Communication in real estate – be careful with those idioms

Reblogger Roy Kelley
Real Estate Agent with Realty Group Referrals 16766

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


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Original content by Marte Cliff


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 /, “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

“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.


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 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

Priest River, Idaho


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Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Please be sure to leave comments at the original blog by Marte Cliff

Feb 10, 2020 04:15 AM #1
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Good Monday Morning Roy,

Thank you for the reblog.  Off to leave a comment.

Feb 10, 2020 05:45 AM #2
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Roy, great choice for a reblog and Marte always has great advice for us.

Feb 10, 2020 06:26 AM #4
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

Thank you for the reblog, you really know how to pick them...

Happy New Week Roy Kelley 

Feb 10, 2020 09:15 AM #6
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Your feedback is always welcome. Thanks so much for your comments.

Feb 11, 2020 03:23 AM #7
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