Tag Archives: slang

Tips to Help You Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

For those that may be new to the countries where this holiday is celebrated, or for those who would like to know a bit more about the beginnings of this day, please read on.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th in many countries, especially Ireland, England, Canada and the USA. It is a day that you can celebrate by yourself or preferably with friends by doing the following:

1.  Wear some green clothing

Young or old, you can add a bit of green to your ensemble or, if you are more daring, be obvious about your love of this day and dress head-to-toe in green!  Some like to wear a shirt with a shamrock on it, or better yet, attention-getting slogans like “Everybody’s Irish!” or “Kiss me I’m Irish!” 

2.  Drink green beer

It is not uncommon to drink green beer at the pub on this day, though traditionalists look down upon this gimmick.  Don’t worry – harmless green food dye is used.  So if old enough, you should drink at a pub, preferably Irish or British, and take part in their promotions. Most pubs and restaurants will have some promotional games or contests, perhaps sponsors like Guiness, Harp or Kilkenny (Irish beers) will offer freebies (giveaways at no cost).  If you do want to drink in a local pub be warned – Irish and British pubs fill up quickly on this day, well before the 5 pm whistle is blown.  It’s the place to be on St. Patty’s Day!

3.  See a St. Patrick’s Day parade

Today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are all about having fun.  A number of years ago the parades were seriously Irish, but these days, you can see a lot of diverse floats, clubs, bands and costumes.  I remember when I was young seeing a cowboy at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and wondering “What’s he doing there?”  LOL

4.  Re-tell the original story of St. Patrick:

A young English boy was stolen from his home and brought back to then-wild Ireland and held as a slave. During these difficult years the young man turned to his Christian faith to keep him going. One night he dreamed that he would walk over a hill and discover a boat that would rescue him. Shortly thereafter he escaped and found such a boat. He finally made it back to his home in England.

Later, as a priest, he decided to return to Ireland, where he knew the language and customs, to convert them to Christianity. Other missionaries had been killed, but he was successful.

He added the circle to the cross which represented the sun, and created the “Celtic cross.”

He used the 3-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to the Irish people. That is why the clover or “shamrock” is a strong symbol not only on St. Patrick’s Day but of Ireland itself.

This is just a brief background description. If interested, please do more research to learn about this fun and interesting holiday, and don’t be shy to get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day!


Why Teaching Idioms (Slang, Expressions) is Important in Business English

Like many of you I have a profile on the networking site LinkedIn. (You can find me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/communicationcoach )  One of the benefits of LinkedIn is becoming a member of a group related to our fields or interests.  I subscribe to a number of groups, and sometimes feel compelled to add my two cents to the discussions.  A few days ago was one of those times that I thought I could contribute.

In the group Business English Instructors, someone opened a discussion about President Obama’s recent slip-up when he mixed a Star Wars and a Star Trek pop culture reference together during a speech.  (The exact expression he created was “a jedi mind-meld.”)

This posting in LinkedIn led to a discussion amongst the members of the Business English teaching community to debate the virtues of teaching or not teaching idioms, slang and pop culture references in their BE (Business English) classes.

I felt that due to my direct experience with teaching idioms I should reply, and so I did.  Below is a copy of my comment on the subject, which may interest some of you:

“The question a teacher or trainer needs to ask is “what is the operating language of this location?”  When I was teaching English in China a long long time ago there was very little need for idioms to be taught. The focus was on getting students to pass exams and communicate on a certain level with other Chinese or some foreign teachers, in China. The operating language was ‘functional and academic’ English, for the most part, and I adjusted my conversations and teaching style to match.

But when I was asked to do manager training many years later in Moscow, Russia, part of the requested curriculum was to teach business expressions and cultural notes to the North American style of office communications. They ‘operated’ in English with North Americans and some British, and wanted to better understand their counterparts’ words and culture.

As a Communication Coach working mostly in Toronto and the surrounding area, a number of my clients are immigrants and foreign workers. Typically they have excellent hard skills and education, but often lack the soft skills we would like them to have to fit in. I know that sounds harsh, but it is an unspoken reality – we want them to understand us and our way of business communications here. This is the location. This is where business is done. You need to understand us and our way of doing things.

I often teach everyday and business idioms and expressions to clients, even if it is for just 10 minutes at the beginning of the session, as a warm up. They want to be better equipped for the water cooler as well as the boardroom. Ignoring idioms and pop culture references limits their ability to build relationships, to fully understand those around them, to join in the discussion, to understand the nuances and contexts of conversations, etc. Remember – I am talking about working here in Toronto’s business world, not overseas.

As a last morsel of food for thought, I’ll share this with you too: When my company created an English Communication Skills Assessment for a prominent police service to be used in conjunction with the hiring process, idioms and expressions were tested for, in addition to the usual suspects of grammar, spelling, reading comprehension, writing and speaking/listening. Why would we do this? Because we were told by senior training officers that they found it frustrating when they spoke to new recruits in a casual, informal way (i.e. with idioms and slang) and some newbies didn’t understand them, and it slowed down communication. When you think about the seriousness of policing, you might imagine how miscommunication could impact the lives and the safety of officers and the public.

I know on one hand it sounds too strict or maybe too much focus is being given to idioms, but I think when you consider how prominent idioms, slang, lingo and pop culture references really are, especially in an English-speaking operating country/company, you will realize the benefits of teaching them to those that could use the knowledge to improve their personal and professional lives.”

Don’t Be Gormless! Gen Up on British Slang | Visit Britain – Shine from Yahoo! Canada

Don’t Be Gormless! Gen Up on British Slang | Visit Britain – Shine from Yahoo! Canada
Communicating when you travel to Britain should be easy. After all, it’s an English-speaking country. But you will quickly discover nuances of the language that could catch you off guard (and make it all too obvious that you’re not familiar with British culture). Not only can the accent be difficult to decipher for an unaccustomed ear, slang terms and phrases sometimes make you feel as if you need an English-English Dictionary.

For example, if you need a washroom in Great Britain, you might be better off asking for the loo. To report a stolen wallet, you’re going to want to talk to a bobby. If you’re sweet on someone and looking for a kiss or a bit more, across the pond you’re looking for a snog, and if you’re engaged, you’re busy. Chuffed means pleased, while cheesed off means peeved.

A lorry is a truck, and if one cuts you off in traffic, you may hear more colourful swear words than the four-letter invectives we use. A welly is a rubber boot, but “give it more welly” means putting in more effort or going faster in your car.

Most of us know “cheerio!” as a cheerful greeting or parting word (like the Hawaiian “aloha,” it can work in both directions).

But how many of us understand that when looking for a tailor-made suit, you should ask for bespoke, and a bird isn’t just a flying animal, it’s also a slang term for a woman? Knowing a few simple phrases and words may not seem like much, but when you’re out on the town and chatting with local blokes (guys), it can keep things from going pear-shaped (that is, very wrong) because of how gormless (clueless) you’re being.

Some British terms mean the exact opposite of what they mean here. According to Mike Etherington, author of “The Very Best of British: An American’s Guide to Speaking Brit,” if an event “went down like a bomb, then it would mean that the people really enjoyed it.”

Of course, slang terms in any language are constantly evolving and changing, so learning just a few things will only take you so far. In the UK, this is even more true given how quickly slang terms emerge.

The structure of Cockney rhyme slang, which originated in the east end of London, relies on taking a word, finding a few rhyming words (usually no more than two or three) to go with it and then abbreviating that phrasing down and dropping not only the original word but also the word that rhymed, leaving the original meaning clouded in mystery for the uninitiated.

For example, “stairs” becomes “apples” in cockney rhyme slang from the rhyming phrase “apples and pears.” Though that particular example is rarely used in common speech today, it is often cited to help explain how cockney rhyme slang works.

Things can get further complicated when the original word is a British slang word. Working backwards to find a rhyme that makes sense is tough if you’ve never heard the original term in the first place!
If all this seems like too much to gen up on (learn about), don’t get shirty. Half of the fun of traveling is meeting new people and learning about differences. As long as you’ve got an open mind and a smile, you’re unlikely to encounter any serious difficulties in communication.

But just so everyone is clear: Not every Briton has an Auntie Beeb. That’s just the affectionate nickname they’ve given to their national broadcaster, the BBC.

By Leigh Bryant
(Original post:  http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/visit-britain-ca/don-t-gormless-gen-british-slang-230446529.html )

My Way – Using ‘Way’ in Expressions and Idioms

In my/the way – someone or something is blocking your path, usually a physical obstacle.
“Your car is in my way.  Can you please move it so I can get out?”

My way – my style, according to my thoughts and plans.
“Frank Sinatra sang a very famous song where he talks about his life decisions, good and bad, and summarizes it all by proudly singing ‘I did it my way’.  Very inspirational song!”

My way or the highway – expression that is an ultimatum.
“I’m sorry you don’t like my management style but at this company it’s my way or the highway.  If you can’t adjust, then you’ll have to leave the firm.”

On my way – about to leave a place or begin a journey
“I just got your message asking for help and I’m on my way.  I’ll be there soon.”

Up your way – very casual expression indicating geographic proximity
“Yesterday I was north of the city, up your way, and thought about stopping in for a visit but then I realized I didn’t have the time.”

Can you think of any others?  Please add them with a short definition and even an example sentence in the comments section below.  Thank you!

What’s a Canuck and What’s a Bruin?

Hi folks.

This blog post is a little late – I should have written it a while ago, but I was busy watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Yes I’m referring to our love of hockey, and right now in the NHL there are only 2 teams left – one Canadian and one American.

So if you are currently living or working in one of these countries, or are watching the playoffs because you enjoy hockey, you may be wondering about the strange names of the teams.  We have the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins.  But what do those names mean?

Well first off – the word Canuck is an old word, and is slang.  The exact origins are not clear, but most of the research I’ve done leads me to believe it was first used to refer to early French-Canadians.  However these days Canuck refers to any and all Canadians.

Is it bad, like “Yankee”?

No – 99% of the time we do not take offense to being called a Canuck.  It is a soft term, and not only do we have a very good hockey team named the Canucks, but in our early history we had a character, almost like a super hero, named “Johnny Canuck” who would fight off the invaders of Canada and the Nazis during WW11 in comic books.  As a matter of fact, the current Vancouver Canucks goalie, crowd-favourite Roberto Luongo, has a picture of Johnny Canuck on his goalie mask!  I guess it’s for good luck – we’ll see soon if it works!

What does Bruin mean?  A simple answer is it refers to a bear.  It comes from Reynard’s fables.  How it got to Boston, I’m not sure, but anyway it is a bear.  And right now Boston is playing like bears!

Right now the series is tied 3-3, and the teams are travelling back to Vancouver for the final game 7 on Wednesday to see who will win the Stanley Cup for 2011.  I of course am rooting for (cheering for) Vancouver.  “Go Canucks Go!”

PS – if you are interested in hockey, you can find hockey vocabulary on this blog by searching it.  The more words and phrases you know, the more you will enjoy the game.

Office Talk – Expressions

“The Office” can be used to mean any job or typical day.  You do not actually have to work in an office.
John comes home tired, looking stressed and burned out.  His wife asks:  “Hard day at the office?”
He replies:  “Oh yeah.  We’ve got a new manager/supervisor/accountant/secretary/etc. causing me grief because…”
Once again, John doesn’t necessarily have to work at an office.  It can be any job, white collar or blue collar, volunteer, etc. that he is coming home from.

I have also heard that there is a bar/pub called “The Office” so that when your wife or husband asks “where are you now?” you can honestly say “I’m (still) at the office!”

“Office Politics” refers to power positioning at your place of employment and the perceived route to career success and promotion.  You have to have a good relationship with those in a position over your career.  It also refers to the idea that you should get along with others at work, and not burn any bridges’ (damage any personal or professional relationships).  

Random Canadian English

Hi folks,

I originally compiled this list of Canadian English for a workshop I did recently for an organization that helps new immigrants settle and learn job skills, but I also think this list is great for people that visit Canada for business or pleasure. I know there are words and phrases that I’ve missed, and there may be some regional disagreements with this list, but it should serve it’s purpose, and maybe even generate some fun discussion that leads to a deeper understanding of Canadian language and culture. Enjoy!

“Aboot” – Despite what American T.V. and films suggest, we do not mispronounce “about” like this. Maybe 2% of the population might, but as a general rule – nope.

Can – instead of washroom, bathroom, toilet, lavatory, WC, loo, etc.
Canuck – A slang term for a Canadian, but we don’t take offense!

Chocolate bar – instead of candy bar.
Double-double – a cup of coffee with two creams and two sugars. ‘Tim Hortons’ coffee shop  lingo. If you want just one cream and one sugar, you have to ask for “regular”.

Eh? Said often to get agreement, clarification or confirmation. Americans say “huh?”
Hoodie – A hooded sweatshirt.
Hogtown – old name for Toronto. The kids say T.O. or T-dot.
Homo milk – whole milk with a fat content greater than 2%, usually 3.25%.

Hoser – Nickname for a blue-collar Canadian popularized by Bob and Doug Mackenzie characters from SCTV and “Strange Brew”. Not generally spoken these days.
Hydro – synonym for electrical service, as in “Did you pay the hydro (bill) yet?”

Inuit – our Northern natives/aboriginals. We don’t call them “Eskimos”.
Joe Blow – Means any random person, like John Q. Public or any Tom, Dick or Harry.

Keener – an “eager beaver”, someone who is diligent and works (too) hard!
KD – Kraft Dinner – macaroni and cheese in a box. Americans call is “Mac N’ Cheese”.

Line-up – instead of saying “line” or “queue”. Used as a compound noun and verb.
Loonie – Canadian one dollar coin, that has a picture of a loon (bird) on it.

Mickey – no, not the mouse. This is the name for the small, pocket-sized bottle of booze.

Newfie – a person from Newfoundland, that tends to be the brunt of a lot of jokes. In today’s politically correct world, this is considered insulting and no longer acceptable to use.
Pissed – can mean angry or drunk.
Pogey – old name for (un)employment insurance given by the government.
Pop – Instead of “soda pop” or “soda”. Also slang for beer, made popular by Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry on The Coach’s Corner.
Poutine – french fries topped with cheese curd and covered with hot gravy.

Puck-Bunny – a girl that likes hockey players, as in a “groupie”.
Runners – running shoes. We don’t often say “tennis shoes”, “trainers”, “sneakers” or “joggers”.

Shinny – means pond, river or street hockey. A.K.A. a game of pick-up.
Ski-Doo – used generically to refer to any snowmobile.
Snowbird – a Canadian who spends the winter in the south, like in Florida. This is also the name of our national team of airplanes that perform at air shows.
Timbits – donut holes sold at Tim Hortons or “Timmy’s”. By the way, Tim Horton was an ex-NHL hockey player who started the first Tim Hortons shop in 1964 in Hamilton.

Toboggan – What we call our sleds and sleighs that we ride down the snowhill.
Toonie – the Canadian two-dollar coin. Two loonies equal a toonie!
Toque – a knitted winter hat.
26er – 26 imperial fluid oz alcohol – the big bottle!
2-4 – “two four”- a box containing 24 beer.

Washroom – commonly used instead of saying bathroom, lavatory, WC, loo, etc.

Zed – the last letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zed” instead of “zee”.

Slang & Expressions from Snowboarding

There are over 370 terms, slang, idioms and expressions from the world of Snowboarding here,
http://www.abc-of-snowboarding.com/snowboarddictionary.asp , including references to tricks, snow conditions, boarders, fans, and other people in the sport.  Too many to post but just click on the link and have fun learning how to talk like and understand a snowboarder.  Enjoy the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics!

Olympics Vocabulary – Curling Glossary

In honor of our fabulous 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, I am posting some sports-related vocabulary and expressions, so that you may enjoy the games more and have a better chance of understanding the plays of the sports.  Enjoy!

Curling Glossary (from http://www.ecf-web.org/glossary.html )

BACK LINE The line behind the house. Once crossed a stone is out of play
BITER A stone barely touching the 12-foot ring
BLANK END An end in which neither team has a stone in the house
BONSPIEL A curling tournament
BURNT STONE A stone touched while in motion
BUTTON The smallest ring in the house. It is two feet in diameter, also called the “potlid”
DELIVERY The process of throwing a stone
CENTRE LINE The line that runs down the middle of the sheet from hack to hack
DRAW A stone that comes to rest within the house
ECF European Curling Federation
EIGHT ENDER An end where all eight stones of one team are better than the opposition’s closest
END When sixteen stones have come to rest. Similar to an inning in baseball
EXTRA END The deciding end played when the score is level after all scheduled ends have been played
FREEZE A stone coming to rest touching another stone
FREE GUARD ZONE The area between the hog line and the tee line excluding the house
FREE GUARD ZONE RULE The rule that states that an opponent’s stone in the Free Guard Zone cannot be removed from play until after the first four stones have been played
GUARD A shot that comes to rest in front of another stone for protection
HACK The pieces of rubber you push off from at either end of the sheet
HAMMER The last shot of the end
HOGGED A shot that comes to rest short or on the hog line and is removed from play
HOG LINE The line 10,06 meter (33 feet) from the hack
HOUSE The target area 12 feet in diameter
HURRY! To sweep immediately and hard
IN-TURN A stone that rotates clockwise for a right-handed player
LEAD Player of a team who plays the first two stones for his team in an end
OUT-TURN A stone that rotates counter clock-wise for a right-handed player
PEBBLE The frozen bumps on the ice that the stones ride on
PEEL A hard takeout designed to remove guards
PORT A space between two lying stones, large enough for another one to pass through
RAISE Promotion; to move a lying stone further
RCCC The Royal Caledonian Curling Club (Scotland) – the mother club of curling
RINK The building where curling takes place or
A curling team or
The sheet of ice on which a curling game is played
ROCK The alternative (North American) term for a stone
SECOND Player who plays his two stones second for his team
SHEET The total playing area for one game
SHOT A played stone or
The word used to indicate a point won at the end of an end (shot rock)
SKIP The captain of the team, usually (but not necessarily) plays last two stones of a team in an end
SPINNER A stone thrown with excessive spin
STEAL Scoring a point without last stone advantage
TAKE-OUT A stone thrown hard enough to remove another stone from play. Also called a “HIT”
TEE The cross in the centre of the house
TEE LINE The line that intersects the house at the centreline
THE “TOSS” The toss of the coin to determine last rock in the first end
THIRD Player who plays his two stones third; often Vice-Skip of the team
WCF World Curling Federation
WCT World Curling Tour
WCT-E World Curling Tour – Europe
WEIGHT The momentum applied to a stone for distance