Are they mere table stakes?


Lovemarks (Photo credit: Bart Claeys)


This is another expression I came across last week at the WOBI. Kevin Roberts from Saatchi & Saatchi used it when speaking of Lovemarks(+/+).

Where does ‘table stakes’ come from?

Well, it is a gambling term, referring to how much a person can bet in a round of poker.

How do we use it in business?

In business, it  usually refers to a minimum level of investment, technology, or some other essential ingredient to make something become successful. It is the minimum requirement to have a credible competitive starting position in any business venture.

How would you translate it in italian?

In poker, I would say ‘scommessa mnima’. In business, it is definitely ‘fattore indispensabile’.

How do we use it in context?

  • Giving great value is table stakes for any lovemark.
  • Social business strategies are becoming table stakes today.

What’s a lovemark?

No better place to learn …visit the website

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Business Class: The New Boss



Let’s review some key phraseology for meetings. This clip is from Suits Season 2.

  • Before we get down to business…(i.e. Before starting the meeting…)
  • Now, moving on…(i.e. let’s talk about something else)
  • I am here in a number 2 capacity. (i.e. I am here to support the big boss)
  • I am going to need someone that will bring this home.(i.e.that will win the negotiation)
  • I brought Harvey up to speed last night (i.e.I debriefed him)
  • He has got it covered.(i.e. he can manage this)
  • I will swing by your office. (i.e. I will pass by your office)
  • Next order of the day…( item on the agenda)




Top Language: Sounds like a plan!

Top Language

I was watching ‘Suits’ and Harvey used the expression ‘Sounds like a plan!’

One of the senior partners suggested meeting him in his office to look over a case and he answered ‘ Sounds like a plan!‘.


  • Sounds good!
  • Good idea!
  • Let’s do it!

Let’s use it in context:

a: I am going to Mario’s Pizzeria tomorrow after work. Do you want to join me?

b: I am working until late.

a: So am I! Shall we say 9pm in front of the restaurant?

b: Sounds like a plan!


Reason for Reading: Post-Layoff Survival Guilt

English: Think positive

English: Think positive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here I go again! I am letting my current work enviornment direct my blog inspirations.   In the past few weeks, I have been hearing a lot about layoffs, solidarity pacts and staff morale being low in many companies across Italy. This made me read up on layoffs and the environment that surrounds them.

I have chosen an article that I think can be useful for those who remain in the companies that are undergoing a restructuring due to redundancies. We instinctively speak about the people who are let go but rarely about the ones that stay.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for everyone concerned. My thoughts and positive vibes are with you. Here is the article called Dealing with Post-Layoff Survival Guilt .

Positive attitudes are key to getting through any difficult period,right?   My co-worker, AP, is the best and reminding me of this!

Vocabulary Boost:

  • to lay off: to stop employing (someone) because there is not enough work
  • to be let go: to stop working because there is not enough work
  • to get fired: to be dismissed from a job
  • you wonder why: you ask yourself
  • a sibling: a brother or sister
  • severance package: money or other benefits given when employment is terminated
  • akin: alike
  • to hang: to remain in the air
  • a dip in Productivity: a decline in the work one produces
  • the sour taste…in your mouth: an angry feeling that remains
  • Survivial of the Fittest: natural selection or the theory that those who are eliminated are the unfit.
  • to be a bit somber: to be a little sad and serious
  • to get rid of: to do something so that you no longer have or are affected or bothered by it
  • to be bogged down with: to be overwhelmed, the feeling when you ahve to many things to do
  • are bound to : inevitably
  • to foster: to help, grow or develop




Top Language: Table Talk

Top Language

This post will be looking at the word TABLE and how we can use it every day.

Let’s start with Table the noun….furniture with 4 legs with a top that we eat on.

Here are a few common collocations:

  • The dinner table: where you have dinner with the family
  • A night table: found next to your bed
  • A coffee table: found in the living room
  • A roundtable: meeting at which people discuss something & have equal say.
  • Table manners: behavior you have when eating at the table

I was talking about chores for kids with a learner this week & three verbs came up. We perform these actions every day & kids can do them too.

  •  To set the table: to place plates, cutlery, glasses & napkins on a table before a meal
  • To clear the table: to remove the dishes from the table after a meal & pop them into the dishwasher or sink.
  • To clean the table: use a rag or paper towel  with detergent to wipe a table of dirt or fingerprints.
A table set for two people.

A table set for two people. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Useful idioms:

  • I will put my cards on the table. I don’t like the way you speak to me. It’s disrespectful. (i.e. to tell someone honestly what you think or what you plan to do. Origin from card games like poker)
  • You should wait before making big changes. Get your feet under the table! (i.e. get used to the new job. Origin related to a new desk)
  • My brother can drink me under the table.  (i.e.  someone that can drink a lot more alcohol than another person).
  • The tables are turned. He’s got control now. (i.e. situation changes and the person at a disadvantage is on top now)
  • The board decided to table the proposal to after Easter. (i.e. decide to postpone a decision to a later date)

Fluency Builder: Discuss the following with a chat buddy or your teacher

  1. If a person has good table manners, how does that person behave at a dinner table?
  2. What do you keep on your night table?
  3. Who sets and clears the table at your house? Do you place your fork on the right or left?
  4. How long did it take to get your feet under the table in your current job?


Business Class: Keep It Under Wraps



When you keep something under wraps, you conceal it until a future date. Where does this expression come from? If I wrap something, I cover it to protect it.  When I keep something under wraps, I hide it for a while. The reasons why could be varied.

Here are a few examples in context:

  • The production company kept the movie under wraps until its’ release. They wanted to build hype around it.
  • Can you keep his resignation under wraps for this week. It will be official next Monday.
  • The president has decided to keep his illness under wraps. He doesn’t want it to affect the election results.

Fluency Builder:

  1. Have you ever had to keep something under wraps?
  2. When your company tries to keep things under wraps, do you ever hear it through the grape vine anyway?



Reason For Reading: Words To Leave Off Your Resumé


I love lists like these especially when they contain flagrant faux pas on resumés that we see all too often. You may not agree with all of the items but they can sure strike up some lively conversation among co-workers. Take a moment to read this short article from Mashable called Words To Leave Off Your Resumé  and tweak your resumé to make it the best to could be. Don’t forget to read the vocabulary section first.Oh!…my personal favorite is the one on not mentioning your high school!

Vocabulary Boost:

  • to doom your chances: to ruin your possibilities
  • to hit your quota: to reach your target
  • you’re not dong yourself a favor: you are not helping yourself
  • a skill set : a group of capabilities
  • a job seeker: someone who is looking for a job
  • learner and cleaner: concise
  • to toss the resumé aside: to not consider you by not selecting your cv
  • to harm: to hurt
  • a career obituary: a list of tasks related to old work positions
  • a significant other: your partner in life
  • to gloss over: to read without interest because it has been seen before

Fluency Builder: Share these questions with your teacher and friends & Speak a little English today!

  1. Do you agree with the items in the article?
  2. How does your resumé measure up?
  3. How long should a CV be in your opinion? Is yours that length?
  4. Have you got an English version to your Resumé?


p.s. If you need to have your English CV proof-read, edited or translated, we can do that for you. Send us your request by emailing us for a quote.

English Phraseology: Winter Bites

learn english1

It snowed heavily in my town yesterday. As I was shoveling, I started thinking about a few the vocabulary words associated to snow & winter. Here is what I came up with.

Compound Words:

  • Snowfall:  snow that falls in a particular place
  • Snow Storm:  heavy snowfall with strong winds also know as blizzard
  • Snowplow : a vehicle that pushes snow to the side of the road
  • Snowball fight: what kids love to do when it snows…throwing snowballs at each other

Vocabulary Boost:

  • The snow should start melting today. It’s sunny. (i.e. it will transform into water and disappear. We can also use the verb to thaw which is a synonym)
  • The roads are treacherous. (i.e. it’s dangerous to drive on them because of ice and snow)
  • Did the snow settle in your area? (i.e. Did it stay on the ground?)
  • We were snowed in last night. (i.e. we couldn’t leave home because of the snow)

Idioms in Context:

  • I’m snowed under at work. I can’t leave before 9pm every night this week. (i.e. I’ve got an excessive amount of work to do)
  • The managing director’s dismissal has had a snowball effect. There have been 20 resignations ever since. (i.e. it’s created a trend…more and more people are leaving)

English: A snowball fight at the Dupont Circle...

Fluency Builder: Discuss the following questions in class or with a friend to practice speaking a little English today.

  1. Do you like the cold or do you feel more in your element when it’s hot?
  2. Have you made a snowman this year?
  3. Do you ski? If so, can you describe your favorite skiing spot?
  4. Have you ever been snowed in due to a blizzard? How did you manage?

Can you think of any other useful expressions related to snow, winter and cold weather? We look forward to your posts!

This was inspired by the 3 hours of winter fun I had with my kids yesterday!


Reason 4 Reading: Convenience vs Inconvenience


I discovered Manager Tools about 3 years ago. I love their podcasts, managerial philosophy & especially their newsletter. It just rocks every time! I highly recommend subscribing to it. Send me your feedback on Manager Tools. I’m curious to find out what you think.

Read the Manager Tools Newsletter Post here: Convenience vs Inconvenience

Don’t forget to study the expressions below first!

Vocabulary Boost:

  • It’s worth it: it’s good to have . It brings value to me.
  • Ugh! :interjection used to show you are annoyed or upset
  • Grumpy: having a bad temper or complaining often
  • To be over something: to not be bothered by something anymore
  • A funk: condition where one is sad , depressed & can’t seem to think or act normally
  • Sharpening the saw: preserving and enhancing the greatest assets you have
  • A saw: a tool with a blade used to cut wood
  • Sharp: having a thin edge that is able to cut things
  • To turn out: to happen or develop in a particular way

Conversation Builder: Here are a few questions that can initiate conversation in the classroom or amongst friends.

  1. What can you do today to make tomorrow more efficient?
  2. What’s your favorite time saving app?
  3. Do you save your details on websites? Why or Why not?
  4. How much on-line shopping do you do?

Share this post with a friend and start speaking English today!