Category Archives: Words and expressions

It’s a doddle!

it's a doddle phrase meaning

Photo credit: justinjackson.ca

If I had to pick one of the new–ish words that I’ve been hearing a lot lately, it would be ‘doddle‘! Every now and then I hear ‘it’s a doddle‘ about things that are easy to do. Or, there can be things that seem to be a doddle, but in fact are anything but!

What else can be ‘a doddle’?

– The public performance part of my job – the workshops and training – is hence a doddle (Oxford Dictionaries).

– In under 10,000 words the European Commission’s “agenda on migration,” unveiled on May 13th, identifies war, poverty, globalisation, persecution and climate change as forces driving migration from outside the EU. And it touches on challenges like multilateral diplomacy, criminal networks, military intervention and the ageing of European societies. Next to lists like these, fixing Greece or Ukraine looks like a doddle (The Economist).

– Counting clicks on a blinking banner ad is a doddle—but knowing where each click came from, and how many people are clicking, is harder than it appears (The Economist).

 

In fact, there’s another ‘easy’ expression that I quite like (I remember I first came across it in one of Tom Holt’s novels):

easy peasy lemon squeezy

Photo credit: lespetitesgourmettes.com

 

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To have somebody down as…

have somebody down as phrase meaning

Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Hi there,

Apologies again for my rather long absence – there’s been a lot going on lately (and there’ll probably be even more on going on soon – details later), but I reckoned that even one new post is better than none, so here you go!

I’ve been watching BBC’s Doctor Foster drama lately, and there was a phrase in one of the previous episodes that caught my attention – ‘I’ve always had you down as (organised)’. I’ve come across it before and I think it’s a great phrase to embellish your vocabulary. Essentially it just means to ‘consider somebody to be of a certain type’, but it sounds so much nicer!

Here are some more examples:

– I never had Jake down as a ladies’ man (Oxford Dictionaries).

– The tabloid press has had him down as a privacy-obsessed neurotic weirdo pretty much ever since, and there is very little he can do about it (The Guardian).

– I had him down as a coffee-boy layabout, as I used to call him, and thought he was rather arrogant. But when I got to know him – it’s quite tragic really. I had an unhappy childhood, too, so there was a bit of an understanding there, although we never talked about it (The Guardian).

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To keep your hand in

keep your hand in idiom meaning

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Yesterday I went to our regular French-Russian meeting, where we chat – in Russian, French and English – with fellow translators who work in these language pairs. As we haven’t seen each other for quite a while there was a lot of catching up to do, so we pretty much spent the first hour just chatting. One of my colleagues started a full-time office job and we were wondering whether she was going to keep translating, and she said she would like ‘to keep her hand in‘ so as not to lose touch with translation agencies and so that it’s easier to go back to freelancing when she feels like it.

While I heard of ‘getting your foot in the door‘ – which is also quite relevant for us, translators, I don’t think I’ve come across this expression with the hand, but it’s incredibly useful for the situations when you want to keep practising a skill often enough so that you do not lose it.

Some examples:

– I do a bit of teaching now and then just to keep my hand in (Cambridge Dictionary).

– “I don’t do adverts as a rule but this was great fun and it’s nice to keep your hand in. No pun intended,” he added. Gervais has starred only once before in a UK advertising campaign, in a commercial for another charity (The Guardian).

– Fiona Severs says: “It’s much harder to find a rewarding role when you’ve had a long career break than it is if you’ve managed to keep your hand in with flexible years.” (The Guardian).

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Swanky

swanky meaning

Today’s linguistic revelation came from… a pot of yogurt. I never win anything in these contests, but at least I can learn a word or two – that’s my consolation prize!

A ‘swanky‘ hotel stay is the one that’s going to be ‘luxurious and expensive’, according to the Oxford Dictionary, but totally free for you if you’re lucky enough to win it!

Here are some ‘swanky’ examples:

– The latest swanky spa to make a splash on the London scene is Notting Hill’s Hydro Healing, where treatments to help with common ‘lifestyle disorders’ (I think that means tiredness, stress and overflowing toxins) have an aquatic focus (The Guardian).

– The outlook is bleak for swanky stores, much better for discount chains (The Economist).

– The chink of wine glasses, the clatter of cutlery and the chatter of low voices fill the warm air of the latest swanky restaurant to open in London (The Economist).

 

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To come off

Last Saturday I watched Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which wasn’t really on my top-10 list of films to watch, but it seemed like a good choice for a relaxing Saturday night. I thought it was a bit syrupy, but the actors were good, so on balance I think it’s watchable. More importantly, I learnt a few new words and phrases (my husband constantly makes fun of how I rush to write something down as soon as I hear it, but I just can’t help it!).

One of them was ‘to come off‘ – as you might have guessed even if you haven’t watched the film,it was about introducing salmon to a man-made river in Yemen and initially most people were skeptical about the success of this venture (and rightly so!), but eventually the main character, an expert on salmon if ever there was one, said that ‘it might just come off‘, meaning, in this context, ‘it might succeed’ or ‘we might just pull it off’.

More examples:

– The warm reception that he received refuted those who wondered whether the summit would come off, or if it could accomplish anything (Oxford Dictionary).

– Actively seeking risk makes sense for venture capitalists. Many of their gambles do not come off, but some of those that make it deliver huge rewards (The Economist).

Another meaning of ‘to come off‘ – I’ve found about 5 in total – is ‘to achieve a particular result in an activity, especially a competition or fight’ (Macmillan Dictionary):

– When banks go wrong, the biggest come off worst (The Economist).

– Even above the Brits, many touring Americans come off as culturally insensitive and arrogant among other things (The Economist).

P.S. In the US ‘to come off‘ is also used as a synonym of ‘to come across as‘, which is more popular in the UK.

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Dice: singular or plural

dice die singular plural

Photo credit: r o s e n d a h l (Flickr)

These days I rarely make discoveries about the English language – it’s not that I’m super-fluent or fully proficient, it’s probably that I haven’t been reading or speaking it enough. At home we speak Russian, when I teach I have to use as much Russian as my students can stomach, at the moment I’m also studying for a French exam and the rest of the time I spend on my computer, translating, and only rarely do I feel like talking to it.

And I learnt this extremely exciting thing about the singular and plural of ‘dice‘ at a… Spanish class, where we were playing a game with dice!

Amazingly, it turns out that ‘dice‘ used to be the plural of ‘die‘, but these days you use ‘dice‘ for both singular and plural.

P.S. The other day I noticed this amazing coin in my purse – issued on the 250th Anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, one of the most famous dictionaries in history. I think I’ve mostly been using ‘penny’ and ‘pence’ correctly, but I realized I wasn’t fully aware of ‘pence‘ being the plural of ‘penny‘.

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Keep a wolf from the door

keep the wolf from the door idiom meaning

Photo credit: skazles.ru

Another gem from Shaun Keaveney’s breakfast show! He didn’t come up with the idiom, of course, but he reminded me of it. To cut a long story short, he was taking the mickey out of his co-presenter, Matt Everitt, saying that he might have a part-time job at ‘to keep the wolf from the door‘.

The idiom means ‘to have enough money to avert hunger or starvation’ and is used hyperbolically (Oxford Dictionary).

A couple of examples:

– Having made enough money to keep the wolf from the door I am concerned with making the world a better place, like many other people (Oxford Dictionary).

– Today, dog lovers Steve and Adele try to make their fortune from their furry friends by preening the pooches of southern Spain – but will they make enough to keep the wolf from the door? (BBC)

P.S. There’s a brilliant song by Radiohead, ‘The Wolf at the Door’.

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Tenuous

tenuous meaning

Photo credit: Francesca Alviani (flickr)

Today I was listening to my favourite radio show on BBC 6 Music – presented by Cerys Matthews – which was dedicated to Norwegian Constitution Day. One of my best friends lives in Norway (hello, Sasha!) and I know that it’s a big deal over there. So Cerys was picking tunes – not necessarily from Norwegian singers or bands – but those that had some links with Norway and listeners had to guess what the link was. As answers came in about Elvis Presley’s song, she said these were all good guesses, but the link she had in mind was more ‘tenuous‘. So, this is my new word for today: a tenuous link is the one that is rather weak or perhaps even far-fetched.

Here are a few more examples:

– Every night, it seems we read of yet another instance of a local trader virtually forced out of business by the hike in car park charges or, however tenuous the link, the introduction of car parking charges during the evening (Oxford Dictionary)

– The Plantagenets’ family connections to the king are far more tenuous: Richard had no surviving children but five siblings, and now could have several million similarly distant descendants (The Guardian).

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