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Something which is expensive but useless / something which is costly to keep and has no apparent benefit
A : I don't like my brother so when my uncle died and left him his MG sports car in his will, I was really pleased.
B : That's funny ! Weren't you jealous ?
A : No, not at all. You see the car is a complete white elephant; it uses an enormous amount of petrol and breaks down all the time. It's costing my brother a fortune.
This expression comes from Thailand where a long time ago there was a custom which the king would follow. every time a white elephant was born in the country, the king would claim the rare animal immediately and keep it for himself. However if someone made the king angry or displeased him he would give the white elephant to that person. the reason was that the elephant was very expensive to look after and so would very quickly ruin the person who had annoyed the king.
A young woman who is not very intelligent but is particularly attractive
A : Frank's new wife Marie looks exactly like the film star Marilyn Monroe. She's got blonde hair and always wears sexy clothes.
B : She sounds like a bimbo to me. I thought frank preferred intellectual women. What do they talk about ?
A : Marie is certainly not a bimbo -- she's very brainy and works as a scientist. Most of the time they talk about nuclear physics !
This word was originally used in America in the first part of this century. It was short for the Italian bambino meaning baby. However, it wasn't until the 1980s that the word became popular again and found its new meaning of an attractive but stupid young woman. A variation is himbo which can be sued to describe a man with similar characteristics.
A new word or expression which is fashionable
A : I've just started work in a record company and I can't understand a word anyone there says.
B : Well there are so many buzzwords in the music industry, it takes time to learn them all.
A : No that's not the problem. It's because they play music so loudly, I can't hear anyone speak !
Examples of Sixties buzzwords are cool and groovy ( very good, enjoyable ); examples of Eighties buzzwords are street cred ( in touch with fashion/ideas/opinions of the young people ) and power dressing ( dressing in clothes which indicate authority/power ) and examples of Nineties buzzwords are green ( not harmful to the environment ) and ozone-friendly ( not harmful to the ozone-layer which protects the earth from the sun ). Buzzwords often go out of fashion very quickly.
Feeling uncomfortable in a strange country or place because of the different habits and way of life
A : Bobby is nine years old and has lived in London all his life. When his parents took him to the countryside for the first time it was a complete culture shock.
B : What was he most surprised by ?
A : The cows. He'd thought that milk came from bottles !
This expression refers to any environment which is new and very different from one's own, and is therefore a shock.
Something which represents the best that can be offered
A : The 'beard tax' was the flagship of the last government. They said it was an important contribution to society. I agree with them.
B : But nobody likes new taxes and a tax on men's beards seems very unfair. Why do you agree with them ?
A : Because it was so unpopular they lost the next election !
A flagship is the most important ship in a fleet. The expression can now be used to describe the most important or prestigous item of a series or group. For example, a radio program, department store or publication can be a flagship.
Flavor of the month
Currently popular / famous for a short while
A : Harry used to have no friends but now people phone him all the time to invite him to the pub.
B : Why is he suddenly flavor of the month ?
A : Because he's started paying for everyone's drinks !
This expression is thought to come from American ice-cream parlors which promote a different flavor every month. another variation is flavor of the week which refers to something which is popular or famous for an even shorter time !
A type of portable cassette player which can play music extremely loudly
A : My grandmother moves music but she's getting deaf and couldn't hear her record player very well. She's solved the problem now.
B : What did she do -- buy a hearing aid ?
A : No. A ghetto blaster.
This expression came from America and became popular during the 1980s. Ghetto means a poor, urban area and blast means an explosion -- in this case of noisy music. They are popular with young men, who carry them around in city streets ( often in deprived areas ). The volume is designed to impress other people rather than to entertain.
Fill a vacancy for a job by directly approaching someone who is already working for another company
A : I'm worried about my job. All the people who have held this post before me have been headhunted.
B : Why are you worried ? All people who are good at their job are headhunted.
A : Yes I know. The problem is that I've been working here for five years and not a single headhunter has approached me !
This expression usually refers to the treatment of very highly paid executives, often heads of departments within companies. Someone who looks for candidates for executive jobs is a headhunter.
An exceptionally talented professional person who receives rapid promotion
A : Jamie is a high-flyer who works in an advertising company. Last week he announced that he was going to give it all up and become a farmer.
B : I suppose he realized there are more important things than money. When is he leaving the company ?
A : He's not. His boss was so worried about losing him that he gave him a $30,000 pay rise and Jamie has decided to stay.
This expression always refers to people who have exceptional ability in a particular field and therefore rise very quickly through an organization.
The most awful series of events that can be imagined
A : I'm very worried about nuclear weapons. If every country has them I don't see how we can avoid the nightmare scenario of a world war which destroys the whole Earth. There's only one solution.
B : What's that ?
A : Move to another planet !
This expression was first used during the Gulf War in 1991. The Americans and their allies were using military force against Iraq, which had occupied its neighbor Kuwait. according to the Americans, the nightmare scenario was the possibility of Iraq retreating very quickly from Kuwait without being defeated. This would mean that the Iraqi army would still be powerful and able to attack against the future.
The point at which something is no longer at its best and is beginning a natural decline
A : Most footballers are past their sell-by date at thirty-five but Bobby is still a brilliant player. In his last match he scored four times -- here was only one problem.
B : What was that ?
A : They were own goals !
This term was first used during the early 1970s to indicate when a food product should be sold. the sell-by date is printed on edible products in shops so that the consumer can check their freshness. Food which is past its sell-by date cannot legally be sold.
Today the expression is also used in a wider, and slightly humorous, way to describe anything which is past its best, or anyone -- as in the example above.
Complicated / obscure / meaningless language ( written or spoken )
A : My solicitor has sent me a letter which says something about $450 ! The problem is that he's used so much jargon I can't understand it. I really hate gobbledegook -- can you help ?
B : Yes of course. I used to be a solicitor myself so I'm sure I can tell you what it means. Let's ..... Yes, he says that you owe him $450.
A : Are you sure ? Oh dear. I don't want to understand goobledegook.
This word was invented by Maury Maverick, an American politician. He was very tired of language which was unnecessarily complicated and hard to understand and so decided to think of a name to describe it. In English the sound a turkey makes is gobble and the image of this stupid bird making a sound no one can understand gave Maverick the idea fro gobbledegook.
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