Business English with Michael

Uncover the fascinating meaning, origin, and usage of 9 phrases you probably won't see in your textbook, but will definitely hear in the office.

A Fun Guide to 9 Common Business Phrases: Origins and Examples

Are you ready to unravel the mystery of office lingo? Do you ever wonder if your colleagues have a secret language, talking about “rolling balls,” “quick thinking,” and “staying on top of things”? No worries! In this blog post, brought to you by Michael Murphy, a seasoned professional with 7 years of experience teaching business English, we’ll explore some popular office phrases in a way that’s easy to understand and maybe even make you smile. We’ll uncover the fascinating meaning, origin, and usage of these phrases and dive into 9 phrases you probably won’t see in your textbook, but will definitely hear in the office.

1. Get the Ball Rolling:

This phrase may come from sports, where getting a ball rolling starts a game. In business, it means starting a project or task. 

Example: “Let’s get the ball rolling on the new marketing campaign by scheduling a kickoff meeting.”

2. Think on Your Feet:

Imagine being in a situation where you need to respond quickly. This phrase suggests being as fast and clever as someone who can think and act while standing.

Example: “During the presentation, you might need to think on your feet if unexpected questions arise.”

3. Stay on Top of Things:

Picture your tasks like pancakes on a stack. Your job is to make sure none of them get soggy, just like keeping pancakes warm on top of a stack.

Example: “To succeed in this role, you need to stay on top of things and manage your tasks efficiently.”

4. Stay Ahead of the Curve:

In racing, you aim to be in front of your competitors, or “ahead of the curve.” In business, it means staying up-to-date with new ideas and trends.

Example: “Our research and development team ensures we stay ahead of the curve in technology trends.”

5. Pick Up the Slack:

Imagine your team’s work like a rope held tight. If someone lets go (slackens), others need to pick it up to keep the rope from falling.

Example: “When your colleague is on vacation, you need to pick up the slack and help with their tasks.”

6. Touch Base With:

In baseball, players touch the bases as they run to score. In business, “touching base” means having a meeting or discussion to check in.

Example: “I’d like to touch base with you next week to discuss your project’s progress.”

7. Stay on the Same Page:

In a book, everyone reading the same page is like everyone understanding the project the same way.

Example: “Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about the project’s goals and deadlines.”

8. Hit the Ground Running:

This phrase suggests starting a project with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, like a superhero running fast from the beginning.

Example: “As the new team lead, you should hit the ground running and start making improvements from day one.”

9. Cross That Bridge When You Come to It:

Imagine a bridge on your journey. You only need to deal with crossing it when you reach it. It’s a way of saying, “Don’t worry about it now.”

Example: “Let’s focus on our current tasks, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

So there you have it – a fun guide to understanding some tricky office phrases along with their origins. These phrases might sound like secret handshakes, but they’re just creative ways to say, “Let’s get things done!” So, “hit the ground running,” “stay on the same page,” and “pick up the slack.” In the world of business lingo, it’s always best to “cross that bridge when you come to it.” Happy learning, everyone!

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