American English At Work

American English At Work

March 19, 2016 Work At Home - Starting Out 0

Growing up on a rich diet of British English through Enid Blyton, ‘The Sullivans’ or ‘Mind Your Language’, my exposure to American English was limited to TV shows like ‘The Cosby Show’, ‘Three’s A Company’ or ‘Eight is Enough’. As enjoyable as these shows were, they rarely included conversations about work.

Years later when I started working for an American and later an American organization and participated in meetings or teleconferences with American colleagues, I was perplexed by the unfamiliar phrases used in our discussions.

If you’re in the dark like I was, here’s some light on these American mysteries.   

Pee Nang spoke into the speaker phone, ‘Hello, everyone, Pee Nang here! Shall we begin with a roll call? I’ve got Kay El, Koo Ching with me and also Chye Na who’s on a visit.

‘Good morning. I’m Peter Gabriel. This is Donna Summers, Eva Longoria and Juice Newton.’

‘G’day, everyone. I’m Alice Springs from Australia.’

‘Great. We’ll touch base with the others later. First, I’d like to review the launch and press conference plans before we look at the budget. Is everyone on the same page here?’ Some responded ‘yes’ while others mumbled in agreement.

  • Roll call – calling names off a list and expecting an answer from those in attendance.
  • Touch base – to talk to someone.
  • On the same page – to be thinking similarly about something.

‘Looking at last week’s progress report, we have a lot of ground to cover. Thanks to Pee Nang, we’ve nailed down the invitations to the VIPs, the multinational companies (MNCs) and the non-profit organizations. However, invitations to bloggers and the local community groups fell off the radar slightly. We need to play catch-up with Koo Ching, who’s doing a marvellous job connecting with them.’

  • A lot of ground to cover – to go through a lot of information
  • Nail down – to make certain/sure of something
  • Off the radar – tending to escape attention
  • Play catch-up – work hard to reach someone or something ahead of you

‘That was a close call, Peter, as I had a full plate myself. I don’t think any of us meant to drop the ball,’ Koo Ching said modestly, ‘I’d like to highlight, though, that if anyone’s hit a snag, now is a good time to speak up especially as everything’s starting to fall into place.’

  • A close call – Something that is close to danger or an accident.
  • A full plate – A busy schedule.
  • Drop the ball – To make a mistake.
  • Hit a snag – To run into a problem.
  • Fall into place – To become organized. To fit together.

‘Good point, Koo Ching. Off the top of my head, we’ve got the Flash presentation’s that’s halfway done. Some brochures are still in review, the media list is still incomplete, we don’t exactly have the right balance of spokespeople and we’ve exceeded the budget. Sorry for the laundry list but a lot of items are up in the air and we’re barely scratching the surface.’

  • Off the top of one’s head – Spontaneously. Without thinking too much.
  • Laundry list – a lengthy, inclusive list of data, matters for consideration, etc., often one regarded as unorganized or showing a lack of necessary selectiveness
  • Up in the air – Uncertain.
  • Scratch the surface – To begin finding out about something.

‘Alice, I have to apologize for not keeping you in the loop on the Flash presentation. With Kay El’s help, we have a programmer connecting the files and getting it done in a week’s time. I’m not pulling a fast one here but he’ll do it for RM500, which is a huge savings for us. I also have some new media lists and ball-park figures of package deals from event management consultants. The ball’s in your court for whom you’d like to work with.’ 

  • Keep someone in the loop – Aware of what is going on
  • Pull a fast one – To cheat or to deceive.
  • Ball-park figure – A rough estimate.
  • Ball’s in your court – It is the decision of another person/group to do something

‘Thanks for the update, Eva. Let’s move on to crunch some numbers? As Alice has mentioned, we need to cut back on what we’re spending for this event. To avoid ‘rush fees’ due to shorter lead times, the sooner we can finalize more details, the closer we are to getting this event off the ground.’    

  • Crunch numbers – To do mathematical calculations
  • Cut back – To use fewer or less of something
  • Lead time – the time available to prepare for an event or put a product on the market to sell
  • Get off the ground – To make a successful beginning

‘Excuse me, Peter, since Eva has new quotations, Pee Nang and Juice have emailed me with reduced estimates, I think we’ll stay within the budget.’

‘That’s great, Donna. Can everyone keep her posted? I think we can call it a day because Juice has just emailed everyone an updated spokesperson list. Thanks for a great call, let’s catch up again next week. Bye!’

  • Keep someone posted – To keep someone informed.
  • Call it a day – To end work and go home.

Definitions of the phrases were taken from and

Christine Jalleh is a communications specialist with a Master’s degree in English Language Studies. She blogs about English, culture and travel at