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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 19 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 19 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 19 – Complaining about a Co-worker


Justin, from the marketing department, is complaining to Mary about Joe. Joe is always nasty to Justin and Justin is sick of it. Mary advises Justin not to let Joe bother him.

Mary: How did the meeting with Joe go?

Justin: Lousy. He was in a snit.

Mary: Why?

Justin: He got bent out of shape over the fact that I didn’t bring him the sales forecasts. He gave me an earful about how people from the marketing department never bring him the right information.

Mary: Don’t worry about him. Don’t let him push your buttons.

Justin: I’ll just have to steer clear of him now that I know he’s such a hot-head.

Mary: He’s not a bad guy, but he does have issues. And he’s got a chip on his shoulder when it comes to marketing people.

Justin: Joe’s always on his high horse about something.

Mary: You’ll just have to grin and bear it. We’ve got a lot of personalities around here.* You’ll just have to learn to work with them.

Justin: Well, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to work with him. He gets under my skin.

* This is a nice way of saying: Many of the people working here have strange and/or unusual personalities, and it may be difficult to work with them.


  • in a snit

 in a bad mood; angry

EXAMPLE: No wonder Donna’s in a snit. She just found out she didn’t get the promotion she was expecting.

  • (to be or to get) bent out of shape

 to be or to get very angry about something

EXAMPLE: When Nick’s boss told him he couldn’t take two weeks off for a vacation, he got bent out of shape.

  • (to) give somebody an earful

 to say what you really think, in detail (usually criticism and often more than the other person wants to hear)

EXAMPLE: When Doug showed up for work late again, his boss gave him an earful.

  • (to) push one’s buttons

 to annoy someone; to make someone angry

EXAMPLE: Liz pushes my buttons with her bossy behavior.

  • (to) steer clear of somebody or something

 to avoid or stay away from someone or something

EXAMPLE: Ray is on a low-carb diet. He needs to steer clear of bread and pasta and other foods high in carbohydrates.

  • hot-head

 a bad tempered or very moody person; a violent person

EXAMPLE: Don’t feel bad that Tim yelled at you. He’s a real hot-head, and he yells at people all the time.

  • not a bad guy

 an okay person (usually used when you don’t really like somebody, but you want to say that they’re basically not a bad person)

EXAMPLE: Tim does have a bad temper, but he’s not a bad guy.

  • (to) have (some) issues

 to have some personality problems (a vague way of saying that somebody is not quite right in some way)

EXAMPLE: Unfortunately, Denise can be difficult to work with. She has some issues.

  • (to) have a chip on one’s shoulder

 to remain angry about a past insult; to bear a grudge

EXAMPLE: Ever since Mike was told he had to leave his office and move into a cubicle, he’s had a chip on his shoulder.

ORIGIN: This expression comes from the 19th century. Those looking for a fight placed a chip on their shoulder. If an opponent knocked it off, the fight was on. Although that custom has ended, we still say an angry person has a chip on his or her shoulder.

  • (to be or to get) on one’s high horse

 to have an arrogant or superior attitude; to think one has all the answers

EXAMPLE: Hank’s on his high horse again, telling everybody around him how to behave.

NOTE: You’ll also hear the related expression: “Get off your high horse!” meaning to stop acting arrogant or superior.

  • (to) grin and bear it

 to put up with it; to pretend it doesn’t bother you

EXAMPLE: I know you don’t like traveling with your boss, but it’ll just be a short trip. Just grin and bear it.

NOTE: “Grin” is another word for smile. “Bear” is to endure or tolerate.

  • (to) get under one’s skin

 to bother; to irritate; to annoy

EXAMPLE: Your boss is certainly annoying, but don’t let him get under your skin!

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