Archive for February 5th, 2011

February 5, 2011

About that beer

I had a discussion today with a German colleague – about beer.  To be more precise about that beer – or glass of wine – for lunch and how acceptable or unacceptable it is in different places.

Not an acceptable lunch - neither in the US nor in Europe, pic:

Where I live nobody ever has an alcoholic beverage during a business lunch.  Never, ever!  It is completely unacceptable and would put the “perpetrator” in the uncomfortable position to have to explain that they don’t need that drink, just enjoy it.

In Germany, and in fact many other European countries having one beer or one glass of wine with lunch is perfectly acceptable.  Two, it get’s dicey, three will raise serious questions, but one is pretty much normal.  And we are talking beer or wine, not hard liquor.

So here is my little cultural advice for the cross-Atlantic business traveler:

As an American, if your German business partners have a beer during lunch they do not need to be institutionalized.  If you want to stay with water or a soda, that’s fine, nobody will think less of you.  If you like to participate, have a beer/wine.  One – not a three Martini lunch.

As a European: if you have a business lunch in the US have a coke, water, orange juice, ginger ale, whatever there is without alcohol in it  – no wine or beer, not even alcohol free or light.  It is just not done and people will think less of you if you do drink.

February 5, 2011

Crying Uncle

Neither one is likely to cry uncle any time soon, pic:

This is a very strange expression to my ears and for that reason I never use it.  But since other people use it and one reads it I might as well explain it.

To cry or say uncle means to concede defeat and to beg to beg someone to stop; it means to surrender. The word uncle is the verbal concession the defeated party is required to say before the winner let’s go.

Here are a couple of examples:

Two kids fighting, the stronger one who is beating the weaker on, says: “cry uncle and I’ll let you go.”

Here is a headline using the expression: “How to cry uncle in a backyard Boxing match.”

the phrase is fairly young as such things go.  I originated in about 1900 and was used among school-children who would say, “Cry uncle when you’ve had enough (of a beating).” By the mid-1900s it was being used figuratively.  For why the word uncle is used I did not find a satisfactory, non-convoluted explanation and therefore we’ll just have to take it as it is.