Learn English – Is “Open kimono with somebody” a popular English phrase


According to AP and other news sources, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase acknowledged that his bank slipped-up $2 billion losses incurred by their trading and that the matter is now under investigation by regulators. Dimon told in NBC’s “Meet the Press”:

“Of course, regulators should look at something like this. It’s their job. We are totally open kimono with regulators. And they will come to their own conclusion and we intend to fix it, learn from it and be a better company when it’s done.”

I am interested in the phrase, “We are totally open kimono with regulators” as I understand ‘Kimono’ is Japanese equivalent to dress.

Is “Open kimono with somebody” a popular English (or American) idiom or phrase?

Can I say “open dress with somebody” instead of using “Kimono”? If not, what are alternative idioms meaning “open up one’s mind”?

Best Answer

To open the kimono to someone

is a bit of business argot. It is figurative, meaning to give away or be open about a few secrets to entice the buyer and encourage a deal to go forward. In a pitch to an possible investor, the inventor doesn't want to give a way the 'secret sauce' (the important idea behind the invention because the investor might still the idea. But the inventor has to show -something- that will entice them to prove that there is something there that is worthwhile. So the inventor will give some few details that will be convincing.

The metaphor is in reference to a geisha flashing open her robe to a client to engage his interest. Americans (where the phrase presumably originated) are only familiar with the kimono as something worn by geishas and have no idea of the associations (or lack thereof) it has natively.

'Open kimono' is a derivative of this and has come to mean 'to show the innerworkings', less a sneak peak but rather full access. In the OP phrase we are totally open kimono with regulators, the speaker was just trying to get across that they won't be hiding anything from the regulators.

The grammar of 'open kimono' is a bit informal by converting a 'verb noun' pattern to an 'adj-noun' (essentially nouning a verb). Using it as an adjective is even more familiar:

we are X with you

where X is an adjective is not formal or standard English, but is very colloquial (that is, not good for writing, but works in speech). It is not common in general but is recognized in the business world.