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To come across as…

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I have to admit that the blog has been quiet for the past couple of weeks, but there is a good reason – Linguistic Spy has infiltrated a certain organisation (meaning – I’ve found a job). And even though this means I won’t have as much free time on my hands, there should be a lot of new words and expressions to share.

The expression I’ve chosen for today is extremely popular and I’ve heard it on numerous occasions. For instance, you could say ‘She might come across as unfriendly, but in fact she is just a bit shy’. This phrasal verb means to ‘make a certain impression on other people’. However, with phrasal verbs you need to be particularly careful, as ‘to come across‘ (without ‘as’) would have an entirely different meaning – ‘to meet or find somebody/something by chance’ (E.g. I came across a word I’d never seen before).

Have a look at a few examples of how it’s used:

– She can come across as stuck up at first ( Actually, check out their explanation.

– Trying to enliven boring, unskilled work is risky, they say: presenting cutesy badges to call-centre staff can easily come across as patronising rather than motivating (The Economist).

– Much modern manufacturing takes place on spotless shop floors with only the lightest sprinkling of staff to monitor the purring machinery. So Tata Steel’s works at Port Talbot in south Wales come across as reassuringly gritty and old-school (The Economist).

– Dinoire regularly turns down media requests and rarely agrees to be photographed. She comes across as relaxed and self-assured, but her traumatic ordeal has left its mark, physically and mentally (BBC).

– ‘It’s hard for me to play romantic. I come across as a bit of a jerk’ (The Guardian).

Away, but not for long

linguistic spy away

Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library

Dear readers,

The Linguistic Spy is going away for a few weeks to pay a visit to the motherland and check out some other places. But if I get a chance, I’ll be posting a few things from my archives.




linguistic spy 300 blog views

Photo credit: A Delicate Mind (flickr)

… in just under 3 months. I don’t mean to brag, but I think it’s great! Thanks so much for your interest and I hope my blog is living up to your expectations. Feel free to comment and make suggestions, by the way!



hit and miss expression meaning

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As I was walking to a public lecture yesterday I heard a random guy on the street telling another random guy, ‘You know, it’s all a bit hit-and-miss‘ and my inner spy rejoiced. I immediately knew this was going to be my next victim.

The meaning of this expression should not be very difficult to guess, it means ‘not planned or done in an organized way’ (Macmillan Dictionary).

As usual, some more examples:

– Seeking out the best bars in a foreign city is a hit-and-miss affair — unless you are fortunate enough to have fallen in with a couple of members of the British Guild of Beer Writers (Intelligent Life).

– Such calculations are notoriously hit-and-miss (The Economist).

– Vile’s own hit-and-miss work lacks the force and character to own the theatres just yet – even his own band linger on stage at the end, not realising he has gone (The Guardian).

– It’s the same in Japan, Italy and the US: elections are hit-and-miss (The Guardian).

– The resolution of student complaints used to be a hit-and-miss process. It’s now a lot easier, thanks to a new judicial review procedure (The Guardian).

When it comes to language and correct usage, let’s hope for more hits and fewer misses.


What is it all about?

I have a confession to make. Ever since moving to the UK I’ve kept my ears open for the new words, expressions, idioms and quirky phrases that I haven’t heard before. I must say, I went even further, scribbling down these linguistic revelations during meetings, lectures or bus rides.

Every word, expression or an idiom is set in context in which I heard it and boosted by more examples for your enjoyment. While most of the examples are taken from reputable websites, I humbly invent some myself in the hope that they are right, so don’t take everything you see here as gospel, take it with a pinch of salt instead!