Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Improve your Business English with some Tech Talk

Just when you thought the $99 laptop was around the corner...the Wall Street Journal reports that the costs of PCs (personal computers) is going up. Read these exerpts from their article of December 14 by Ben Worthen and then we'll review some key business English expressions. The expressions we will focus on are in bold.

Rising Computer Prices Buck the Trend

For the first time in several years, people shopping for personal computers are doing something new: paying more.

Computer prices are rising even as the prices of other consumer electronics such as high-definition televisions and digital cameras plunge this holiday season.

In November, the average retail price of a PC sold in the U.S. was $615, up 6% from last year's $580...

The rising prices for a stark turnabout for the $250 billion global PC industry, which for years has coped with sharp price declines even as machines became more powerful.

The cut-throat pricing of recent years has rippled through the industry, squeezing profit margins for big PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc...

The higher-end models are "flying off the shelves," said PaulHenri Ferrand, chief marketing officer for Dell's consumer unit.

Now let's discuss the terms in bold:

buck the trend - to go against the direction things were moving; to be an exception to the rule (NOTE: This term is often used in investing. A company whose stock is "bucking the trend" is going up while the overall stock market is going down.)

plunge - to go down by a lot; to sink. Often said of prices or demand.

to cope with - to deal with something bad

cut-throat - very competitive. Often used with the word competition, as in: The cut-throat competition in the PC industry has led to lower prices OR Joe faced cut-throat competition to gain admission to Harvard Business School).

to ripple through - to travel through, as in a wave; to move through (think of waves rippling through an ocean).

to squeeze profit margins - to make profit margins go lower (profit margins show how much a company is earning). A company wants profit margins to be as high as possible (more $$$ for the executives!) so when they are squeezed, it's a bad thing.

to fly off the shelves - to be very popular; to sell very well (Imagine products with little wings flying through the air of the store, headed to the cash register). This idiom is featured that way in More Speak English Like an American, which teaches 350 American English expressions and is part of the bestselling Speak English Like an American series.

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