicer version of “Shit happens”. You can get a good break, or a bad break but them’s the breaks is used to talk about bad or poor chances we get or happenings.
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