I went to see the latest James Bond film, Spectre at the weekend and was inspired to write this post. What has James Bond got to do with a post about idioms connected to writing I hear you ask? Well, everything and nothing!
Actually, the film alone didn’t get me thinking about the post, but its new theme song written and performed by Sam Smith, “Writing’s on the Wall” did. It was while I was watching a video of this new James Bond theme (at my hairdresser’s!) that the ‘cogwheels‘ of my brain started turning.
I thought to myself, if I were not a proficient user of English I’d want to know what the title of the song meant. Perhaps that’s just me. However, if you listen carefully to the lyrics, an understanding of the title and chorus would be useful.
As the title is an idiom, I wondered what else I could add to this post and it came to me – why not create a post on idioms connected to writing? Besides the word “writing”, what writing tools come to mind? We have paper, pen, ink and pencil. I can’t think of any idioms with ‘pencil’ so we’ll make do with writing, paper, pen and ink.
The idioms highlighted below are used frequently in both general and business English. I am going to give you examples related to their usage in business.
So here goes, folks.
- The writing is on the wall – is used to refer to something that will inevitably fail because of one’s actions or inaction.
The origin of this phrase dates back to biblical times, more specifically Chapter 5 of the Book of Daniel. It refers to Belshazzar’s Feast. Click here for a more complete explanation. (My thanks to Eldor Kaiser for pointing this out to me).“The writing was on the wall for the company before it even got started. Their business plan was simply not robust enough”.
- To be nothing much to write home about – something that is ordinary or not special.
“That new tracking software program is nothing much to write home about considering the amount of money that was spent on it.”
- pen pusher/paper pusher – someone whose work (in an office) is not considered important
“They have managed to turn our highly-qualified technicians into paper pushers.”
- Not worth the paper it’s written/printed on – this phrase is used to refer to a written agreement that is unreliable because the people who signed it will not respect the terms of the agreement.
“We’ve signed a three-year lease on our premises but quite frankly it’s (the lease) not worth the paper it’s written on“.
- Put pen to paper – start writing
“If you want to find a job, you’re going to have to put pen to paper and get your CV done.”
- A poison-pen letter – a letter that is sent to someone that says unkind things and is meant to upset the recipient.
“Twitter has become the place where ‘poison-pen letters’ are sent to people. Perhaps we should start calling them ‘poison-pen tweets’.”
- A paper trail – a series of documents that is used to show what someone did or how a situation developed.
“Money launderers will do anything to avoid leaving a paper trail. That’s why as a bank, we need to be vigilant.”
- To give someone their walking papers* – if you give someone their walking papers, you effectively ask them to leave their job because they have done something wrong.
“She was called in to her boss’s office and given her walking papers.”
*(we also use “marching orders”)
- A paper chase – dealing with many documents to achieve something
“It was a real paper chase to get the funding for this project”.
- Paper over the cracks – to hide problems instead of finding a proper solution
“Her latest statement simply papers over the cracks and fails to deal with the fundamental issues at the core of the business model”.
- Red ink – a situation where a company is losing money
“The line between profitability and red ink is so thin in the publishing world that the smallest of decisions will make a difference.”Also bleed/spill/leak red ink – “The subsidiaries have been bleeding red ink and losing clients.”
flow/tide/sea of red ink – “The boom of a few years ago has given way to a sea of red ink”.
- The ink is not dry/still wet- used to refer to a document that has just been written or produced
“The ink on the merger was still wet/wasn’t dry when there was talk of a new takeover.”
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – 12 idioms connected to the art of writing inspired by James Bond!
I hope you enjoyed the post. If you did and you think your friends would benefit from it, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.
Ciao for now
Sources: Cambridge Online Dictionary and Macmillan Advanced Learners’ Dictionary
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