Accent Reduction Tips

Many of our clients at Accent Pros, who come in for accent reduction sessions, have advanced degrees and have excellent command of the English language. Given the evolving state of the English language; however, they may not understand informal slang and phrases that are regularly used in the workplace, and on various popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Occasionally our accent reduction clients will understand the meaning of an idiom, but use it in an improper context, which could potentially have embarrassing consequences. In our continuing efforts to  feature only the most relevant and practical terms when helping you achieve accent reduction goals, here are three idioms that have become standard shorthand when faced with an awkward conversation in the workplace.

Accent Reduction Idiom 1 – Cat got your tongue?

Definition: A question asked when someone is inexplicably silent; Why are you not saying anything?

accent reduction Example: She just stood there staring at me for what seemed like forever, so I asked her, “Cat got your tongue?”

Origin: Although not as popularly used today as in the 60s and 70s, it still continues to be a familiar expression. Although no specific explanation has been given on where the expression originated, it is mostly used as a form of lighthearted imagery for children, as the expression was mostly used for them. One of the earliest appearances of the phrase in print however, goes as far back as 1881, when volume 53 of Ballou’s Monthly Magazine said, “Has the cat got your tongue, as the children say?”

Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – Haven’t got a clue

Definition: Without knowledge or understanding

Example: I haven’t got a clue what was going on in her head when she decided to sign up for pottery class.   accent reduction

Origin: It may seem that the expression is not idiomatic at all, considering how plainly its meaning is conveyed. However, the word “clue” has actually had a number of meanings throughout the years, which explains why the word has an idiomatic side to it. For as far back as 897 AD, “clue” was spelled as “clew” which was used to describe a ball of thread. Shakespeare was among those who have used the word when he said “you have wound a good clew” in All’s Well that Ends Well in 1602.

So how does this relate to its current meaning? In the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur in Greek mythology, Theseus was able to find his way out of the elaborate labyrinth he was in when he marked the path which he took going on with a string. This gave birth to the term “had a clew” as he was safely led out of the maze.


Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – Don’t go there

Definition: An expression used to say “I don’t want to discuss that.” Used to convey that you do not want to discuss something because you find it unpleasant.

Example: Don’t even go there, I haven’t gotten over the fact that he replaced me with a person like that.

accent reductionOrigin: The term became popular in the 90s as part of a long string of expressions such as “talk to the hand” and “get over it.” The phrase literally conveys a warning not to visit a specific place which can be related to the unwillingness of somebody to discuss an unpleasant thought or past event. This shows how a thought or past event is seen as a physical place and is not a location that you would want to find yourself in.


Accent Reduction idioms series

Accent Pros has a continuing series on accent reduction tips, including common English phrases and American idioms.  Be sure to check out other blog posts to find your favorites.  Ready for a complimentary accent reduction tutorial or a free accent screening?  Check out our on-line accent reduction courses  available to students with accent reduction goals all over the world. For consistent access to our idioms series and other accent reduction tips. Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter