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 – Yellow belly

Definition: A person who is without courage, fortitude or nerve; a coward

Example: The yellow-bellied caretaker jumped and shrieked at every small creak he heard around the house.

Origin: The term ‘yellow-belly’ finds its roots in England during the 18th century, but with a completely different meaning. In 1787, it was stated in “A Provincial Glossary: With a Collection of Local proverbs, etc.” that a yellow-belly is someone who was born in the Lincolnshire Fens. The name was derived from a comparison to their eels.

accent reductionIn 1839, William Holloway gave the same definition for the term, but for a different reason. He said that the term was given because of the sickly pallor that the residents of Lincolnshire Fens had as a result of living in marshy environments.

It was only used in the US in its current context starting in 1842. As taken from the text from Captain Wright from New York, he said, “God send that they may bayonet every yellow-belly in the Mexican army”. Although there was also a possibility that he used this to refer to race or color, it has since then been used to refer to cowards.


Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – White elephant

Definition: A burdensome possession that creates more trouble than it is worth.

Example: This car has become a white elephant considering the number of times it has conked out on me these past few days. accent reduction

Origin: White elephants were seen as sacred in Some Asian nations in ancient times, but keeping it proved to be very troublesome. These elephants only ate special food, and people usually had to seek permission from the owners if they wanted to worship the elephant. Later on, the burden that goes with keeping a white elephant became so great that Thai kings would often give a white elephant to a subordinate that they are unhappy with, the hope being it would bring discomfort and inconvenience into their lives.


Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – White as snow

Definition: Pure white; a state of purity

accent reductionExample: She was as white as snow as she lay in her cold deathbed.

Origin: This phrase was first used in text by an English author named Michael Drayton in 1593. It can subsequently be found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1602) and the King James Version of the Bible’s Book of Daniel (1611).

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