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Time for a break

You’ve decided to give yourself a twenty minute-break in your busy schedule to catch up with the business news in English.  Wonderful.

May I join you? Is that ok? Thanks

If it’s ok with you, I’d like to show you how you can discover a treasure trove of new English expressions, buzzwords, phrasal verbs and collocations is just one business news article.

You ready? Grab yourself a coffee and let’s start.
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I’ve chosen this article from the Guardian online newspaper.

Open the article and give it a quick read. Then leaving the article open, come back to this post.

I am going to draw your attention to a number of things. You may find it easier to refer to the article as you read my post.

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Listen to the post 

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The headline reads:

Scan and go: Co-op shoppers to avoid tills with phone app

The image that goes with the article is of a person with a sandwich in one hand and their smartphone in the other with the Co-op phone app. The person is obviously shopping for a sandwich.

Without knowing the words I’ve highlighted, you may get an idea of what the article is about just by looking at the image.

“Scan and go” is an example of the new words and expressions journalists love introducing. The word “scan” in English has many meanings (see here for all of them)

In this context, “scan” means “to use a piece of electronic equipment to get information from a product’s barcode”.  Just like at the checkout at a supermarket when the cashier scans the items from your shopping basket to get the price and totals everything up.

“And go” is very similar to the other expression “to go”. Think “coffee to go”. When you order a coffee to go at your favourite coffee shop, it means you’re going to take the coffee and go out of the shop. The image of “to go” or “and go” is of that person who’s simply far too busy to sit and enjoy their coffee in the shop.

“Scan and go” conjures up an image of a person who’s too busy. Too busy for what, though?


The next few words in the second part of the headline gives you the answer “Co-op shoppers to avoid tills with phone app.”

The tills are the cash tills at supermarkets.

How many times have you found yourself with 15 minutes to spare, and you decide to go to your nearby supermarket to buy a couple of items only to be faced with the longest queue ever at the tills because there are only two open?! Infuriating, right?

Well, how great would it be if you could avoid the tills (and queues) by scanning your own shopping items, paying for them and going? Hence, “scan and go”.
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And now for the rest of the article. Happy to continue? Excellent.

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Phrasal Verbs

#“Technology expected to be rolled out –  to be launched  (found in sub-headline)
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#“many communities where customers pop in to their local Co-op and enjoy a friendly chat – it is all part of the service.” – to visit somewhere briefly.

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Collocations  (words that naturally go together)

#“raises fears for retail jobs” ( increases fears)
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#“fuelling fears that automation could eventually eliminate millions of retail jobs”

The verb ‘fuel’ is often used metaphorically to mean to power something “fuel an engine”, “fuel your body”, “fuel people’s fears”.
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#“Such initiatives could spell the beginning of the end for the supermarket checkout

The verb  
‘to spell’ has different meanings, one of which is “to show something is going to happen, usually something bad”. 

We also have the expression “spell trouble/disaster”

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#“Whereas for others, perhaps with a train to catch or on a school run, every second can count …..”

In one sentence you have three examples of collocations you’ve probably seen or heard before. This helps reinforce the language.

We also say “every second counts”.

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#“Some have wondered whether the rise of……….could trigger an increase in shoplifting”

To trigger means to make something happen = spark.  

We also say “trigger a response/reaction.

You can trigger emotions, memories and so on.

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New words introduced by media and business

#“shop, scan and go”

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#”A Co-op spokesman said the pay-in-the-aisle technology, a joint venture with Mastercard, would appeal to time-pressed shoppers looking for a fast, “frictionless” buying experience where they did not have to queue at the till.”

Wow, three new expressions in one sentence.

“Pay- in-the- aisle- technology”  

The aisles of a supermarket are where the products sit on shelves  and where you walk along as you shop. Imagine walking along the aisles, selecting your products, scanning them with your phone app and paying for them at the end. All this while standing in the aisles.

This is a prime example of new marketing words that are introduced to the bank of business vocabulary and very quickly become part of ‘everyday’ business language. They often appear in the media first.

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“Time-pressed shopper”

A play on words. In this case, the idiom ‘pressed for time’ has been turned into an adjective to describe the shopper for whom time is a luxury and needs to be optimised.

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‘“frictionless” buying experience’

Remember how you feel when you are in a long queue at the tills.  All you did was to pop in to the supermarket for a litre of milk. You feel irritable and probably end up having an argument with someone.

“Friction” means conflict or disagreement. Here “frictionless” suggests the opposite, in other words, without disagreement or conflict.

Imagine how happy your shoppers would be  if you offered them a “frictionless” (= no disagreement) experience when they shopped because they didn’t have to queue.

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#“was limited to people buying a meal deal of three items”

A deal has many meanings in business (see here). In this context, it refers to an attractive  price.

We all love deals, don’t we? There’s the buy one, get one free; buy three, pay for two, buy now, pay later.

Can you think of other catchphrases?

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#”The Co-op said its service was believed to be a UK first for a supermarket…”

“First” used as a noun here means it’s something that’s never happened before and is therefore important or exciting.

What’s been ‘a first’ for you recently?

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#“Some have wondered whether the rise of checkout-free technology…”

‘Checkout-free’ follows the trend of words like ‘dairy-free’,‘gluten-free’, nut-free’ meaning free from or no checkouts.

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Wow, in just one article and in 20 minutes, we’ve highlighted 20 words and expressions worth discussing.

Imagine how much new vocabulary you would discover reading two or three articles a week?

Not all of that vocabulary is going to be relevant or important to you (remember the 80/20 rule), but it would introduce you to the ever evolving language of business English. And it would reinforce the language you already know.

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Next time you give yourself a 30-minute break, grab a cup of coffee and pick a business news article and explore the wonderful world of words and creativity.

Don’t have 30 minutes? Fine, do it in 20 minutes. The point is to start small and steady.

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Good luck and thanks so much for allowing me to share your break with you and explore business English vocabulary with you.

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Ciao for now



Source:  Guardian article 7 March 2018