Idioms in the workplace

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With the latest unemployment figures in South Africa at 29%, here’s a quick run down of some of the work-related idioms and how to use them.

Learn the Ropes

Meaning: Become more familiar with a job or field; be trained

Example:  John takes about three months to learn the ropes and then finds that he is bored.

Get the Sack/ Be Sacked

Meaning: To be fired

Example: Due to John’s apparent lack of enthusiasm he got the sack and was asked to leave immediately. In South Africa the ‘sack’ could be taken to mean a bag of money and it usually is presented to people who are doing their jobs very badly.

Off the Hook

Meaning: Free from blame or responsibility to do something

Example: Now that John is consulting he will handle the petroleum project and the engineer on the job is off the hook.

Hanging by a Thread

Meaning: In great danger of elimination or failure

Example:  John’s wife is a nurse but since injecting a patient with the wrong dosage her job is hanging by a thread.

Burn the Candle at Both Ends

Meaning: Work very long hours

Example: Now that John is the only breadwinner he is burning the candle at both ends.

Rank and File

Meaning: The ordinary members of an organisation

Example: Since putting in long hours John longs for the days when he was part of the rank and file.

Pink Slip

Meaning: A layoff notice; loss of a job, typically because of layoffs

Example: John’s wife’s misdemeanour was discovered by the head nurse and she got a pink slip on Friday.

Out of Work

Meaning: Unemployed

Example: As many as 29% of all South Africans are unemployed – that is about 15.3 million people

Move Up in the World

Meaning: Become more successful

Example: There is still hope for John. He has excelled as a consultant and he is moving up in the world.

Give Someone The Old Heave-Ho

Meaning: Fire someone, remove someone from a group or team

Example: Watch out John. Again in a display of characteristic arrogance, John got the old heave-ho and was asked to exclude himself from the project.

All In A Day’s Work

Meaning: That’s what I’m here for; although I have accomplished something, it is part of what I’m expected to do.

Example: John really does land on his feet. He impressed a director on the team and gave him a compliment to which John replied, “It’s all in a days work.”

Learn to speak better English

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