Introduction    General Proverbs    Idioms at School    Idioms at Work    Idioms at Play    American Culture

Gossip at a Pajama Party    Chat at a Gym   Chat before a Trip    Chat among Old Friends    Dialogue on Business


Lesson Three -- Idioms at Work

Definition    conversation    Test 


  Shoulder to the wheel

to work hard and make an effort

  Nose to the grindstone

apply yourself conscientiously to your work


to be obsequious to superiors for your own benefit


 beginning level course or knowledge.  Comes from the common American university practice of numbering courses.  Introductory courses were commonly 101, as in Eng 101, History 101, Psych 101.

  Heard it around the water cooler

 heard through office gossip.  The water cooler is a common meeting place

  The grapevine

the unofficial network of information at work.  Gossip, but almost always work-related

  In the pipeline

Things that are being planned and should be implemented shortly.

  The top banana

a slang term for boss

  The salt of the earth

people who are decent, dependable and unpretentious

  It's a piece of cake

something very simple or easy to do.

  feather in one's cap

a deed or act that distinguishes one

  little birdie told me

I heard from an unnamed source that I don¡¦t want to name

  new broom sweeps clean

a new boss or manager makes changes and gets rid of old or stale worker or methods.

  matter of opinion

 something that is not a fact, but can be debated

  long shot

 something that will be difficult

  month of Sundays

something that happens very rarely or that happened a long time ago

  sucking up

another term that means someone is being obsequious to authority

  clean out the dead wood

get rid of the workers that don¡¦t do their share

  golden parachutes

when someone is retired and given an excellent benefit package, it¡¦s called a golden parachute.  They are being saved very nicely

  picking up the slack

doing the work that someone else can¡¦t or won¡¦t do


someone who lends prestige to a company, perhaps concealing less qualified staff

  sell-by date

comes from groceries, which are stamped with a ¡§sell by¡¨ date.  To be past it means to be old or out of step

  get the chop

to get fired



                         Diane, Joe and Tom are meeting for lunch and discussing work.  Their conversation will introduce you to a number of idioms commonly used at work     

Diane: Hey Tom, how¡¦s it going?

                  Tom: Pretty good.  Listen, Diane, I heard through the grapevine that you¡¦re going to be working on the Johnson account. 

Diane: Don¡¦t believe everything you hear around the water cooler.  I¡¦m not on the Johnson account, and a little birdie told me that Joe is getting that account. 

Tom:  Well, here she comes, so let¡¦s ask her.

Diane: Joe, is it true that you¡¦re going to be working on the Johnson account?

Joe: Not me.  That little brown-nosing Robbie is getting it, I hear.  He¡¦s really been sucking up to the new boss, the guy who replaced Lars.

Tom:  You think so?  The new guy seems pretty sharp.  I think he would recognize Robbie for what he is.  But if Rob does get the account, it will be a real feather in his cap

Diane:  I wish Lars was still our boss.  He was the salt of the earth.

Joe: Yeah, but then again, a new broom sweeps clean.  Maybe this new guy can clean out the dead wood and get us moving forward. 

Tom: Yeah, right, that¡¦ll be a real piece of cake!  Some of these dinosaurs have been here since old man Simms started the company 40 years ago!

Diane: I hear that golden parachutes are in the pipeline for all of them.  They¡¦ll finally be going, but going with a smile.

Tom: And in the meantime, the rest of us will have to keep our shoulders to the wheel and do twice the work. 

Joe: I doubt it.  Most of these old guys only have one or two accounts.  I don¡¦t think there¡¦ll be much picking up the slack.

Diane: Yeah, from what I can see, some of these guys haven¡¦t done any real work in a month of Sundays.

Tom: That¡¦s a matter of opinion, really.  They don¡¦t do much, but they are nice window-dressing.  People like the idea of age and experience.

Diane: You think so?  Mr. Simms was the top banana for a long time, and I think he kept his friends working here long past their sell-by date.  I think newer clients want younger, more cutting edge people working their accounts.

Joe: Age and experience versus youth and enthusiasm.  The classic dilemma.

Tom:  In advertising, people like youth.  That¡¦s Advertising 101.

Diane: Well, getting rid of Simm¡¦s people is good, but it¡¦s a long shot, getting this place back to the way it was in the 70s.  We were the hottest advertising company in town back then.

Tom: Back when Simms and his friends were all young.  See what I mean?

Joe: Well, we were young once, too!  With them gone, we¡¦re going to be the dinosaurs, did you ever think of that? 

Diane:  So I guess we¡¦d better be the ones to keep our noses to the grindstone if we don¡¦t want to be the next ones getting the chop! 

Tom: Speaking of, I¡¦d better get back to work.

Diane and Joe: Me, too!