What was said? “We should put a tiger team on that, pronto!”
Did someone really say that? Yes, at another alumni board meeting when talking about breaking out in teams to tackle specific problems.
What does it mean? A tiger team is a specialized team that focuses on a specific goal to solve a particular problem. In the business setting it usually refers to putting a team of people with mixed skills/abilities to tackle a problem from multiple angles… usually at a fast, aggressive pace.
Did someone really say that? Yes, at an alumni board meeting when our team was about to present our proposal / plan.
What does it mean? In the context above, it means to get the team excited / stimulated and stir up some feedback on what we were about to present.
However, there are some uses where it is meant to be more focused on generating interest / discussion through dishonest ways – which was not the intention above! (has nothing to do with the alcohol gin, despite the image I chose for this post!)
What was said? “We need to nip this in the bud before it becomes a bigger problem.”
Did someone really say that? Yes, during a discussion around product quality and some issues that were found.
What does it mean? It means to stop something before it has a chance to “blossom.” The idea being if you have a small(ish) problem and “nip it in the bud” then you stop it from becoming a larger problem / crisis. If you have a plant that you prune / nip in the bud, you are effectively cutting it off so it won’t grow or blossom into a flower. It has nothing to do with human anatomy where many think the expression is Nip it in the Butt!
What was said? I have a bone to pick with my accountant…
Did someone really say that? Yes, this one is brought to you by my husband – his first submission! Someone in his office said that to him the other day and he immediately thought of me.
What does it mean? It basically means there is a topic/issue that requires discussion/argument. The speaker of the idiom believes there will be a disagreement and that the other party has done him/her “wrong.”
Origin: Fortunately (or unfortunately) this one seems fairly straightforward. It dates back to the 1500’s and refers to a dog chewing on (picking clean) a bone. Continue reading →
What was said? “I’m curious how the presentation will turn out because you are soooo detailed, and our other colleague is bigger picture.” To which I said “I think that’s a left-handed compliment” and immediately had to look it up!
Did someone really say that? Yes, when developing a pitch for a new client, someone said that to me and I replied with the idiom!
What does it mean? It basically is an insult disguised as a compliment! Another example: “Your haircut really slims your face.”
Origin: Back in the day, to be left-handed was considered negative in many parts of the world. In Latin, the word “sinistra” translated to “left” but actually became to mean deceitful or unlucky and is the origin of the English word “sinister.”
Some other research suggests that in the olden days, people would shake hands with their right hands to show that they were unarmed. Someone who was left-handed would still shake with their right hand, but then attack with their left being devious and deceitful.
Thankfully, we have moved beyond thinking those who are left-handed are trying to trick us, and we now know that some of the most creative/successful people in the world are left-handed, such as: Barack Obama, Marie Curie, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Babe Ruth, Napoleon Bonaparte, Leonardo DiVinci, Aristotle, Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix and more.
Did someone really say that? Yes, on a call with our company’s lawyers, they were playing devil’s advocate and after asking a few questions, the lead lawyer yelled “I’m the Canary!” apparently referring to a “canary in a coal mine.”
What does it mean? “Canary in a coal mine” is a metaphor about providing advance notice or warning of potential danger.
Origin: The expression dates back to 1911 when the concept of having a canary as an early detection system for hazardous gases in coal mines was introduced by John Scott Haldane in Great Britain. Miners used caged canaries to determine if there were any hazardous gasses (methane, carbon monoxide). If the canary died, that would signify the gas levels are poisonous to the miners as well and that they should exit the mine immediately. Birds were chosen as they get air in their system when they inhale and exhale, doubling the dose of potential toxic gases. In 1986, electronic warning detection systems were put in place, saving the birds from potential harm. In the case above, our lawyer was calling out signs of potential risk, hence calling out “I’m the Canary!” when playing the role of devil’s advocate.
On another note…“Canary Release” is a technical / IT term that refers to reducing the risk of introducing new software by slowly rolling out the change to a subset of users before rolling it out to all.
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