We haven’t done any idioms in a while, so today we wanted to focus on some business-themed idioms.
Below are some idioms with examples, as well as few explanations of where the idioms come from. Then you can take a super short quiz to test yourself!
1. (to) bite the bullet
to make a difficult or painful decision; to take a difficult step
Example: When demand was down, U.S. automakers had to bite the bullet and cut jobs.
Origin: This idiom comes from the military. During the Civil War in the United States, doctors sometimes ran out of whiskey for killing the pain. A bullet would be put in the wounded soldier’s mouth during surgery. He would “bite the bullet” to distract him from the pain and keep him quiet so the doctor could do his work in peace.
2. (to) compare apples to oranges
to compare two unlike things; to make an invalid comparison
Example: Comparing a night at EconoLodge with a night at the Four Seasons is like comparing apples to oranges. One is a budget motel, and the other is a luxury hotel.
Note: You will also see the related expression “compare apples to apples” which means to compare two things of the same type. This means that you are making a valid comparison, as opposed to when you’re comparing apples to oranges.
3. (to) jump the gun
to start doing something too soon or ahead of everybody else
Example: The company jumped the gun by releasing a new product before the results of the consumer testing were in.
Origin: A runner “jumps the gun” if he or she starts running before the starter’s pistol has been fired.
4. (to) keep something under wraps
to keep something secret; to not let anybody know about a new project or plan
Example: I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything about the project I’m working on. My boss told me to keep it under wraps.
Note: “Wraps” are things that provide cover, so if something is “under wraps” it’s covered up and hidden.
5. (to) pull one’s weight
to do one’s share of the work
Example: Don’t rely on others to get your job done. You need to pull your weight.
Note: You will also hear the variation: to pull one’s own weight.