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 on your accent reduction goals, here are three idioms that have become standard shorthand in the workplace.

Accent Reduction Idiom 1 – A fish out of water

Description: When someone is described as a fish out of water, it means that the person is in surroundings or a particular situation out of his/her comfort zone.

accent reductionExample: As the only one with no professional dance training, sharing the stage with the ballerinas makes me feel like a fish out of water.

Origin: The earliest recorded usage of the expression “fish out of water” was in 1613. It was used in Pilgrimage by Samuel Purchas. However, a variation of the term, quoted “… like to a fish that is waterless” was used by Chaucer in the prologue of The Canterbury Tales.


Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – A fly in the ointment

Description: The expression “a fly in the ointment” is used to describe a person or a thing that ruins or spoils something, such as a vacation. It also illustrates someone or something that is small yet irritating, ruining an otherwise successful endeavor.

Example: I would have enjoyed the movie completely if not for your friend Allison, a fly in the ointment who whispered spoilers every now and then. accent reduction

Origin: In the olden times, an ointment was a sacred oil used for anointing someone. The origin of the idiom dates back to Biblical times. In the King James Version of Ecclesiastes 10:1, a variation of the expression was used: “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor.”
The modern expression “a fly in the ointment” didn’t appear until later. The earliest citation of the phrase word for word was in 1707. It was used by John Norris in his book A Practical Treatise Concerning Humility.

Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – A little bird told me

Description: Essentially, when someone says “a little bird told me,” it means the person has a “source.” This means that the person got a hold of the information from another person in a secret, possibly illegal way. The original source of the news is often not exposed or revealed.

accent reductionExample: A little bird told me about the surprise vacation you planned for Mom and Dad.

Origin: This expression has a disputed origin. Many attribute the phrase to Ecclesiastes 10:20. The variation of the phrase “a little bird told me”, a simple play on words featuring messenger birds like pigeons.
Alternatively, other people believe that the phrase originated from and can be linked to Siegfried by Richard Wagner. In a particular scene in Act 2, the protagonist concluded that his job was to steal the ring and helmet utilizing the song of a small bird. A final hypothesis concerning this term’s origin can be found in the Norse legend of Sigurd, who battled and triumphed over Fafnir the dragon. When Sigurd roasted the dragon’s heart, he got a bit of the latter’s blood in his veins, which granted him the power to understand bird songs.


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 accent reduction 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