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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 15 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 15 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 15 – Shifting Blame


Rick and Ellen work for Attic Treasures Antiques, an antique shop. Max is the owner of the shop. Recently, a woman came in and sold them $10,000 worth of “antique” jewelry. Max takes one look at the jewelry and realizes it’s fake.

Max: I can’t believe you two bought these fake antique necklaces! Didn’t you examine them before shelling out 10 grand?

Rick: Yeah, I thought they were fake, but I let Ellen talk me into buying them.

Ellen: What? I can’t believe my ears! You thought they were real. Now you’re just trying to cover yourself!

Rick: I don’t want to be the fall guy here, Ellen. You were the one who looked at them under a magnifying glass.

Ellen: For the record, you were the one going on about how you “struck gold” right after the woman left the shop!

Rick: I don’t remember saying that. Stop trying to pass the buck. Just step up to the plate and admit your mistake!

Ellen: Right, while you wash your hands of the whole thing. Dream on!

Max: Let’s stop pointing fingers at each other. We need to track down that woman and get the money back!


  • (to) shell out

 to pay (often more than one would like)

EXAMPLE: The fast food chain had to shell out $ 10 million in a lawsuit after several people got sick from eating their hamburgers.

  • (to) talk someone into something

 to convince someone to do something, often something that one later regrets

EXAMPLE: Our president doesn’t want to give us Christmas Eve off as a holiday. We’re hoping our office manager can talk him into it.

  • I can’t believe my ears!

 I’m very surprised!

EXAMPLE: Chris got fired? I can’t believe my ears! He was one of our top salespeople!

  • (to) cover oneself

 to try to avoid being blamed for something; to protect oneself from blame

EXAMPLE: Nina knew her company was producing a defective product. She covered herself by keeping records of all of her letters and e-mails to her boss about the issue.

NOTE: You may hear the more vulgar form of this expression: cover your ass, or the shortened version “CYA.” Since “ass” is a vulgar word, some people use more polite variations of this expression, such as “cover your behind” and “cover your butt.”

  • fall guy

 the person who gets blamed for a mistake, sometimes unfairly

EXAMPLE: The company’s entire management team wanted to enter the market in China. When the business failed there, they made Fred the fall guy and fired him.

  • for the record

 let me make my opinion clear

EXAMPLE: I know that everybody else likes the idea of using a bear for a mascot, but, just for the record, I think it’s a lousy idea.

  • (to) go on about

 to talk too long about; to talk for a long time about (always said as a criticism); to brag

EXAMPLE: Bill is always going on about what a great salesman he is.

  • (to) strike gold

 to make a very profitable deal; to discover something valuable

EXAMPLE: Christie struck gold with the idea of selling videos at discount prices on eBay.

  • (to) pass the buck

 to shift the blame; to blame somebody else

EXAMPLE: It’s your fault. Don’t try to pass the buck!

ORIGIN: This expression comes from the world of poker. In the nineteenth century, a knife with a buckhorn handle (the “buck”) was passed to the next dealer when it was his turn to give out the cards.

  • (to) step up to the plate

 to take action; to do one’s best; to volunteer

EXAMPLE: We need somebody to be in charge of organizing the company holiday party. Who’d like to step up to the plate and start working on this project?

NOTE: This expression comes from baseball. You step up to the plate (a plastic mat on the ground) when it’s your turn to hit the ball.

  • (to) wash one’s hands of

 to remove any association with; to stop being part of something; to refuse to take responsibility for

EXAMPLE: When Molly realized her business partners were selling stolen goods, she decided to wash her hands of the whole business.

ORIGIN: This expression comes from the Bible. Pontius Pilate, a Roman official, announced before a crowd that he wouldn’t save Jesus from execution. Then he washed his hands in front of the crowd, symbolically washing away the responsibility.

  • Dream on!

 That’s what you’d like, but it’s not realistic.

EXAMPLE: You want to retire in five years, and you’ve only got $5,000 in the bank? Dream on!

  • (to) point fingers at each other / (to) point the finger at someone

 to blame

EXAMPLE: Don’t point the finger at me! You need to take the blame for this mistake.

  • (to) track something down

 to find, usually with difficulty

EXAMPLE: Sheila left an important file in a taxi, and now she’s going to have to track it down.

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