Some business English jargon: CV, CEO, CSR, CSM, fat cats, poison pills and more…

What’s the difference between a CV and a resume (or resumé)? When do you start a letter “To whom it may concern”? What is “Dragon’s Den” and why is it so popular in the the UK? What do the acronyms CEO, CSR and CRM mean? Why are fat cats always in the British business news? What is a poisoned pill, a white knight and a golden parachute?

Here are the answers:

In British English you write a Curriculum Vitae (CV for short) when you apply for a job (not just a “curriculum”); in the United States you write a resumé (often just resume without the accent nowadays).

If you have to write a letter for an employee or student that they will show to someone else, such as a potential employer or university, you head the letter “To whom it may concern”. This is typically used on job references or official statements (e.g. someone’s financial status), but not addressed to a particular individual.

“Dragon’s Den” is a hugely popular BBC TV show where inventors and entrepreneurs pitch (present) their idea or business to a panel of “dragons” – four ferocious (and very rich) private investors. The dragons ask searching questions and then – if the entrepreneurs are lucky – they make an offer of a investment in return for equity (shares) in the company. It’s a bit like X-Factor for business.

Acronyms: CEO = Chief Executive Officer – the operational head of a company; CSR = Corporate Social Responsibility – developing policies and programmes that help build a company’s reputation for being caring and considerate; CRM = Customer Relationship Management – the art / science of developing a company’s most important assets (after its employees), it’s customer base.

Fat cats are senior executives (often in nationalized companies, such as utilities) who earn highly-inflated salaries, bonuses and are awarded (over-) generous pensions. A poisoned pill is a strategy for fighting off a hostile takeover bid. And a white knight is an investor who comes to the rescue of a company facing a similarly aggressive attempt at taking over another organization. A golden parachute is an agreement to pay a senior executive a substantial amount of money in the event that he or she loses their job as a result of a takeover.

If you’ve been puzzled by something you’ve heard or read in the English-language media – or that an English-speaking colleague has said – why not post a question in our Forum? We will be happy to give you an answer – and if anyone else has a better reply or suggestion, write a comment for other members of Big Business English to see.