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 – Give a wide berth

Description: To give someone or something a wide berth is to keep a reasonable distance. Occasionally, this also means avoidance.

accent reductionExample: You better give your sister a wide berth. She’s so mad at you right now for ruining her project.

Origin: It is believed that berth is a variation of “bearing off.” The word “berth” originally means “a place where there is a sea room to moor a ship.” When seamen were told to keep a wide bearing off of something, the sailors were expected to ensure there was sufficient sea distance from it. Like many other nautical expressions, this phrase goes back in the 17th century. It was said to be used in the book Accidental Young Seaman in 1626. Over the years, the idiom “give a wide berth” was incorporated more extensively into the English language. From its nautical meaning, the idiom simply means “distance from.” The first printed record of the idiom was in 1829. It was used by Sir Walter Scott.


Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – Loose cannon

Description: The expression “loose cannon”describes a person without insight or wisdom and whose actions can jeopardize the safety of the people around him/her. If not checked by others, the person is likely to cause considerable damage.

Example: She became a loose cannon after spending a lot of time with her alcoholic friends.

Origin: In the time of sail, military service vessels attached rigged cannon cautiously–yet intentionally–into spots that could inflict maximum damage upon enemies. Occasionally the rigging of these considerably heavy weapons would come loose, and with the watercraft potentially unstable due to high seas or complex in battle maneuvers, the outcome could be catastrophic for the ship and the sailors. The literal phrase goes back to as early as the 17th century. The figurative expression derived from the nautical phrase first quoted in The Galvestone Daily News in December 1889. The term gained more popularity when it was uttered by US President Theodore Roosevelt and then quoted in William White’s autobiography in 1944. accent reduction

Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – Walk the plank

Description: The idiom “walk the plank” has several meanings. In the days of sail, it occasionally meant killing someone by making him walk off a plank of wood into the ocean. Figuratively, it means suffering a punishment from someone else. It also means being forced to resign from your job.

accent reductionExample: The recent company scandal left several department heads no choice but to walk the plank.

Origin: In the 18th to 19th century, impromptu execution was done by having someone walk off a plank of wood into the ocean. This method of killing and use of term “walk the plank” was documented in 1769. Over the years the expression evolved into a phrase used when being punished by someone in authority.

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