Danger in your business presentations – beware of idiomatic expressions such as “pull the pin”

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grenade and pin

If you are a naturally expressive or casual person, you need to be careful when using colourful, casual expressions in business presentations – especially with idiomatic expressions that are understood by one group but easily misunderstood my other people.


I was recently training multi-cultural communication in Singapore and I used the example of “pulled the pin”.

To many Australians – this expression means that something has stopped – that it is not going to proceed. The expression originates from pulling the pin that connects the tractor and the plough. To stop work – to disconnect

An American in the group said he thought the expression meant the opposite –  that a project was committed to happen – as when you have pulled the pin on a grenade – you need to proceed and throw it. You are committed!

As you can see – two opposite meanings. The use of this…

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Whips and Hooters and Cross-cultural mis-communication

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Lots of laughs and cross-cultural communication today at my son’s cross country at school today.

O big finish

I love hanging out with the  parents originally from South Africa and finding out:

1. their expressions I find unusual

2. Australian expressions they find funny and unusual.

Often, it’s the “little things” – like the mum who thought a whipper snipper was something “kinky”.

She just “heard” the whip part 🙂

For those who don’t know –   in Australia, a whipper snipper cuts down weeds.


The mum said that  in South Africa they call it a weed eater. In the US they call it a brush cutter or a weed whacker.

Mmmm –  Whacker is a word to be careful of in Australia unless you are talking about the  WACA – the Western Australian cricket stadium.

Also, two South African mums were talking about having a nice “flattie” for dinner.

I thought a…

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Cross-cultural embarrassment – don’t be Kinki!

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international-communication TB

If you communicate internationally – it’s vital that you try to avoid embarrassment.

On a recent trip working in Singapore – I had two hearty chuckles at two examples of cross-cultural communication challenges.

The first was when I read about how a Japanese university was changing its name – because the name (though spelled differently) sounded like something “undesirable” in English.

See for yourself:

Kinki Japan

The second example:

One of the people I was helping was of Chinese background and Westerners were constantly getting his name wrong or finding it hard to say.

He decided to be known by his initials of his two given names – and they were KY.

As you may know –  KY Gel is the name of a lubricant made by Johnson and Johnson.

In Australia, the name is often shortened to KY – AND it is often associated with use as a sexual…

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This simple trick will help you use FLOUT and FLAUNT correctly

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Lots of people get FLOUT and FLAUNT confused. Here’s an easy way to remember which one to use – and when.


This post was inspired by reading advice from a very smart and experienced international expert who used flaunt when he should have written flout.

“If there is a dress code, you flaunt it”

I think he meant to write FLOUT – as in to not obeyto disobey or ignore.

If you FLAUNT it – you show it off.

Outlaw logo

To remember just think:

Flout = FlOUTLAW – someone who doesn’t obey a law or rule.

I know it’s simple – but simple works in remembering what word to use.

word nerd CU

I often help people who are much smart than I am. My “skill” is helping people use simple memory devices to remember to use the correct word.

So, just remember if you disobey a law or corporate command…

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How to choose the right word – course/coarse

Choose the Right Words

Is it hard to choose the right word? – of coarse!

Especially with similar sounding and similar looking words such as course and coarse!

You can even add CAUSE confusion for non-native English speakers. People from non-English speaking backgrounds often have trouble hearing the difference between words such as course and cause. Native English speakers often  take hearing the differences in sounds for granted.

This post is about how to use the correct course/coarse words.

first course

Even native English speakers who are well educated can make word mistakes that can make them look not-so-smart – even coarse and unrefined.

Imagine you are a professional and you use the wrong word. Will some of your readers judge you unkindly?

Those who know the correct words may doubt the accuracy of the rest of your work if you choose the wrong word.

Here’s an easy way to remember how to choose…

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How to choose the right word and tell the difference between sound-a-likes: sow, sew and so

Choose the Right Words


English can be SEW confusing. Because English borrows from so many other languages, the same sound can be made by different combinations of letters – hence lots of word confusion – and people using the wrong words especially in writing!


I lead a varied life – one day  as an international communication coach helping top execs “choose the right words”….the next day helping my kids with home work.

scrabble spelling

In both cases I help people remember how to choose the right words by using the “known to remember the unknown.”

Take for example the sound-the-same words that are spelled differently – sow, sew and so. (Homophones – homo = the same)

Use what people know to help them remember related words they need to remember. It also helps if you an visualize the memory trigger – for example a CAR or an Envelope.

My teachers helped me remember a cAr is

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When the correct word alludes you – elude or allude? Here’s an easy way to remember >

This post was inspired by reading the writing of a very clever writer – a clever writer who made a common mistake confusing sound-a-like words allude and elude.

“…most examples are sales related, the tool our speaker eluded to can be applied across all professions.” 

It should be alluded to rather than eluded to.

An easy way to remember the difference and how to choose the correct word:

To elude means to escape.

An easy way to remember is to remember the EsElude to Escape


To allude to is to refer to indirectly.


I’m sure there is an easy way to remember this –  but the memory trick alludes me at the moment!

word nerd CU


If you’d like links to other easy-to-remember prompts to help you choose the right works – take a peak here! 🙂

1. wonder or wander?

2. sort or sought?

3. peak or peek or pique


If you notice people in your organisation are confusing their words, I’d love to help.

I can run group training sessions or 1-1 coaching.

I work with lots of smart people who just need some help remembering how to choose the right words.

They are often at the PeAK of their careers. I take a pEEK at their writing and pique their interest in improving their writing by making the sessions memorable and enjoyable.

TB training group


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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.



tony biancotti

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti