Business Idioms: Food and Business – A Meal Made In Heaven – 10 Idioms

by | Jun 7, 2018 | 0 comments

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This post is an updated version of an earlier post.


Welcome to the second post in my updated series of theme-based business idioms. This week’s theme is food. (Click here, if you missed last week’s post)


Food is such a fundamental element of our cultures that it’s no surprise it plays a key role in our idiomatic language, too. I bet your language is rich of food-themed idioms.


I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, idioms are wonderful because they bring different cultures together because, more often than not, different cultures share similar idiomatic expressions.


What I also like to do with idioms is imagine how they were created. What was the thinking behind it? For example, how did anyone think of associating calmness with a cucumber (see below)?

I bet you have similar questions with idioms in your language. They’d make a great conversation subject in small talk, wouldn’t they? Ok, maybe that’s just me.


You won’t be surprised to know that we have many business idioms centred around the theme of food.


A word about idioms and Business English. They love each other! If you read business articles and follow the business news or do business with native speakers of English, you can’t escape them.


You don’t have to learn and use business idioms if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, but understanding business idioms will help you understand native speakers of English who naturally use them.

More importantly, it will help you understand written English found in business articles and  business news.


Ready for these 10 food idioms? Let’s go.


#1: As cool as a cucumber

to be calm, not nervous or anxious     


Look at Jason. He is as cool as a cucumber. He never gets nervous before an interview.”


#2: Bite the hand that feeds you

to act badly towards the person who’s helping you or has helped you.         


“I wouldn’t annoy your boss. You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you.”


#3: Butter someone up

to flatter someone so that you can win their friendship or favour   


“Ever since the new Sales Director joined the company, she’s been buttering him up.”


#4: Cheese someone off

To annoy someone (informal BrE)


“Will you please stop doing that? You’re really cheesing me off.”  


#5: Big cheese

an important person, a leader (informal)


Who’s the big cheese in this organisation? “   


#6:  Carrot and stick

to reward someone who does what you want or punish them if they don’t   


“He likes to use the carrot and stick approach when managing his team.”


#7: Bite off more than you can chew

try to do more than you can manage                                 


“With this new job, I’m afraid Susan has bitten off more than she can chew.”


#8: Not cut the mustard

To not come up to expectations/reach the required standard (AmE)                                              


“He did not last long in the job. He just didn’t cut the mustard.”


#9: Take with a pinch of salt

to not believe something you’re told because you believe it may not be true                                                                      


“I would take last quarter’s sales figures with a pinch of salt. There’s an item in there that’s inflated April’s sales figures.


#10: Eat humble pie

to admit your mistake and apologize                                                     


“Brian had to eat humble pie when he realised the mistakes in the budget report.”


Feeling hungry?


Tell me


  • Who in your company last had to eat humble pie?


  • What cheeses you off the most when it comes business meetings?


  • How often do you find yourself biting off more than you can chew?


Please share your answers  with me in the comments box.


If you want more idioms, check out my Business Idioms and Coffee To Go series.


With Change Comes Uncertainty

Stay tuned for next week when I’ll share 10 idioms connected to change and uncertainty (and Brexit!).


Ciao for now.


PS: If you found this post helpful and feel that your friends and colleagues would benefit, please share it with them.