Tag Archives: books

Gobby, continued

I often have this with new words – I come across one and think, hm, maybe it’s not that common, maybe I’ll hardly ever hear it again and I almost don’t write it down. But being the nerdy type that I am, most of the time I do. And a few days (sometimes even hours) later this word appears out of nowhere again.

Next day after I heard ‘gobby‘ at a meet-up with colleagues, I was reading Londoners by Craig Taylor in bed, and, sure enough, there was the word ‘gobby‘ staring at me from the page: ‘And we were both precocious and gobby and forthright, very opinionated’.

This book is a brilliant collection of stories of and interviews with Londoners – a truly enjoyable read whether you love London, hate London or cannot quite make up your mind.

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In good (or not so good) nick

in a good nick meaning

Photo credit: calliopegifts.co.uk

Today I went for my regular volunteering shift at the local bookshop – to strengthen my willpower by resisting the temptation to buy more books, to get my weekly fix of chocolate biscuits, to spend time around some lovely people and… hopefully to hear some more cool phrases.

A customer came in asking whether we had any more books by Marina Lewycka apart from A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian that we had in the shop. He said he had seen another book, but it was in such a bad nick that he didn’t get it.

I hear this phrase – ‘in good/bad nick‘ – from other volunteers very often. ‘Nick‘ essentially means ‘condition’.

You can also say that a book that is in a bad nick is ‘tatty‘.

I must say that in the days when I was buying books from charity shops like there was no tomorrow, I did buy some tatty ones, but I ended up donating them back to charity shops as I never read them. Much as I love books – all kind of books – I find that they need to look appealing.

I still find that I have hoarded way too many books and I need to slowly work my way through them so that I could buy new books!

This is how my current ‘to-read list’ looks like (or at least its English section – there’re at least as many books in other languages waiting to be read and they make me feel bad):

bookshelf shelfie

And while we’re on the subject of books and shelves… I recently came across the word ‘shelfie‘, i.e. ‘selfie of your bookshelf’. Here are some shelfies from Guardian readers.

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It’s a long shot

it's a long shot phrase meaning

Photo credit: lindisfarnecottages.co.uk

A few weeks ago I started volunteering at a local charity bookshop. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and finally decided to fill in an application. However, I’m finding that this is only going to aggravate my book-hoarding problem.

Anyway… today a lady came into a shop and approached me and my fellow volunteers saying ‘I know it’s a long shot, but do you think you might have a book…’

I’ve heard this expression on numerous occasions and I am quite fond of it. It means ‘an attempt or guess that is not likely to be successful but that is worth trying’ (MacMillan Dictionary).

More examples of usage:

– It’s a long shot, but well worth trying (Oxford Dictionaries).

– Though not impossible, attempting to obtain permission for residential use would be a long shot (Oxford Dictionaries).

– Mr Yu, a 26-year-old policeman, describes himself as conservative and is looking for a woman with “traditional virtues”. His attendance at the expo, the city’s largest yet, is a long shot; he would prefer a marriage set up by colleagues or by his parents. It worked for them 30 years ago, he says (The Economist).

 

There’s a similar-sounding phrase that I wasn’t aware of – ‘(not) by a long shot‘, meaning ‘(Not) by far or at all’:

– We don’t have our act together in Washington by a long shot (Oxford Dictionaries).

– And in agreement with one of the comments made – Egypt is not ready for democracy, not by a long shot (The Economist).

– Dr Thatcher is dead and her one-time advisors do not have a chemistry degree from Oxford. Not by a long shot (The Economist).

 

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Bob’s your uncle

bobs_your_uncle meaning

Photo credit: zazzle.co.uk

A few weeks ago my other half and I went to a medieval city of Wells, known for its impressive cathedral. This time we decided to go inside and explore the cathedral (not something we often do, since the entry to such places in the UK is by no means cheap). We were just in time for a guided tour, and even though I used to hate the idea of walking anywhere as a group, I started to realise that you learn much more this way. So in we went with our knowledgeable guide. Towards the end of the tour he used the phrase ‘… and Bob’s your uncle’, which at first puzzled me as I’ve never heard it before, but it seemed to mean something like ‘and here you go’.

Indeed, according to World Wide Words, ‘It’s used to show how simple it is to do something: “You put the plug in here, press that switch, and Bob’s your uncle!’

The origin of this phrase is, as usual, quite obscure, but you can find a detailed explanation on World Wide Words’ website and on Wikipedia.

I particularly like this bit: “It is sometimes elaborately phrased Robert is your mother’s brother or similar for comic effect. With his customary whimsical humour, P.G. Wodehouse (one of my favourite writers, by the way) extended it to “Robert’s your father’s nearest male relative”.

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In any shape or form

in any shape or form meaning

Photo credit: starsketchers.blogspot.co.uk

As you probably gathered from my previous post, I went to Paris last week, that’s why there’s not been many updates with new English phrases (I’ve just tried a typical British understatement – there’s been none, actually). However, I did learn quite a bit of French vocab, though I’m still not sure whether I should be sharing it here, I’ll have to think about it.

Anyway, when I came back one of the first things on my to-do list was to phone up the Hay Festival people and book some tickets – students can only do this via the phone, apparently. So, armed with a list of events I was hoping to go to, my student card and my debit card (students go free, but you need to pay a deposit), I phoned their number and one of the first questions I was asked was “Have you ever been to the Hay Festival in any shape or form?” I haven’t come across this idiom for a while, so I noted it down and carried on answering the questions. Sadly, all the events with Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins had been sold out by then, but I’m still looking forward to this event!

I thought I’d include a few examples of how “in any shape or form” (meaning “in any manner or under any circumstances”) is used. Note some slight variations:

– 96 per cent of the electorate voted against Europeanization in any shape or form (Oxford Dictionaries)

– BBC News arts editor Will Gompertz suggested that the four all “make work that is in some way, shape or form, a collage (BBC – oops, BBC missed a comma between ‘way’ and ‘shape’).

– The opposition parties know that the only way to break Labour’s stranglehold on Wales is to come together, or work together in some shape or form (BBC).

– It’s worth recalling that UN security council resolution 1973, passed last month, does not authorise member states to support the rebels, to defend armed groups, or to oust Gaddafi. Nor does it authorise an Iraq-style ground invasion or military occupation, in any shape or form, size or scale. But in reality, much of this is now happening, willy-nilly. Make no mistake: the creep is on (The Guardian).

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Margaret Atwood, ‘Alias Grace’

Alias Grace Margaret Atwood quotes

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A couple of days ago I finished another book, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. It was a bit heavy-going in the beginning because of a very detailed narrative, but after a hundred or so pages it got better.

Here are some amusing bits that I particularly liked:

Spiritualism is the craze of the middle classes, the women especially; they gather in darkened rooms and play at table-tilting the way their grandmothers played at whist, or they emit voluminous automatic writings, dictated to them by Mozart or Shakespeare; in which case being dead, thinks Simon, has a remarkably debilitating effect on one’s prose style‘.

‘As one season’s crop of girls proceeds into engagement and marriage, younger ones keep sprouting up, like tulips in May. They are now so young it relation to Simon that he has trouble conversing with them; it’s like talking to a basketful of kittens’.

There was one good effect of all the suffering. The passengers were Catholic and Protestant mixed, with some English and Scots come over from Liverpool thrown into the bargain; and if in a state of health, they would have squabbled and fought, as there is no love lost. But there is nothing like a strong bout of seasickness to remove the desire for a scrap; and those who would cheerfully have cut each other’s throats on land, were often to be seen holding each other’s heads over the scuppers, like the tenderest of mothers; and I have sometimes noted the same thing in prison, as necessity does make strange bedfellows. A sea voyage and a prison may be God’s reminder to us that we are all flesh, and that all flesh is grass, and all flesh is weak. Or so I choose to believe‘.

‘Mary said I might be very young, and as ignorant as an egg, but I was bright as a new penny, and the difference between stupid and ignorant was that ignorant could learn’.

‘…Having a thought is not the same as doing it. If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged‘.

‘Having a mistress – for that’s what she’s become, he supposes, and it hasn’t taken long! – is worse than having a wife. The responsibilities involved are weightier, and more muddled’.

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Pet

pet used to address somebody

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

While I was reading Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took my Dog I came across an interesting way of addressing somebody – the main character, a woman in her fifties, addressed a little girl as ‘pet‘. I’ve heard of ‘love’, of course, and have been called that on numerous occasions, but ‘pet‘ was new to me.

As it usually happens with my newly discovered words, the very next day I went to the Leicester Market to stock up on amazingly cheap fruit and one of the sellers said ‘That’s two pounds, pet’ to me.

I googled this to see if there was anything special about this word and it turned out that it’s mostly used in the north of England (the lady in the book was from Yorkshire). Here’s a very informative piece of friendly and informal terms of address from the BBC.

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