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My Hands Are Tied
Time-length-icon 3m 8s
Publish-date-icon December 20, 2007
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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.

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