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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 10 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 10 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 10 – Discussing a Difficult Request


Tanya is head of R&D in a laboratory for Sudsco, a company that makes shampoo. Here she meets with colleagues John and Andy to discuss a request from the marketing department.

Tanya: Let me kick off this meeting with some news. Our marketing department would like us to produce a new fragrance by the end of next month.

John: Oh, brother.* We need this extra work like a hole in the head! What fragrance are they looking for?

Tanya: Mango.

Andy: Mango? Are they out of their minds? Do they know how tough that is?

Tanya: Yeah, but I told them we’d take a crack at it. If we put our minds to it, I know we can do it.

Andy: I don’t know. It’s not going to be easy.

Tanya: Let’s roll up our sleeves and give it our best shotNothing ventured, nothing gained.

John: Well, Tanya, you certainly have a can-do attitude!

Tanya: Actually, this is child’s play compared to what our CEO wants us to do by the end of the year. He wants us to come up with new, improved formulas for all 50 of our shampoos.

Andy: What? How are we supposed to manage that? Sometimes I think the bigwigs at this company are out of touch with reality!

* oh, brother – a polite way of expressing annoyance


  • (to) kick off

 to start something, such as a meeting or a project

EXAMPLE: Bill Gates kicked off the conference by showing a demonstration of Microsoft’s new search engine.

NOTE: You will also see the phrase “kick-off meeting,” meaning the first meeting to get a new project started.

  • (to) need something like a hole in the head

 to have no need for something; to have no desire for something

EXAMPLE: One of our competitors is threatening to take us to court. We need that like a hole in the head!

  • out of one’s mind

 crazy; having unrealistic thoughts or ideas

EXAMPLE: Our DSL provider is telling us that our rates will soon go up by 50 percent. Are they out of their minds?

  • (to) take a crack at something

 to try something

EXAMPLE: It’s going to be hard for us to lower our raw materials cost on this product, but we’ll take a crack at it.

SYNONYM: to have a go at something

  • (to) put one’s mind to something

 to focus on a task; to try hard to do something

EXAMPLE: Your accounting course may be difficult, but if you put your mind to it, you’ll get through it.

  • (to) roll up one’s sleeves

 to get ready to start something; to prepare to do something

EXAMPLE: We’ve got to pack up 500 crystal vases by tomorrow morning, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

  • (to) give it one’s best shot

 to make one’s best effort to get something done; to try to do something, even though you’re not sure if you’ll be successful

EXAMPLE: The small brewery went out of business after three unprofitable years, but at least they gave it their best shot.

  • nothing ventured, nothing gained

 If you don’t try to do something, you’ll never succeed.

EXAMPLE: It’s risky to spend so much money developing a new brand, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  • can-do attitude

 a positive way of looking at things; an optimistic perspective; a positive attitude

EXAMPLE: Marie always says that nothing’s impossible. She’s got a real can-do attitude.

  • child’s play

 an easy task

EXAMPLE: Evan has been an auto mechanic for 20 years, so replacing your windshield wipers will be child’s play for him.

  • bigwig

 very important person; person in charge

EXAMPLE: All the bigwigs from the company went to Hawaii for a four-day conference.

SYNONYMS: head honcho; big cheese; VIP (very important person)

ORIGIN: This term comes from “big wig” — the large wigs that English men wore in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men of great importance wore the biggest wigs.

  • out of touch with reality

 unrealistic; not aware of what’s really going on

EXAMPLE: The CEO believes His company’s stock price will triple in a year. Most people think he’s out of touch with reality.

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