Tag Archives: Business Sayings

Give ’em Hell Harry

Give em hell

What was said? Give ’em hell Harry!

Did someone really say that? Yes, on Shark Tank, Lori Greiner (Queen of QVC) said it to an entrepreneur who was responding to pestering questions by Mark Cuban.

What does it mean? It means to respond to something bluntly or in a straight-forward manner (potentially on the “attack”).

Origin: It refers back to an incident in the 1948 US presidential election campaign where Harry S. Truman delivered a speech during his whistle-stop campaign. He visited multiple states all by train with a platform at the rear of the train where he delivered his speeches.  During his speech attacking Republicans in Harrisburg, IL, a supporter yelled “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” and Truman responded “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.” Since then, the term “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” was used as a slogan for supporters of Truman.

This is also the name of a biographical play and the 1975 film written by Samuel Gallu. These both feature a one-man show about President Harry S. Truman. The play’s debut was hosted by Truman’s daughter Margaret and attended by President Gerald Ford. James Whitmore starred in the play and was nominated for Best Actor by the Academy Awards and Golden Globes and he won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording.


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What was said? “We’ll just Rope-A-Dope until the change comes through.”

Did someone really say that? Yes, at a meeting when discussing upcoming changes to a marketing program and how the program will be affected (if at all).

What does it mean? Basically, in this context, the plan was to “lay low” or resume business as usual until the change to the program actually happens.

Origin: The term originated in the 1970s and refers to a move by Muhammad Ali, and his tactic in a boxing match with George Foreman in the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” match. Foreman was favored to win and during the fight, Ali purposely provoked Foreman into attacking and forcing him with his back on the ropes.  The tactic allows the boxer (in this case Ali) to take a protected stance and allow the blow of the punches from Foreman to be absorbed by the ropes and not just his body so he can prepare for a counter-attack. The idea to use the move by Ali was apparently suggested to him by boxing photographer George Kalinsky who told him: “Why don’t you try something like that? Sort of a dope on the ropes, letting Foreman swing away but, like in the picture, hit nothing but air.” Some believe that Muhammad Ali coined the phrase, and others that publicist John Condon polished the phrase into “rope-a-dope” (originally known as “the turtle”).

 In business, or non-boxing setting, the term has come to be used as a “rope-a-dope” strategy referring to any strategy where an apparent “losing” or passive, not aggressive position is assumed in the hope of eventual victory – so in the case above, staying the course of action allows us to win in the end when changes hit the program !


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Oh My Stars (and Garters)!

VS OhMyStars

What was said? “OH MY STARS”

Did someone really say that? It’s printed on the backside of a pair of women underwear at Victoria Secret (which I know now thanks to a present from my friend Lindsay!)

What does it mean? In a nutshell, a comedic expression of surprise / shock.

Origin: In 1593, Christopher Marlowe used the expression without the “garter” in a play The Troublesome Raigne and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second: “O my stares! Why do you lower (bring down in rank) unkindly on a king?” The stars in question refer to the astrological stars and one’s disposition in life.

In the 19th century, the expression began to be used in a lighter, more comedic expression to signify surprise. There are other versions, however.

The expression is believed to have also began in the UK as “oh my stars and garters” and refers to honors and awards received as achievements (not referring to the astrological stars). For instance, there was a “Noble Order of the Garter” which was the highest order in the English knighthood founded by Edward III in 1344. This chivalrous medal was in the form of a star like many other medals in Britain. Stars and Garters became the generic name referring to the medals to the group of individuals who had them. The earliest written reference of the phrase was in Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” in 1712: “While Peers, and Dukes, and all their sweeping train, And Garters, Stars and Coronets appear.”

 Other expressions that are very similar with “stars” in mind: Bless my stars and Thank my lucky stars! Other expressions that lightly tread upon surprise / astonishment: By golly, Oh my!, Oh my gosh, My My, Dear Me, Crikey!


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Goose Egg & Lay an Egg

What was said? “When you look at the program results, all you see is “goose egg, goose egg, goose egg!”

Did someone really say that? Yes, last week when discussing how many program incentives a customer is claiming.

What does it mean? It means a big ZERO! Zilch, zip, nada.

Origin: Throughout my search, it seems that the majority of “goose egg” references is in the world of sports. Referencing a scoreboard and seeing the number zero that has a similar “look” as a round, elongated egg of a goose. Sample scoreboard references: “The home team got a big goose egg on the scoreboard,” or “At the end of the game there was nothing but goose eggs next to our name,” and even used as a verb sometimes “I played a tennis match and was goosegged, I lost 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.” Some believe that the term is an Americanization of the British term “duck’s egg” and that even that originated through sports – in 1870, in a game of cricket, a “duck’s egg” denoted a score of zero; and around the same time in baseball, the “goose egg” reference came alive. In tennis, a score of zero is known as “Love” in the USA, which “sounds” like the original French term for the score “l’ouef” which means… you guessed it – an egg!

To lay an egg is another expression that also means to flop, fail and to not score and apparently has no connection to a hen/goose/duck actually laying an egg. So in summary, not scoring is to “lay an egg” with a resulting “goose egg” on the scoreboard simply because the Arabic numeral “0” zero resembles an egg. Super scientific!




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It’s a Real Doozy

What was said? “It’s a real doozy!!”

Did someone really say that? Yes, at my nephew’s birthday party, a friend said that when discussing citric powder used in middle eastern cuisine.

What does it mean? To call something/someone a “doozy”, is to suggest it is extraordinary, one of a kind, remarkable or even bizarre. It is used both positively (as in the example above), and also at times to describe something that is troublesome or even difficult.

Origin: Sometimes spelled Doozy, Doozie, Doosie, Doosey, Duesey… there are a few of beliefs on where the expression originated.

1. A car!!  Beginning in 1921, during the Great Depression, two German-born brothers, the Duesenbergs, hand-crafted a luxury, american-made automobile line named after them. The vehicle was FAST (later model years winning Indy 500’s and the French Grand Prix) and EXPENSIVE (owned by the rich and famous). It came to be known as a “Duesey” and is one belief as to where the expression originated. NOTE: You may recognize it from the Great Gatsby movie with Leonardo DiCaprio (pictured below is a 1929 Duesenberg Model J, worth over $3 Million)

2. A Flower! Back in the 18th century, calling something a “daisy” was to call it great. The phrase made it’s way from England to North America, and appeared in print in 1836, in Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s The Clockmaker: “I raised a four year old colt once, half blood, a perfect picture of a horse, and a genuine clipper, could gallop like the wind; a real daisy, a perfect doll, had an eye like a weasel, and nostrils like Commodore Rodgers’s speakin’ trumpet”.

3. An Actress! Eleonora Duse, a famous Italian-born actress from the 19th century who spent time in the US and was greatly admired by President Cleveland and his wife, was commonly referred to as “Duse.” It is believed that this nickname, in combination with the “Daisy” origin, created the saying “Doozy.”



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Dog’s Breakfast

Volume 3. Issue 9.

What was said? “The meeting was a complete dog’s breakfast…”

Did someone really say that? Yes, in response to the question “how did the meeting go?” and apparently it was a disaster

What does it mean? It really just translates to a complete mess, mish-mash, hodgepodge or something that has gone very badly where the outcome wasn’t what was intended to be

Origin: Since the 1930’s, the saying “dog’s breakfast” has been used in the U.K. and Commonwealth countries as slang for “a complete mess.”  First recorded instance is from Eric Partridge, in the 1937 edition of his A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the expression is listed as “a mess.” Although the origin isn’t exactly known, it alludes to the fact that if what you don’t succeed at what you are cooking, then the results are only fit for a dog. It’s usage can be widespread – from what a messy room looks like, to how a meeting went (like the example above).  It is suggested that this dates from a time before canned dog food when a pup’s breakfast would have consisted of dinner leftovers from the night before; hence, “a mess.” Not to be confused with a  parallel expression “a dog’s dinner” which means quite the opposite and usually comes in the form of “all dressed up like a dog’s dinner” and sarcastically means over-dressed / showy.

Dog Breakfast Pic



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