12 UK Business Phrases and Sayings

You may think you are speaking the same language as a UK importer/exporter, but there are several variances in the English language. Moreover, a survey by the Institute of Leadership & Management revealed that business jargon is used in almost two thirds of UK offices.

This same survey revealed that nearly a third consider jargon to be irritating and counterproductive. As a matter of fact, the problem of jargon is so widespread in the UK that there is an organization that calls itself “The Plain English Campaign” and it moves to eliminate gobbledygook from business and government offices.

The problem of jargon is so widespread in the UK that there is an organization that calls itself 'The Plain English Campaign' and it moves to eliminate gobbledygook from business and government offices

Nevertheless, as they do in the US, these phrases and jargon sneak their way into business and it’s wise to know what to expect when communicating with your UK business associate. For example, in the US we might say that we’re flying in a S.W.A.T. team, meaning a group of experts, but a UK importer/exporter may not know what this means.

You’ll want to understand any UK business person, so below are six phrases they may use in business as well as a list of common sayings that differ from how we’d say it in the US.

Six UK Business Phrases

“Close of play”

This usually refers to the end of a cricket or tennis game. It’s now been adapted to also mean the end of a day of business. For example “I’m under pressure to finish this project by close of play.”

“To wash its own face”

This business phrase means that an action will justify itself or often to pay for itself. For example, “We have to set prices on wash its face basis.”

“If you don’t like it get off the bus”

This phrase is almost self-explanatory. It means that is you are not happy or fundamentally disagree with a company, you should leave the company. Or it just means do what you are told. For example “If you’re not sure you like the business plan, why don’t you get off the bus.”

“Look under the bonnet”

In the UK a bonnet is the hood of a car, so the phrase “look under hood” as you can imagine means to analyze a situation. For example, “I’m not sure why these numbers are like this, I’m going to take a look under the bonnet on that.”

“Cascading relevant information”

This UK phrase means you are going to talk it over with your colleagues. For example, “Before I make a decision, I’ll be cascading relevant information.”

“The strategic staircase”

This is basically another way to say business plan. For example, “I think I’ll modify the strategic staircase.”

“Put a record on and see who dances”

This phrase means you’re going to test out an idea. For example, “I’m not sure about that ecommerce plan, but I’m going to put on a record and see who dances.”

Six useful commonly used UK sayings

  1. “That went down a treat”: A saying that means to have thoroughly enjoyed oneself. For example after leaving the fair commenting “that went down a treat.”
  2. “To take the mickey or the mick”: A saying that means to tease or make fun of. For example “aw, don’t be upset, I was just taking the mickey.”
  3. “To add another string to your bow”: A saying that means to learn a new skill, usually a work related skill. For example, I’m taking a course in product development so I’ll add another string to my bow.”
  4. “Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt”: a saying that means that something is successful, as the French say “et Voila” or in the US “and there you go.” For example, it can be used at the end of giving directions.
  5. “Cheap as chips”: A saying that is exclaimed when something is a good bargain for your money. Note that chips refers to french fries as potato chips are crisps in the UK. For example, “I found this on offer, cheap as chips.”
  6. “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”: This saying means take care not to waste small amounts, especially of money. Save money and it will accumulate.

Another way to strengthen your business relationship with your British counterpart is to use Veem. Veem uses a multi-rail system to make international wire transfers that are insured, safe, fast, and as easy as sending an email.

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