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My Joyful Noise - My Favorite Christmas Carole
December 26, 2007 05:10 PM PST

I'd like to share with you my favorite Christmas Carole, "O Holy Night".

I may not have the greatest voice but I think I heard a phrase “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angels' voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night divine, Oh night, Oh night Divine.

My Hands Are Tied
December 20, 2007 09:08 AM PST

My Hands Are Tied

Welcome to Phil’s English, your free source of explanation of idioms used by native English speakers. This episode is brought to you by my premium English language podcast, “Idioms of Business and Technology”. This is more than just idioms but also includes tutorials and explanations of business and technology concepts. For example, what’s a supply chain? What is the difference between price and cost? What’s scalability? Reliability? Flexibility? Maintainability? So if you’re a regular listener to this podcast, I’m sure you’ll also benefit from this more focused podcast on English used in the business world or technology settings. I’m running a Christmas special. Only $1.99 per month, $9.99 simiannually, or only $15.99 per year. That’s only 30 cents per week! Go to http://premiumenglish.podbean.com/premium-signup to sign up.

The idiom for this episode is “my hands are tied.” To understand it, put yourself in this situation. Suppose you work in a big organization and you find that an existing organizational policy or standard operating procedure is really ineffective or requires a lot of unnecessary work on your part. Or perhaps a recent decision by a high executive causes you a lot of extra work or requires you to obtain extra approvals before you can receive the resources you need to be successful. If you approach some middle manager or other person with some power in the organization to ask for a change in policy or to request an exemption from some requirement of the policy, the person in authority will often be sympathic or even agree with you. However, they will often say, “My hands are tied.” This is a way of saying that while they agree with you personally, they are bound by some higher authority than them and cannot approve the solution you have proposed. The reference is apparently the image of a prisoner tied up with ropes so that the prisoner is immobilized with his hands behind his back. The person you have asked for help has their “hands tied” and cannot assist you.

Thanks for listening to Phi’s English. You may also be interested in my other podcast, the Art and Science of Being an I/T Architect. This focuses on my career designing software for major corporations. You can find this podcast at http://artsciita.podbean.com/ .

This podcast is Copyright 2007 by Philip Hartman – All rights reserved.

Road Warrior
December 15, 2007 01:41 PM PST

If you have not heard the English language idiom "road warrior" before let me explain. A road warrior is a person who travels extensively and usually this means business travel. I believe I met the definition of a road warrior in 2007. I made six trips to China; probably 16 or more trips to Raleigh, North Carolina; 2 trips to California; two trips to Atlanta; and one trip to Seattle.

This kind of working lifestyle is particularly common among marketing professionals that sell expensive products and services to major corporations, executives with oversight of many different geographic locations, or any many kinds of management or technology consultants.

Being a road warrior has its positive and negative aspects.

• On the positive side, just being one usually implies that your employer has a lot of trust in your abilities. This usually translates into more responsibility and higher compensation. Hotels, car rental companies, and airlines all treat you as their favorite customer. It is common to get a free upgrade to a better room, a nicer car, or a better seat. You often get to meet a lot of very intelligent and very interesting people. You often get to have long discussions with these people over dinner in the evening at nice restaurants. It is possible to grow your expertise, skills, and network of business contacts very quickly.
• On the negative side, it is a stressful lifestyle. The greater responsibility at work usually means greater scrutiny by your boss. If you commute by airline, you have to worry about flight delays and cancellations. Constantly changing time zones can play havoc with your sleeping schedule also. The worst thing of all is the separation from family and friends.

So if you are considering becoming a road warrior, go into it with you eyes open. It can be exciting, rewarding, and invigorating. You'll not be bored. It will also be lonely at times. Both you and your family need to be able to deal with the separation and stress.

What’s a KPI? What’s the difference between scalability and reliability? What is a C-Level executive? What’s the difference between price and cost? The answer to these questions and even more like them can be found on my premium English language podcast “Idioms of Business and Technology” where I talk about a lot more than idioms. Subscribe at http://premiumenglish.podbean.com/ . Just click on the “Subscribe to premium content now” link at the end of a post.

Copyright 2007 by Philip Hartman, All Rights Reserved

Price vs. Cost
December 11, 2007 09:40 PM PST

From the point of view of the buyer, there is no real difference between price and cost. From the point of view of the seller, there is a huge difference.

When a buyer asks, “How much does it cost?” or “What is the price?” the expected answer is usually the same to both questions. It is the amount of money the buyer must hand over to the seller to purchase the goods or services.

When the seller asks, “How much does it cost?” the real question is probably “How much did it cost me to make this available to sell?” This could be the price the supplier charged a retailer or even the cost of providing a service.

When the seller asks, “What is the price?” the real question is probably “How much am I going to charge a customer?” or in the case of professional services “How much will I charge the client?”

The difference between price and cost from the seller’s point of view is the profit. In the case of selling a product, profit equals the price charged minus the cost of acquiring the product. In the case of providing a service, profit equals the price charged minus the cost of providing the service. The cost of providing the service is often the cost of labor to the service provider.

Have you enjoyed this podcast? Have you learned something that would have been hard to learn somewhere else? Please consider subscribing to my premium English language podcast “Idioms of Business & Technology” where you’ll learn not only idioms but also many phrases of speech commonly used in business and technology settings. To sign up, go to http://philsenglish.podomatic.com/ and click on the “Subscribe to Premium Content” link on the right hand side.

This Podcast Copyright 2007 by Philip Hartman, All Rights Reserved

You've Got to Roll With the Punches
November 10, 2007 09:55 PM PST

Hi and welcome to Phil's English podcast where I try to help you understand English better. In particular, I hope to help you understand the idioms native speakers commonly use.

Today's new idiom is "You've got to roll with the punches."

The meaning of this idiom is to accept minor setbacks and continue towards your goal. It means to minimize the pain of adverse actions by an opponent or by a competitor. You must continue competing. You must try to win next time.

I believe the origin comes from the sport of boxing in which one fighter rolls his head away from his opponent's punch to minimize the damage of the impact.

How would you use this idiom in the business world? For example, after a salesman has lost a big sale, a co-worker might say to him "That's just the way it is in this cut-throat business. You have to roll with the punches!" This is a way of telling his co-worker to forget about losing that sale and to go out and just keep trying to win more business.

I hope you have enjoyed this idiom. I hope you'll return to listen again and again.

If you listened to this podcast by visiting http://philsenglish.podomatic.com you may have noticed an ad on the right hand side for "Phil's English Coaching & Mentoring." Yes, I've started to offer private lessons in conversational, business, and technical english. I do this over the internet using Skype. If you find my podcast helpful and would like to accelerate your English learning, you can contact me for private lessons in the following ways.

1. Click on the ad on the web page at http://philsenglish.podomatic.com
2. In version 3.5 or later of Skype open the SkypeFind tab and search for the phrase "Phil's English" and click on the link to try to contact me via Skype.
3. Send an email to "phils_english@hotmail.com"
4. Look for me online on Skype with ID "philip.hartman"

I look forward to speaking with you soon! If you've enjoyed it I hope you'll tell your friends and even consider leaving a positive review on iTunes or on your web page or blog.

This podcast is copyright 2007 by Philip Hartman. All rights reserved.

Come Up for Air
October 06, 2007 04:04 PM PDT

Welcome once again to Phil's English ! This lesson's English language idiom is "come up for air."

This idiom is used when talking to someone who is extremely busy and probably working a lot of hours. It is used when you want to ask for some of that person's time but you know they probably don't have any spare time to give you right now. However, you would still like to make your request but give them permission to wait until later when they are less busy. For example, one computer programmer might say to another "When you come up for air, I'd like to ask you to help me tune the performance of my program."

I believe this idiom is a reference to someone swimming under water for a long time until they cannot hold their breath any longer. When they finally come up to the surface, they immediately take a huge gasp of air.

I hope you've enjoyed this idiom. Please come back again soon.

Copyright 2007 - Philip Hartman - All rights reserved

Wash My Hands of It
October 04, 2007 10:36 PM PDT

For those of you who listened to my previous podcast "up in the air" I did not make it to Beijing as I had planned. My plane developed electrical problems and the pilot had to return to Chicago.

This lesson is about the idiom to "wash my hands of it." It basically means that someone is not going to spend anymore time or energy trying to change the direction someone else is going or trying to reverse a decision they have made. This idiom is like saying "I tried to convince you not to do this but you did it anyway. Therefore, do not hold me responsible for the results!"

Suppose a salesman has tried to convince a customer that a cheaper product from a competitor will not meet their needs. After several attempts to make this point without success, the salesman may then remark to a co-worker that he is going to "wash my hands of it" as a way of saying "I tried to help them but they didn't listen. When their project fails don't blame me!"

This idiom has a Biblical origin from Matthew 27:12-24 in which the Jewish leaders brought Jesus before Pilate to get the Roman governor to sentence Jesus to death. Pilate did not think Jesus did anything to deserve execution but he gave into the pressure anyway, gave the execution order, and then claimed he was not responsible. (See http://bibleresources.bible.com ).

Passage Matthew 27:12-24:

12When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" 14But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" 18For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor.
"Barabbas," they answered.

22"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.
They all answered, "Crucify him!"

23"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"

I've noticed that many people are getting this podcast from RSS feeds or podcast services such as iTunes. If you are doing this, I would appreciate it if you would let me know if you are getting benefit from this podcast. For example, you can post a comment on my blog at http://philsenglish.spaces.live.com/ . You can shoot me an email at phils_english@hotmail.com . You can go to iTunes and post a favorable review.

Thanks for listening and I hope you've learned something.

Copyright 2007 - Philip Hartman - All rights reserved.

Up in the Air
October 04, 2007 06:44 AM PDT

Welcome back to Phil's English Podcast. For anybody who cares, I am sitting in the airport in Nashville, Tennessee waiting for my flight to Chicago where I will connect to my flight to Beijing, China.

I've been very busy at work this week so I have not been as regular with posting English lessons as I'd like to be. Hopefully I will have more time this coming week.

Today's idiom is "up in the air." This is an idiom which means that we don't know the final outcome but it might not turn out the way we would like. Something has happened which makes it impossible to predict what will happen next. For example, suppose you are a software salesman and you have made several calls on a potential customer and believe your prospect has convinced his boos the purchase is a good idea. The prospect is about to submit a purchase order to his boss for approval. Then the prospect's boss leaves the company suddenly. The software salesman might then say that his sales opportunity is "up in the air". The purchase may be delayed until a new manager is selected or the new manager might reject to purchase.

Copyright 2007 by Philip Hartman - All Right Reserved

Working Too Hard
September 28, 2007 08:31 PM PDT

There are two very similar idioms often used to describe someone who is working too hard or too many hours.

The first example in this podcast is the phrase "burning the candle at both ends." This idiom brings to mind the picture of a candle burning on both ends and being used up twice as fast. In the old days , when people lighted their home at night with candles this would be considered wasteful.

Suppose someone was working full time in a demanding job and was also going to school at night to work on another degree. A friend might describe this person as "burning the candle at both ends."

A second and very similar idiom is "burning the midnight oil." In this case it must refer to when most people lighted their homes with oil lamps. If someone was up late at night working or reading by the light of an oil lamp, they would be "burning the midnight oil."

Suppose someone has a term paper due in a few days and they have not started yet. This person might say to a friend "I'll be burning the midnight oil until I get this term paper finished."

I hope you've enjoyed this. I hope you will visit my English language blog at http://philsenglish.spaces.live.com/ because I have more control of the visual presentation there and can easily add pictures which help explain the idioms.

Thank you for listening to Phil's English Podcast, copyrighted 2007 all rights reserved.

My Plate is Full
September 24, 2007 05:29 PM PDT

Welcome to this episode of Phil's English.

The other day I was sitting in the office. Since I've recently began taking note of how business people use English language idioms, my ears perked up as a software salesman was leaving the office. He made the statement "my plate is full" to a co-worker as he walked by my cubicle. Now he was not eating so the non-native speaker of English might wonder what he was talking about.

"My plate is full" is an idiom used to say to someone else that I have all the work I can handle. I have no extra hours in the day for anything else. This salesman was saying he could not take on another sales opportunity until something else he was working on was done.

Copyright 2007 Philip Hartman
All Rights Reserved

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