War is terrible: The final chapter. 5 business English phrases which come from the army

Here are my 5 most important Business English phrases which come from war and the army. If you missed some other useful business idioms which come from warfare, check out the previous chapters on war and weapons!

1. To Take the flak for something

Very interesting phrase here, the word flak on its own means anti aircraft fire. So in the army, to take the flak means to receive anti-aircraft fire.

In business English, the phrase to take the flak means to take heavy criticism for something.

‘The managing director took the flak for falling profits’

The phrase take most of the flak for / take some of the flak for is also very common:

‘The project manager took most of the flak for the project failing to meet the deadline, but I also think the rest of the team should take some of the flak as well for their inefficiency,’

2. Be given your marching orders

In the military, to be given your marching orders means to be given instructions about a certain march.

In business English, to be given your marching orders means simply to be fired because you have done something wrong.

‘The football manager was given his marching orders after the team lost 5 games in a row.’

‘If he does it again he’ll be given his marching orders.’

3. Close ranks

If your army closes ranks, it means that they move closer together in military formation as a tactic for battle.

In business, then it can mean to publicly show support for other members of your team or your group.

‘If we want to beat the competition we should close ranks and give each other support.’

‘Our team leader has taken a lot of flak recently, we should close ranks with him and show that we believe in his ideas.’

4. To be caught off guard

Literally, if a guard is ‘off guard’ it means that they have lost concentration.  If they are caught off guard, then, it means that they are taken by surprise by something because they were not concentrating.

Similarly, in business or general English this means to be completely taken by surprise by something unexpected.

‘I was caught off guard in the negotiation when they offered such a low price.’

‘The company was caught off guard by the aggressive marketing campaign of its rival.’

‘Many companies were caught off guard when the financial crisis struck in 2008.’

5. Fight an uphill battle

As you can see, the literary meaning here is fairly clear.  If you are fighting a battle on a hill, it is a lot more difficult to fight uphill than to fight downhill.

This phrase, like all the other phrases here, is very common in both business and general English.  It means that you are trying to do something which is very difficult, usually due to people or circumstances.

There are 2 useful phrases here:

To fight an uphill battle with something

‘We’re fighting an uphill battle with this low budget we have been given.’

To fight an uphill battle to do something

‘We are fighting an uphill battle to improve morale here with so many redundancies.’

If you would like to have any of these words explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Check out more useful business vocabulary here!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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