Archive for January 13th, 2011

January 13, 2011

Showing colors

If you see the true colors you know you are in trouble, pic: © Steve Mann |

The complete expression is “showing one’s true colors”.  This phrase is used to express that somebody has shown or expressed his real character or opinions, to reveal oneself.

That real character/opinion generally will come as somewhat of a surprise, good or bad. Here are a couple of examples:

“We all thought that he was such a wimp but when he rescued that little girl from the burning house he showed his true colors.”

“He showed his real colors when he refused to help his friend in a time of crisis.”

The background of this expression is quite interesting:ships used to fly the flags (the colors) of their enemies to get close enough to them to attack.  Just before attacking, they would lower the flag, raise their true colors – and attack.

January 13, 2011

The 800 lbs gorilla

Let’s start by talking about the size of real gorillas:  according to Enchanted Learning a fully grown male gorilla weighs about 400 lbs.  so by all standards a 800 lbs gorilla is an exceptionally large specimen.

An 800 lbs gorilla - dancing, pic: © Allegretto |

But then again, the proverbial 800 lbs gorilla isn’t really a gorilla, but a large, unstoppable, overbearing entity or organization that cannot be ignored – as hard as one might try.

A variation on the expression one sees quite often is “800 lbs gorilla in the room.”

Thephrase is often used to refer to a large player in an industry.  Here are some examples how the phrase can be used:

“Microsoft is the 800 lbs gorilla of the software industry”

Here is a headline: “Netflix: The chimp who took down the 800 lbs gorilla?”

and another: “Broadsoft: The 800 lbs call center gorilla.”

The phrase is commonly used and perfectly acceptable in a business environment.  It is generally used to refer to organizations rather than people (not very flattering) but it wouldn’t be impossible to use it for an individual who exerts as lot of influence, e.g. a meeting with mainly junior people – and the CEO.