The true meaning of common idioms

Non-native speakers of English tell me that the basic rules of grammar aren’t too hard to learn, but the idioms are murder.

(Ok, not literally “murder,” that’s just an expression…. nevermind.)

Idioms are used by many of God’s great creatures, not just humanoids, as I learned from The Oatmeal:


So to help all of us understand better understand American business vernacular or, as our UK brethren like to say, the American bastardization of the rich, beautiful language you so unashamedly defiled, I’ve prepared the following chart.

Leave a comment if you have more!

“To be perfectly honest with you, …”
— Everything I said before this moment was bullshit.

“Just kidding!”
— No I’m not.

“The deal is in the bag.”
— I’m lighting a votive candle and sacrificing a goat. It couldn’t hurt.

“In the fullness of time.”
— Maybe later, but probably never.

“It is and it isn’t.”
— It isn’t.

“Our company allows businesses to integrate, assemble and optimize available IT assets to drive business process productivity, delivering an innovative, enterprise-class business integration platform that incorporates proven integration technology with next generation capabilities into one interoperable set of tools that deliver a unique combination of efficiency, agility and control, combining industry leadership with a zealous commitment to customers to deliver tangible business value. “
— I have no idea what we do. Please give me money.

“It goes without saying that …”
— I’m about to say it.

“May be hazardous to your health.”
— Is unquestionably hazardous to your health.

“It’s not over ’till it’s over.”
— It’s over.

“It’s so hard finding good help.”
— I am a pompous ass.

“Less is more.”
— This is a steaming pile of excrement. Less of a negative is a positive.

“We’re a leading provider of …”
— I can’t think of anything else to say, and the lawyers tell me I can’t say “the” leading provider.

“Well bless your sweet little heart!”
— You’re a stupid bitch.

“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
— I hate you.  Personally.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”
— …but you’re not helping.

“Congratulations again on being pregnant, what a wonderful journey you’re about to embark on!”
— I don’t have kids.

“Life starts at 40!”
— I am at least 39 years old.

Do you have more to add?  Share them here!

32 responses to “The true meaning of common idioms”

  1. “Everything happens for a reason”
    — I have no clue why this happenned

  2. “We love it!”
    – We’ll string you along for 3 more months and at least a dozen changes before shelving it.

    “I like your enthusiasm.”
    – You’re an irritating blabbermouth.

    “Good luck to you.”
    – Good riddance, you schmuck.

  3. “Call me”
    — Please, please, please call me

    “It’s in the next release”
    — We have not even started looking at it

    “Let’s do lunch”
    — …..sometime in the next 3-5 years
    .-= Josh Duncan’s latest blog post: A Month’s Study Of Books =-.

  4. “I’m might be going out on a limb here, but it seems like….”
     — This is your 1 second warning that I’m about to blow the lid on what’s actually happening here, even though you were hoping I wouldn’t notice or would keep quiet about it.

  5. “The effects of our product are scientifically proven”
     — The effects of our product are so minimal that you won’t percieve them.

    “No one else has our ClearView*(TM) technology”
     — Our competitors have different names for this technology
    *Exchange with any buzzy tech name

    “We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced”
    – We want you to shut up

  6. “…but we are open for this…”

    – We weren’t, we aren’t and we won’t be open for this ever, but we are too shy to say it

  7. Overheard at SXSW:

    “I’m a social media consultant”
    I have a Facebook profile, and I’m thinking of getting onto Twitter”.

    We are an advertising network
    We are going out of business.

  8. Nice…..

    Although I’d probably change:

    “It’s not you, it’s me.”
    — …but you’re not helping.


    “It’s not you, it’s me.”
    — … It’s you.

  9. “Clinically tested.”
    — and found to do nothing whatsoever.

    “Let’s stay in touch.”
    — We won’t. Bye.

    — Whatever.

    Rob Rose and the folks at Fight the bull have a few short films joking about the silliness of “pushing the envelope”, “drinking from the firehose” and other naff business speak.
    .-= Frederik’s latest blog post: Capturing and restoring console output in C# =-.

  10. So I am at a prospect site yesterday working on a multi$MM deal that involves enterprise service bus technology. An software engineer who is from Russia is with me and I am explaining part of our pitch to him prior to presenting. We use the same technology internally so I tell him “we want to communicate that we believe in what we are selling so much we eat our own dog food…” He just stared at me and then said “you eat dog food? we don’t even do that in Russia?” Totally hilarious.

    BTW -it means “we don’t just talk about it, we do it/use it ourselves”

  11. “Call us if you get a term sheet from someone else.”
    So we can scare them off.

    “Oh… that’s nice.”
    Wow, you’re really boring.

    “Why doesn’t Corp have two founders?”
    I need reassurance that you won’t F this up.

    “Have you considered moving to Silicon Valley?”
    I love saying No in person. (just a feeling I get hehe).

  12. nearly used one yesterday, starting an email with;

    ‘I don’t want to get into a political battle with you..’

    and of course that’s exactly what I was going to do :-)

  13. Definitely –
    It’s not you, it’s me
    it’s you

    This isn’t a good time for me to start a relationship
    it’s you

    Let’s just be friends
    it’s you, and if you don’t go away and leave me alone, I’m taking out a restraining order!

    In my humble opinion
    humble, shmumble – I’m right and you’re just stupid.

  14. 99% of them can be translated directly to Latin American spanish and keep the meaning… so they are very easy to understand and translate….

    … except “eat dog food” :)

    I think the hardest part of english are the 100’s of phrasal verbs with “go”, “get”, “come”, “put”, etc. we don’t have that in spanish… kinda.

  15. … sorry, I meant: they keep the “meaning” in spanish:

    “let’s be just friends” => I don’t want to see you anymore
    “seamos solo amigos” => no te quiero ver nunca más

    (sorry for the double post)

  16. How are you?
    – I have no interest whatsoever on how you are doing and please in case your daughter made a suicide yesterday just keep on smiling and tell me
    you’re doing great

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