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 I – Up in arms

Definition: Roused; Incensed; In armed rebellion; Very angry

accent reduction Example: They were instantly up in arms when they found out that their rivals have arrived.

Origin: The expression ‘up in arms’ is a more active version of the term ‘in arms’. When someone says that someone is ‘in arms’ it means that these people are fully equipped with weapons and armor, and other resources and prepared for battle. As for the term ‘up in arms’, it was first mentioned in the 1590s print version of Henry VI: “As hating thee, are rising up in arms…” as well as in Richard III: “March on, march on, since we are up in arms…”.


Accent Reduction Idiom 2 – Up to snuff

Definition: Meeting the minimum requirements; As good as is required

Example: I worked so hard on that presentation, but the panel didn’t think it was up to snuff.

Origin: The term ‘up to snuff’ originally meant ‘sharp and in the know’. This expression was first used in 1911 when John Poole, an English playwright, wrote a parody called ‘Hamlet Travestie’. Here, he states: ‘He is up to snuff, that is, he is the knowing one’ and ‘He knows well enough the game we’re after, Zooks he’s up to snuff’.

In 1823, a similar phrase was used: ‘up to snuff and a pinch about it’. Here, it is believed that the term was used to describe the state of mind of someone who has taken ‘snuff’, a kind of powdered tobacco that was popular in the 17th century and was believed to stimulate brain activity.

At the turn of the 20th century, the term took on an entirely new meaning. All of a sudden, the term was being used as an alternative to the term ‘up to scratch’. This is still the definition being used until today, and the old meaning has become a thing of the past. h


Accent Reduction Idiom 3 – Up the pole


  1. In favor or good repute
  2. A state of confusion or error
  3. In trouble or faced with difficulty
  4. Drunk
  5. Crazy
  6. Pregnant


  1. He has always been up the pole and has earned the reputation of being a teacher’s pet.
  2. He readily admitted that he was up the pole with his argument.
  3. He has been up the pole since he lost his job.
  4. He was up the pole way before the party was over.
  5. He has always been known for being up the pole with his antics.
  6. They gossiped that she was up the pole when they noticed that bulge in her belly.

accent reduction

Origin: The term ‘up the pole’ has been used in a variety of situations, most of them not even remotely related to each other. In terms of coinage, here is the succession:

  1. It was a term used to describe someone who is strait-laced in 1890 in the Dictionary of Slang by C.G. Leland and A. Barrere.
  2. In 1896, it appeared in a statement in The Daily News when somebody said that she was in the wrong.
  3. It was used to describe someone who was in trouble in Pink ‘Un by A.R. Marshall in 1897.
  4. During a hearing documented by the Daily Telegraph in 1897, a little girl used the term to describe the defendant as always drunk. This meaning is not in use anymore.
  5. In reference to the same documentation in 1897, the Westmoreland Gazette opposed the definition given by the plaintiff when her cousin said the term actually meant ‘crazy’. This definition had gained widespread acceptance by 1904.
  6. The most common definition of the expression came from James Joyce, who used the term in a 1918 version of Ulysses to describe someone as being pregnant.

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