by Kate Woodford
Continuing our occasional series on idioms that relate to the world of business, we look this week at phrases that express something about money.
There are a number of phrases relating to making money (and not all are admiring). A cash cow is a product or an area of a business that a company can rely on because it always makes money. The money made is often used to support other business activities: The credit card had become the bank’s cash cow. A person or company’s main way of earning money may be described as their bread and butter: They provide legal advice for companies – that’s their bread and butter. In UK English, a way of earning money that is very easy, needing little effort, may be referred to as money for old rope or money for jam. A lot of people assume that buying and selling property is money for old rope. Similarly, on hearing about an easy job that earns a lot of money for someone else, someone might say humorously, Nice work if you can get it! Eighty pounds an hour for rubbing someone’s shoulders? Nice work if you can get it!
Other phrases simply mean ‘to earn a lot of money’ – for example, the expression to rake it in (informal): They’ve started selling ice cream in the main square and they’re raking it in. Another informal phrase meaning the same is to make money hand over fist: Business was good and we were making money hand over fist.
A company or person in business that keeps their head above water only just earns enough money to keep going: At the moment, we’re only just managing to keep our head above water. A business that is in the black has money in its account whereas a business that is in the red owes money to the bank: Three years later, we’re finally in the black, I’m happy to report.
A company that cuts corners, meanwhile, does something in the cheapest and fastest way, usually resulting in a product or service of poor quality: They certainly don’t cut any corners – only the best materials go into making the products. Finally, if a company’s profits suddenly fall very badly, they may be said to take a nosedive: The company has just announced its final results: pre-tax profits have taken a nosedive.