Stewart’s corner


These are words which have a new or adopted meaning in certain contexts. Here are some common examples from the world of business:

Band-Aid solution
This is an AE expression which means a temporary solution that does not satisfy the long-term need: «The level of support to Russia is just a band-aid». The term comes from Band-Aid which is an American trademark for an adhesive bandage.

Bottom line
The bottom line in a balance sheet is the one that really counts as it shows the profit or loss. It is also commonly used in the UK and the USA to mean what is the price of something. I heard the story of an American businessperson in China who was trying to get a better deal and said: «The bottom line is the bottom line». This puzzled the translator who told his Chinese client that: «the line is on the bottom, never on the top».
Flavour of the month
The latest fashion in products, gimmicks or ways of keeping staff happy is often termed the flavour of the month. The phrase comes from ice cream manufacturers who introduce a new taste in order to attract more customers.

Hidden agenda
The true motive behind the action of someone in a business meeting. The meeting may be officially about the progress in a specific project, but the person asking all the difficult questions may have a hidden agenda to discover something else; for example: your competence, or your computer security routines.

A payoff or financial reward to make sure that employees who leave a company do not reveal sensitive information to unauthorized parties is termed hushmail. It is closely associated with blackmail.
Mickey Mouse
This is an AE expression that means something is simple or idiotic. Mickey Mouse is sometimes abbreviated to MM. When somebody is said to be running a Mickey Mouse operation, it is a negative term about a company, a government or the state of a national economy.

Rain check
This is another common AE business expression that means that the matter under discussion will be taken up later: «I'll  take a rain check on this». The term comes from the ticket (check in AE) that spectators receive if they are watching a baseball match that has to be stopped because of bad weather. A real rain check is a replacement ticket for the rescheduled match.

Tricky words

To table a matter/get something on the table
In the context of a meeting, these expressions may be tricky. In BE, to table a matter/table a motion/or put something on the table all mean that it will be discussed immediately or during that meeting.
In AE, the same phrase means to postpone the matter or remove it from the agenda indefinitely. These differences may be a source of misunderstanding.
I wonder whether this was why the chairperson in a European Commission meeting once came with a third variation. He opened by asking the delegates whether they had any matters to discuss under the table.

VIP, Very Important Person
It is interesting that in English, the short version of Very Important Person is pronounced letter-by-letter as an abbreviation: «V-I-P». The plural form is VIPs.
In Norwegian, the same phrase is pronounced as a single word or acronym that rhymes with lip.

wash up, washed up
When you have finished the dishes you have washed up, but be careful, too much of this may make you washed up or tired out. When this phrase is used about public figures, it means they are finished: «He used to be a VIP in the party, but now he is washed up as a politician». In AE, the phrase to wash up also means to wash your face and hands. A British family may be puzzled at first when an American visitor says that he or she will wash up before they have even sat down to eat.

Enlightening English

Two gems from our region: A package-tour pilgrimage brochure called «Pilgrimage in the Pilgrim Route 1998-99» tells visitors to Dovre that: «Dinner will be served at the summer diary». A well-known restaurant in town had a dessert on its English menu that should satisfy even discerning gourmands: «Mixed fruit and whalenuts».

forsida  nyheter  kronikk  innspill  kultur  debatt