Tag Archives: adjective

Good and proper

good and proper meaning usage

Photo credit: wired.co.uk

The other day I was walking back to my car from the gym, when I saw two slightly drunk guys (mind you, it was 11 in the morning!) approaching my car and upon seeing the dent and scratches on the door exclaiming ‘He smashed it good and proper!’ And when they saw me getting into the poor car they added ‘Ah, it was that girl!’ Maybe they even said ‘That explains it!’

Anyway, after that traumatic experience I stopped using the car park thinking that £1.5 save me a lot of worrying – and time and petrol, come to think of it, if you don’t need to go up 11 levels in the car park and then down again.

The meaning of ‘good and proper‘ is to ‘do something completely and with a lot of force’ (The Free Dictionary) or sometimes it can just mean ‘completely’. However, it can also mean ‘socially and morally acceptable’.

–  The table is broken good and proper (Cambridge Online Dictionary).

– Because of course once in the EU, the Greek Cypriots made no effort to negotiate with the Turks, screwing the EU good and proper (The Economist).

– On 10 Years Younger they humiliate you, slice you open and stitch you up good and proper (The Guardian).

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To give it a wide berth

to give it a wide berth meaning usage

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

I must admit I haven’t been very active lately as I was away quite a lot for the past two months, but now that I’m back in the UK there should be no shortage of interesting expressions and idioms to write about.

This one I actually heard a while ago when a friend invited me to a proper English barbecue. I have to say it was a very international gathering, with British, Russian, Uzbek and Polish barbecuers (or barbecuants?). I mentioned my recent trip to Paris, to which one of the guests replied that she always ‘gave it a wide berth‘ whenever she went to France, trying to stick to more rural areas.  I thought it was a bit of a radical choice, but then… each to their own. And, considering that no love is lost between the Brits and the French I wasn’t really that surprised.

Even though I instantly recalled the meaning of this expression – basically, ‘to avoid’ or ‘to leave more space between you and another object’ if used in its literal sense – I realised it wasn’t really a part of my active vocabulary, so I thought it was a good idea to mention it here. With some more examples, of course:

– My mother recalled how he was given a wide berth by the local populace, though whether this was because he was an artist or a rent collector was never clear (The Guardian).

– Make eye contact with drivers. Peek back over your shoulder every now and then – you’ll be amazed how many drivers slow or give you a wider berth (The Guardian).

– Recent headlines about horse meat have led Europe’s consumers to give some “beef” products a wide berth – but horse has long been enjoyed in some European countries. In Paris, fashionable chefs have actually been putting it back on their menus. So will more diners now be jumping for the horse tartare? (BBC)

– I wish the games every success, but I intend giving London a wide berth later this summer. The lure of a 2012 soccer match at the ground formerly known as St James’ Park isn’t enough to make me want to spectate in person (BBC).

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Wishful thinking

wishful thinking idiom meaning

Photo credit: spring.org.uk

Last week I overheard two ladies at work discussing how they got up thinking that it was Friday only to realize in a couple of seconds that it was still Thursday. They called it ‘wishful thinking‘. I often have such episodes too, especially with this job. What can I say… sometimes waking up to reality can be rather harsh.

Here are some examples of what wishful thinking can be about:

– Many green ideas have been exposed as wishful thinking by the realities of life in Africa (BBC).

– Valentine’s day is thought to be the day that birds pair up for the breeding season but that may be wishful thinking on the part of romantic humans (BBC).

– Do you think you might be in line for promotion, then? ‘No, it’s just wishful thinking.’ (The Free Dictionary)

– Wishful thinking guides today’s federal energy policymakers (The Washington Times).

– The two nominees which get closest to good old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment are “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Argo”, but in both cases there seems to be an element of wishful thinking to the acclaim that’s been heaped upon them (The Economist).

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Pernickety

pernickety meaning usage

Photo credit: twitter.com/mpernickety

It so happens that my partner and I move house about once or twice a year (we also move to another city every 3 years, give or take, and occasionally we even go to a different country, but so far that has happened just once). Today we went to have a look at a flat, and although I was initially quite sceptical I actually liked it a lot and, fingers crossed, we’ll be moving there in a couple of months. The current tenants were showing us around and when describing their landlord they used the word ‘pernickety‘, suggesting that he could be quite fussy about bikes left in inappropriate places or shoes left outside the flat.

I was surprised to find out that the word was quite informal, but the meaning was quite clear from the context – ‘worried or complaining about details that do not matter’ (MacMillan Dictionary).

Here are some examples of my newly-discovered word:

– Bullet for My Valentine are the biggest British metal band since Iron Maiden. That’s a statement that (still) rankles the more pernickety metal fan, who continues to claim that, because BFMV focus on huge tunes (and have a penchant for syrupy ballads) rather than huge lyrics, and have meticulously straightened hair that’s more salon than sweatbox, they lack credibility (BBC).

– The archivists will keep the room at a temperature between 16C and 19C, and aim for a certain level of humidity, figures which meet a British regulation established by archivists, for archivists. It might sound pernickety but when you are in charge of documents including the cathedral’s foundation charter you do your best to get it right (BBC).

– If some creatures can tolerate lower pHs and others cannot, you might expect things to average out: the tolerant and adaptable prosper, the more pernickety perish (The Economist).

– It’s all about the club sandwich. That’s how you recognise a decent hotel, according to Tyler Brûlé, writing in the Financial Times at the weekend. Mr Brûlé wisely dismisses the pernickety details that govern so many star-rating programmes and says that the quality of the club sandwich (apparently invented in New York in the 19th century) is the simplest way to asses the standards of a hotel (The Economist).

P.S. I’ve also found quite a funny-sounding synonym for this word – finicky.

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Tickety boo

tickety boo meaning

Photo credit: sweetthingblog.com

Today I heard one of those funny English words that I think nobody really uses, but apparently they do! I popped into a shop where I was volunteering to offer to do a shift on Tuesday during this busy pre-Christmas week and the shop manager said ‘Great! Tuesday is tickety-boo then’. So I left with some Christmas decorations, a pack of Christmas-tree-shaped biscuits and a new word!

Tickety-boo‘ means that something is satisfactory or going well.

If you are in need of some examples of how it’s used, read on:

– The recent health checks by European regulators of European banks – the so-called stress tests – found that most of them were tickety boo (BBC).

– Doherty’s Old Albion Englishness – the William Blake allusions, the pork-pie hat, the “tickety-boo” expressions – that seemed a bit fantastical at home are lapped up in France. He plays up to the Englishman-in-Paris tag (The Guardian).

– Landmark Trust properties are not cheap, and three nights even in the nadir of off-season will set you back nearly £800. But divide that between eight and consider that the money is brilliantly well spent on other restorations (Astley alone cost £2.5m); and everything at a trust property is absolutely tickety-boo (The Guardian).

– Boyle praised her as a “good actor” and said she had got on “tickety-boo” with Bond actor Daniel Craig (The Guardian).

– The prime minister’s aides insist that relations between the two old Etonians are fine, though if they were really that tickety-boo they would not have needed to stage a “reconciliation” meeting before the conference (The Guardian).

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Worse for wear

worse for wear meaning

Photo credit: topmy.com

Yesterday I went to Florence and the Machine’s gig in Coventry and guess what, I heard a new expression. Florence was saying that they had been prematurely celebrating the end of the tour and therefore were feeling worse for wear on that day. I made a mental note of it and at home checked the meaning.

This informal expression can mean 1) old or damaged, 2) injured, or, simply 3) drunk.

Let’s have a look at some examples of how it can be used:

– He came back slightly the worse for wear after a night out (MacMillan Dictionary).

– Fred had a little accident with his bike and he’s the worse for wear (The Free Dictionary).

– A drunk man wearing just his underwear sparked a coastguard search during the early hours after leaving his clothes and boots on Weymouth beach in Dorset. Police found the man “a little worse for wear” at about 05:00 BST (BBC).

– Gareth Calway turned 50 this year and wasn’t afraid to shout about it. Most people would throw a party and feel a little worse for wear the morning after, but as a showman Gareth decided his birthday celebrations should be shared with most of the UK (BBC).

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To go pear-shaped

to go pear-shaped meaning usage

Photo credit: Penelope Fewster (flickr)

Today I overheard a discussion of some refurbishment works that have gone ‘pear-shaped‘. I was delighted to learn a brand-new expression, but, come to think of it, I’ve definitely heard it before. All the more reason to explore it in greater detail!

To go pear-shaped means to become unsuccessful, I’d say it’s almost the same as ‘go awry’ (but sounds so much funnier).

As to its origin, as usual, there are several theories. One of them attributes the origin of the phrase to RAF slang – at some stage pilots they are encouraged to try to fly loops – very difficult to make perfectly circular; often the trainee pilot’s loops would go pear shaped (Phrases.org.uk).

Would you care for some pear-shaped examples?

– It is hard when you start out being too pally with your builders and then step back when everything starts to go pear-shaped (Sunday Times).

– A new American bail-out finally appears to be ready. The programme could potentially cost (if everything went utterly pear-shaped) between $1 trillion and $2 trillion (The Economist).

– The first episode more than lived up to expectations with some tense claustrophobic photography and fast-paced action; until the last five minutes, when I had a horrible sense that the whole show was about to go seriously pear-shaped (The Guardian).

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Barking mad

barking mad phrase origin and usage

Photo credit: curiousexpeditions.org

Not long ago I embarked upon reading Peter Ackroyd’s huge book London. The Autobiography and despite its somewhat lofty language it’s proving to be a good read. At some point I was even rewarded with a linguistic revelation about the origin of the phrase ”barking mad‘, which is now used informally to say that someone is totally crazy. 

According to Ackroyd (almost a pun!), it originates from ‘a refuge for the insane at Barking’, which presumably existed in this area of London in medieval times.

Not so fast…

Actually, Ackroyd’s suggestion is almost universally dismissed. For instance, Michael Quinion, the author of Port Out, Starboard Home: The Fascinating Stories We Tell About the words We Use writes that ‘the problem with Mr Ackroyd’s idea is that the evidence strongly suggests the term is nothing like so old as that’. He argues that the earliest reference dates back to 1965, not the middle ages.

Quinion thinks that ‘the idea behind the saying is most likely that the person referred to is so deranged that he or she barks like a dog, or resembles a mad dog, or one that howls at the full moon’.

This lack of agreement on the etymology doesn’t surprise me at all and it shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying some nice examples of how the phrase is used:

– But it is quite consistent with Santander in Britain being in rude health for it also to be little short of barking mad for Santander as group to be acquiring yet more assets and liabilities anywhere – including the UK – at a moment when Spain as an economy is an evolving and dangerous crisis (BBC).

– Kevin Geoghegan, who has been reporting from Cannes for the BBC News website, was among those impressed by Holy Motors. The film, he wrote in his reporter’s diary, is “utterly, barking, slap-me-on-the-face-with-a-wet-fish, mad” (BBC).

– Mr Wilders’s anti-immigrant party has nine seats in parliament, too few to affect the government’s fairly tolerant policy towards the country’s Muslim minority. But he has jabbed his finger into several sore spots. He has publicly questioned the loyalty of two cabinet members with dual nationality (ie, Turkish and Moroccan as well as Dutch). He called a third minister “barking mad” because of her liberal integration policies. And he has demanded a ban on immigration from Muslim countries (The Economist).

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