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 dealing with deception in the workplace.

Accent Reduction Idiom 1 – A skeleton in the closet

Definition: A hidden and shocking secret; a secret source of shame that could potentially cause ruin when exposed.

Example: She always keeps her distance from anyone who attempts to get close to her, living in fear of having the skeletons in her closet exposed.

Origin: Although this phrase was primarily an English expression used around the 19th century, it has now evolved into “a skeleton in the cupboard” but continues to be “a skeleton in the closet” when used in American English.

accent reductionGothic novels from the Victorian era included the of plot point of having hidden bodies around the home. It was also believed that the phrase, “a skeleton in the closet” may have been derived from the fact that doctors used to conceal actual skeletons in their cupboards before 1832, as it was still illegal to keep skeletons even for medical purposes during this period.

The expression was first used in its current context around the early 1800s. In an article by William Hendry Stowell in The Eclectic Review in 1816, the “skeleton” was used to describe a disease. It was not until 1845 in a piece by William Makepeace Thackeray that the word skeleton was used to describe murder, saying that there are “skeletons in every house.”


Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – On a hiding to nothing

Definition: To be faced with a pointless situation where it is impossible to have a successful outcome; to be in a situation where it is impossible to succeed.

Example: She realized that she was on a hiding to nothing when she saw that every single participant she was going up against in the debate came more prepared than her. accent reduction

Origin: There may be two ways to apply this phrase. One is to describe inevitable loss, while the other is to express an easy victory. There is no clear reward for the positive outcome. Appropriately, the term was first used in the world of horse racing, with possibly the first recorded use of it coming in the 1905 Mop Fair.


Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – Keep it under your hat

Definition: Keep it a secret; to keep something in one’s mind.

Example: Just keep it under your hat or you might ruin the surprise.

accent reductionOrigin: Although it might seem strange to imagine anybody literally putting something under their hat, it is somehow an effective way to hide something. It the 1793 collection of stories called The Adventurer it was mentioned how “a great quantity of gold might be conveyed under his hat.”

Of course, one’s head is also found under a hat, which explains how the expression is also used not just for physical things but for thoughts and ideas as well. This is seen in the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray from 1848 entitled The History of Pendennis where he describes how everybody has a distinct universe of thoughts kept “under your hat and under mine.”



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