Communication in real estate – be careful with those idioms

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

 

For many, both real estate sales people and their clients, English is a second (or 3rd or 4th) language.

I have great admiration for those who can master it and communicate clearly. Judging by how many who were born in the U.S. can’t manage it, it’s truly an outstanding accomplishment.

These folks not only have to navigate our often tricky rules of grammar, they have to deal with the idioms that most of us use without even thinking.

I started thinking about that this morning after seeing a clip in which a Congresswoman was upset over the use of the idiom "pull yourself up by your bootstrap." She objected to its use, saying it was impossible, which of course it is. She also said it started as a joke. I was pretty sure that wasn’t true, so I went looking for the origin.

Origin: Unknown

It turns out that the phrase, which means “to improve your situation by your own efforts,” pull yourself up by your bootstrapshas no known origin. For those who don’t wear such boots, it refers to the straps that are attached to help the wearer pull the boots onto their feet. And of course you cannot lift yourself up by them.

Acccording to /www.phrases.org.uk/, “It was known by the early 20th century. James Joyce alluded to it in Ulysses, 1922: "There were others who had forced their way to the top from the lowest rung by the aid of their bootstraps." 

Since the phrase has been around for about a hundred years, it’s no wonder that I’ve heard the term for as long as I can remember, as I’m sure many others have.

That’s why I laughed when I read the following from a Feb 1, 2016 article at www.entrepreneur.com:

“The term Bootstrap was coined from the computer lingo 'booting' which means starting a computer or starting a chain of processes which eventually starts up the operating system. ... Bootstrap mentality keeps the organization focused on being frugal, innovative and agile.”

Another case of deciding you know the answer without doing the research.

Meanwhile... 

Those who are trying to learn our language may be rightfully confused by the idioms we use that are not literal.

  • Most of us, when “shooting from the hip” are not shooting anyone. bending over backward
  • Many who are instructed to “hold your horses” have no horses.
  • When we say we need to “get the bugs out” it doesn’t necessarily refer to removing insects (although at times, it does!).
  • When we “bend over backwards” to help someone, we generally aren’t bending our bodies.

An article at talktocanada.com lists 52 of the most common idioms used in business. It might be a good idea to go see if you're using any that might confuse your clients.

A few more that are not necessarily used in business, but are commonly used are:

  • “Hit the hay.”
  • “Up in the air” ...
  • “Stabbed in the back” ...
  • “Takes two to tango” ...
  • “Kill two birds with one stone.” ...
  • “Piece of cake” ...
  • “Costs an arm and a leg” ...
  • “Break a leg”
  • “Rule of thumb”
  • "Blow off steam"
  • "Nest egg"

I think that most of us know what all of them mean, but perhaps not.

Perhaps we should be careful with the use of idioms that, when taken literally, would confuse the heck out of people who don’t know their meanings.

 

Bend over backward courtesy of Stuart Miles @free digital photos.net

Comments (18)

Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ
602-380-4886

Hi Marte!

Gary worked with a guy a few years back that knew the origins of all these type of sayings. He was such an interesting guy!  Who knew that would be somebody's hobby!

Feb 07, 2020 12:56 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Marte - the use of language and effective communication is an interesting topic.  Endless perhaps.  I, too, am amazed at those who are not native speakers who have mastered this skill.  I definitely understand that "fish out of water" experience.  

Feb 07, 2020 12:59 PM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is excellent advice to share. All of us need to take great care with our verbal communications.

Feb 07, 2020 01:21 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Anna Banana Kruchten Broker/Owner, CRB, CRS If you want to collect something, that isn't a bad choice. After all, it won't fill your house or your garage!

There you go with another one, Michael Jacobs. I think most of us use them every day. Funny - I like to read novels and there's a series by J.D. Robb in which the main character is always getting the idioms mixed up or questioning why anyone would say that. 

Feb 07, 2020 01:25 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Roy Kelley Yes, we shouldn't assume that someone else knows what we mean when we say someting like "I'd like to the boss off my back." And how about "the elephant in the room?"

Feb 07, 2020 01:27 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I can think of a hundred to add to your list.  And when I heard said congresswoman say "that's not physically possible" I said "Bless her heart" and we both know that's not really what I meant.

Feb 07, 2020 03:42 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Tammy Lankford, You are far kinder - more polite - than I. What an idiotic thing to cause a fuss over.

Feb 07, 2020 04:00 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Well perhaps you just aren't aware of it's dual meaning in Georgia Marte, because I can assure you it's not polite at ALL.

Feb 07, 2020 04:06 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Yes Tammy Lankford, I was aware of that. But it still sounds polite. You Southern Belles lace your words with charm.

Feb 07, 2020 04:20 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Very true, Marte. Then again, each language has its idioms... I know Russian does, French does. It took me a while to grasp the meaning of many idioms in those languages because they don't always make sense.

Feb 07, 2020 04:34 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Nina Hollander Ours don't always make sense either. Perhaps that's why we like to  use them?

Feb 07, 2020 04:55 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Marte- It reminds me of Ziva when she was on NCIS who was always mixing up her idioms. Tammy Lankford, I know exactly what you mean when you "bless your heart." because I'm from Texas and have been known to say it.

Marte- I love learning of the origins of these sayings. 

Feb 07, 2020 06:58 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Kathy Streib - I've never seen NCIS so don't know Ziva, but I do get a chuckle when people mix up their idioms.

I agree - it is fun to learn the origins. I just sometimes forget that I can go on line and sometimes find them.

Feb 07, 2020 08:55 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Ah the ole Bootstraps. Now it's popular to say, "Put on your big boy, or big girl, pants."  Drives me bonkers.  "They don't teach tall in the NBA." Argh. I'm not a fan of these types of sayings. Although, idioms  can be useful, and some are good descriptors, such as, the fog is as thick as pea soup. 

Feb 08, 2020 07:14 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD I agree, some of these that become trendy also become annoying.

If we looked at origins, we might not want to use some of our most common idioms, such as "rule of thumb."

According to phrases.org.uk, "The 'rule of thumb' has been said to derive from the belief that English law allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick so long as it is was no thicker than his thumb."

Feb 08, 2020 08:42 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ
602-380-4886

Hahaha Marte Cliff your response to me is funny!  And that's for sure that hobby won't fill up the house or garage!  And will save us all money too! Obscure hobbies....

Feb 08, 2020 10:27 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Anna Banana Kruchten Broker/Owner, CRB, CRS Yes! With that hobby you wouldn't have to buy supplies or make a mess in the house, and you wouldn't have to travel anywhere to enjoy it.

On top of that, you might have something interesting to add to the trivia at cocktail parties.

Feb 08, 2020 12:03 PM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Marte Cliff - I enjoy finding out what the origin was from these idioms. But I do not use them around clients. 

Feb 10, 2020 05:48 AM