March 24, 2008

#01-088: Bull Session Slang

photo of a four-burner electric stove; the two burners in the back have been outlined with a red box
The literal back burners on a stove

Note: David, Mike, and Ann have a bull session--a fairly informal meeting--and naturally use lots of slang!

Get Ready: Have you ever had to "go back to square one" with something you were working on? How did it make you feel?

Read the conversation. Then do the Practice and, after checking your Answers in the first comment below, read the Explanations.

David: Let's start this bull session. We have a whole laundry list of things to talk about, but we can put most of them on the back burner for now. Mike, I think you're on the hot seat first.

Mike: Right. The new budget has had a good going-over, but we need a couple more days.

David: I though that was finished.

Mike: We don't have to go back to square one. All the scutwork's done; it just needs a once-over before we submit it.

David: Oh, OK. Thanks, Mike. Ann, any problems in your team?

Ann: Yes. As you know, Susan has dropped the ball on several projects lately. I think HR [the Human Resources Department] might need to give her a talking-to.

David: OK, Ann...


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. back burner
  2. bull session
  3. drop the ball
  4. going-over
  5. hot seat
  6. laundry list
  7. once-over
  8. scutwork
  9. square one
  10. talking-to

  1. the place where attention is focused, often when someone is in trouble
  2. a long list of items
  3. examination; perusal
  4. a boring, routine job
  5. a quick look
  6. a failure to complete a task
  7. the metaphorical beginning point
  8. a place where something is left alone for now
  9. a meeting in which nonsense is spoken
  10. a scolding

Answers are in the first comment below.

Explanations of the Answers: After you check your answers in the first comment below, read on for more information on the slang terms used.

  • back burner: Many stoves have four burners, two each in the front and back. If a dish is just simmering, and needs no attention, you can move it to the back burner. So "putting something on the back burner" means leaving it alone for the time being.
  • bull session: "Bull" is an abbreviated expression that means "nonsense." So a "bull session" is a meeting in which nonsense is spoken. This meaning itself is nonsense, of course; meetings can be very important, but people like to joke that they're useless.
  • drop the ball: This is a sports image. If you drop the ball in a game, you have failed to complete your task. So we use "drop the ball" to describe somebody not following through on something.
  • going-over: This is a noun meaning "examination" or "perusal." Many parents give their child's homework a going-over before allowing them to hand it in.
  • hot seat: the place where attention is focused, often when someone is in trouble. (Here it's used jokingly.) For example, "I've been late to work three times this week; my boss called me in to his office and put me on the hot seat," that is, scolded me, or questioned me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable.
  • laundry list: a long list of items. Literally it would be a list of clothing items to be picked up from the laundry, but here it is used figuratively.
  • once-over: a quick look. A bit like a "going-over," but less intense. We might give a restaurant bill a "once over" before paying it; if we pull out the calculator, though, it becomes a "going over."
  • scutwork: a boring, routine job, like washing dishes in a kitchen. This word is so recent that it may not even be in your dictionary.
  • square one: the metaphorical beginning point. "Going back to square one" means starting all over again.
  • talking-to: To "give a talking-to" means to scold. Ann is suggesting that Susan needs an official warning about her behavior, usually the first step leading to someone's dismissal.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 24, 2008

This lesson received 147 visits on my old site between March, 2012, and July, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. i; 3. f; 4. c; 5. a; 6. b; 7. e; 8. d; 9. g; 10. j