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 – Keep it under your hat
Definition: To keep things secret.
Origin: During medieval times, English archers stored spare bows under their hats. They did this to keep the bows dry. However, the more apt meaning or origin of this idiom can be seen when one considers what is usually found under a hat. Namely, the head of a person. Given this interpretation, keeping things under your hat simply means keeping specific pieces of information confidential. The phrase “keep it under your hat” came into being around the 20th century and still means keeping things secret, or at times, thinking things rather than saying them out loud in mixed company where such utterances could lead to trouble.
Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – Get underway
Definition: To begin something; to get on the way.
Example: Once sufficient funds were collected from the members of the organization, their community tree-planting project got underway.
Origin: To truly appreciate the origin of this idiom, it is a must to understand that “way” does not refer to a road but rather the progress that a ship makes through the water. The word “way” has been used in sea navigation context since the 17th century. “Under” in this context originally meant “on the.” When you use the original context of “under” with “way,” it then makes it clearer to understand why this idiom means the beginning of something, or to be “on the way.” Furthermore, it must be noted the phrase “on the way” was later shortened to “underway”, likely due to the influence of the Dutch word “onderweg”. “Onderweg” can be translated into English as underway. However sailors may have misheard the correct pronunciation of the word, which in turn led to the phrase variant “on the way.”
Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – Under the thumb
Definition: To be under someone’s complete control.
Example: He loved his girlfriend so much and would do everything for her. However, she didn’t truly love him and took pride in having him under her thumb.
Origin: The phrase “under the thumb” was usually used to refer to people who held power, such as kings or lords, who exercised control over their subjects. The earliest reference which mentions this expression was printed back in the 18th century from a line in “The Life and Posthumous Works of Arthur Maynwaring,” published by the English politician Arthur Maynwaring. The text read: “The French King having them under his Thumb, compell’d them to go at his Pace.” Today, this phrase retains the same meaning and is used in a similar context, with the person in power being a boss or high ranking corporate CEO.
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