I remember, soon after getting to Germany, being told to use some Vitamin B, which baffled me. After all we would have been talking about my job search endeavours and then they seemed to go off topic and start talking about my health – odd!
The first time, I just glazed over and assumed I had misunderstood or heard them wrong – after all that happens a lot when you are not confident using a language, doesn’t it?
But time and time again, I was being winked at with the term ‘Vitamin B‘. Now I am as much of a flirt as the next girl, but I didn’t get the impression that these guys were ‘cracking on to me’.
You know what; I seriously began to worry about looking ill, I would go to the toilets, check that I didn’t look even paler than I normally do – after all, I am partly irish with freckles, but I had a hunch it was something else – well it was, it was an idiom and quite frankly it put me out in the cold. For those of you that don’t speak German, I later discovered that ‘Vitamin B’ means Beziehungen or contacts. So I could relax, I wasn’t on death’s door, but perhaps I ought to draw on my contacts a bit more.
So come back inside, take your coat off and let me share with you some idioms that you might use to explain where you are in terms of getting your start-up or project off the ground.
Now if you’ve got a client just about to sign on the dotted line (sign the contract), then you might well want to ‘keep your cards to your chest‘ and tell people that you are hammering out the details. Well surely a hammer isn’t much good to anyone as a rule in business, but of course it has another meaning. What you are really saying is that you are in the process of working something out or negotiating with someone, in what might have become a rather difficult and energy consuming discussion, often virtually as opposed to in person, with exchanges of emails, skype calls and so on. Now if you are feeling a little more confident about things, and you get the impression that signing is only a matter of time and that the delay is purely technicalities, then you might want to ‘put your cards on the table’ and say ‘we’ve got it in the bag‘.
When it comes to technology, which rarely runs smoothly, then they might talk about ‘ironing something out‘ or ‘fixing a glitch‘. Now a glitch is not usually a big or key technical problem – hopefully – but it is something that it going to take a little thought (loosely translated to the client as time) to put right, something not immediately obvious in the coding for instance.
The most charming and enjoyable way to become more familiar with idioms is to use English regularly, not recommended with other German speakers though, instead it makes more sense to come in and join us in the facebook group Byte Sized English, where we are constantly stumbling upon idioms as we discuss each other’s projects and plans. So why not join us, to ‘suck it and see‘.