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Last updated at 12:29 BST, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Inside job

A robber

A question from Miguel in Venezuela
Can you explain what the expression 'be an inside job' means?

Gareth Rees answers:

Click below to hear the answer:

Hello Miguel. Thank you for asking about the phrase 'to be an inside job'; a phrase which refers to the world of crime.

It is probably best if I describe an example. Imagine you want to steal a fantastic and expensive diamond from a museum – a story we have often seen in the movies, I'm sure you will agree. The problem is, of course, that the museum has excellent security and alarm systems, and the doors are heavily locked. How can you get the diamond? Well, you could of course use dynamite to blow the doors off, but that would be a little noisy and I imagine the security guards and the police would soon be after you.

Alternatively, you could recruit one of the security guards to join your criminal gang. This guard could then tell you all the details about the security arrangements, give you the code to deactivate the alarm, and best of all, could leave a side entrance door unlocked for you to enter the museum. If you did this, if you recruited the security guard, you would have a gang member inside the museum, and this man would have inside knowledge about the security systems. Inside knowledge is the secret knowledge that only people who are members of an organisation, in this case the museum, have.

So, one dark, moonless night, you steal the diamond and leave the country. However, the theft is soon discovered and the police begin their investigation. What do they realise? Well, as dynamite wasn't used to blow the doors off, and as the alarm didn't go off, they realise that the gang included someone who had this secret, or inside, knowledge. They realise that this robbery was 'an inside job'. The thieves were not simply outsiders, or strangers to the museum, one of the gang worked for the museum and used his knowledge to help the crime succeed.

It is at this point that the security guard has to start running!

So, that is the meaning of ‘to be an inside job'. Personally, I don't recommend that you try to get practical experience of this expression and I also hope that you never fall victim to a crime that is an inside job.

About Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees has a BA (hons) in History and Philosophy of Science, CTEFLA, and DELTA. He has taught EFL, EAP and Business English in China, Spain and England, and he is the co-author of the Language Leader Elementary and Pre-Intermediate English language course books (Pearson Longman). He currently teaches English in the Language Centre at the University of the Arts, London.

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