Business Idioms

put sb in the picture
The first thing I want you to do is to put me in the picture about what’s been happening while I’ve been away.

let the cat out of the bag
Only a very limited number of people must know about this plan. It will spoil everything if someone lets the cat out of the bag before we’re ready to act.

spill the beans
Why did you have to go and spill the beans about the proposed pay increase? It was meant to be a surprise.

hear sth straight from the horse’s mouth
I’m sure that Hendly has handed in his resignation because I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. He told me this morning.

keep sth under one’s hat
We’ve decided to freeze salaries for the next two years, but keep it under your hat for the time being. There’s no point in provoking the unions before we have to.

come to light
The affair came to light in September 1998 after the discovery of serious irregularities in the management of the company.

it’s news to me
Did you say that they intend to close their Manchester branch? Well, that’s news to me, I must say. I had no idea they were in such difficulty.

no news is good news
Small business entrepreneurs noted that the chancellor did not mention capital gains tax in his speech. The general view is that in this case no news is good news.

keep one’s ear to the ground
There are rumours that our main competitors are thinking of moving into the home electronics market. Keep your ear to the ground and let me know if you hear anything definite.

sell sb a bum steer
I’m afraid someone has sold you a bum steer. We’re not remotely interested in hiring a public relations officer.

take sth with a pinch of salt
Their own assessment of the value of the company, $ 13 million, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, for they have known debts of at least $7 million.

keep sb posted
Keep me posted daily. If there are any new developments, I expect to be the first to hear about them.

there’s no smoke without fire
It would be wiser to treat these rumours as if they were at least partly true. There’s no smoke without fire, you know.

spread like wildfire
The news that management had decided to cut 200 jobs in the coming year spread like wildfire throughout the company.

keep sth under wraps
Somehow the team of lawyers and advisors managed to keep everything under wraps until last week, when the motor industry was stunned by news of the deal.

shed light on sth
The chairman thanked him for his report, which, he said, shed a great deal of light on the complex environmental problems facing the industry.

a little bird told me
– How did you find out they were going to cancel that project?
– Let’s just say a little bird told me.

put sb out of his misery
The three mechanics stood nervously in the boss’s office, having no idea why they had been summoned there. Finally, he put them out of their misery by declaring how pleased he was with their work.

put sth down in black and white
Listen, vague promises are not enough. Not only do we want you to state your position clearly on this matter, we want you to put it down in black and white.

be none of sb’s business
During the interview, they asked him a number of deliberately “stressful’ questions about his sexual preferences. He told them frankly that his sexual life was none of their business.

have sth at one’s fingertips
If you want to know about the legal aspects, ask Lewis in the Accounting Department. He has all the facts at his fingertips.

cannot believe one’s ears
We’ve always been extremely busy in the run-up to Christmas, so when he said that he expected sales to fall during the Christmas period, I simply couldn’t believe my ears.

play one’s cards close to one’s chest
Negotiating with the Japanese is never an easy matter. They tend to play their cards very close to their chest, so most of the time you have little idea of what they really want.

keep sth dark
They told me that I was going to get the promotion but they asked me to keep it dark for the time being, so as not to cause any unnecessary bad feeling in the office.

a red herring
Every time we mentioned the poor quality of the goods he had supplied, he tried to shift our attention to the dockers’ strike and to the exchange rate of the dollar and other red herrings.