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Last updated at 09:29 BST, Tuesday, 03 June 2014

Corporate speak

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Li's boss told her to do some 'blue-sky thinking' and to 'push the envelope'. She is very confused. Luckily Finn is there to help.

A beach and an envelope

Why has Li got an envelope and a picture of a beach?

The script for this programme

Finn: Hi Li. I didn't see you in the canteen today. I brought you a sandwich.

Li: That's very kind of you, Finn. I had to go and buy these...

Finn: An envelope and a nice picture of a sunny beach?

Li: It's the sky, Finn. My boss told me that we need blue-sky thinking and we need to push the envelope if we want to succeed in the current market.

Finn: Oh, right. And what are you going to do with this envelope, and this picture, Li?

Li: Well, the beach has a blue-sky... so maybe I need to push it into the envelope... and send it to... the clients? I'm not sure.

Finn: Li, I think what he wants has nothing to do with the sky or envelopes. These are two expressions people use in business nowadays. It's corporate language - or as we say, corporate speak.

Li: What do they mean?

Finn: Well, in English, 'blue-sky thinking' means having ideas which are very original, even if they're not practical or realistic. Your boss wants you to be creative.

Li: And what do I do with this envelope?!

Finn: Well, the expression 'to push the envelope' means to go even further than others and do things that might be new or risky or even dangerous! That's: push the envelope.

Li: But why didn't he just say: be creative?

Finn: Well, the world of business has its own special terms. Let's hear some examples of how to use these two expressions in today's The English We Speak.

  • It's all about blue-sky thinking right now; mobile phones are no longer just for calls!
  • We're not just a normal airline. We're going to push the envelope and offer balloon flights.

Li: Oh, so all my boss wants is for me to have ideas which are new and brave. What about your boss, Finn?

Finn: Well, my line manager told me this morning: "I expect you to think out of the box. If you don't step up to the plate by end of play you'll have to face the music."

Li: What on earth does he mean, Finn?!

Finn: I really have no idea. I think we'd need another four programmes to explain those examples of corporate speak. Another time. I'm tired just thinking about it. Bye.

Li: Bye.

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