Tag Archives: character

Shirkers

shirker meaning

Photo credit: in.reuters.com

The other day I popped into a café after a satisfying visit to my favourite charity shops, and, as usual, there was a nice chap with impressive moustache serving coffee. He is quite a character, but in a good way!

While I was waiting for my coffee the next customer, probably a regular, asked: ‘Are you all on your own today?’, to which the barista replied ‘No, there are a few people around today, but they are shirkers!’

While I’ve come across the verb ‘to shirk‘, I don’t think I’ve heard about ‘shirkers‘ (= people who shirk, i.e. avoid their duties and responsibilities whenever possible).

Here’re a few examples:

– He doesn’t have time for those what don’t care to work, and he’d sooner drown you than put up with idlers or shirkers (Oxford Dictionary).

– Janet Street-Porter said she was a “striver not a shirker” and pensioners like herself should enjoy their travel passes and winter fuel payments (BBC).

– I work in an industry where taking more than three weeks a year holiday is frowned upon – we lose the other days. Taking paternity leave would be job suicide and as it’s a fairly confined industry word would get around that I was a shirker not a worker so would find it hard to find a new position (BBC).

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Learning the ropes

learning the ropes meaning

Photo credit: toledozoo.org

The past couple of weeks have been really hectic – I’ve been trying to finish translation of the third book on time, then I went to Amsterdam on a short break and now it’s more or less back to normal. So yesterday I was my volunteering day and I met a new colleague\volunteer from Australia. It was her first day, and using the till might be a bit a tricky (it still occasionally beeps at me when I press the wrong button), so she was sometimes saying to customers ‘Bear with me, it’s my first day and I’m still learning the ropes‘.

It’s a fairly common expression, but it’s so useful in a situation when you’re new to something and want other people to be a bit more understanding and patient.

Some examples:

– It didn’t take her new assistant long to learn the ropes (MacMillan Dictionary).

– It’s never too late to change direction. However it’s not really possible to break into new sectors without any effort. You’re likely to need to retrain or, at least, take on a lenghty internship to learn the ropes (The Guardian).

– What about businessmen’s political naivety? As might be expected of an education reformer, Sir Ron Dearing suggests apprenticeships. He argues that Lord Young, a cabinet minister recruited by Margaret Thatcher, made a smoother transformation from business to politics because he made an effort to learn the ropes (The Economist).

– Thus as the idea of finding talented employees who could quickly learn the ropes took off, so did the asking price of the star MBA graduates (The Economist).

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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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To lock yourself out / in, continued

lock yourself out in

Photo credit: Getty Images

I wrote about these verbs almost a year ago, but today an opportunity to use them presented itself.

Yesterday I went for a run and took my keys off the keyholder. Today when I was leaving house to meet my friend I took the keyholder and when I got to the front door I realised the keys were not there. The front door was locked – I managed to lock myself both out (of my flat) and in (inside the house) – quite an achievement, isn’t it?

I phoned my husband who, luckily, works only 15 minutes away by bike or by bus and while waiting for him I had a chance to catch up on my vocab revision with Anki flashcards.

A few minutes later I heard a buzz. “This must be the postman delivering the parcel with my yoga blocks”, I thought. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Hello? Hello? Hello? 

Postman: …

(I realise this must be the postman who always wears headphones and sunglasses, and obviously cannot hear me).

Me: Hello? 

Postman: Hello?

Me: Hi! Sorry I cannot open the door – I managed to lock myself out of my flat and I don’t have the keys to the front door, but my husband is about to come and rescue me, so could you leave the parcel by the front door please?

Postman: Yes, I’ll leave it by the flowerpot.

Me: Thanks a lot!

 

Phew… My husband arrived just a few minutes later, I got reunited with my yoga blocks and was just in time to meet my friend. All’s well that ends well!

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Fair-weather runners (and friends)

fair-weather runner meaning usage

Photo credit: fb.com/lifeinadayofarunner

I have to admit that every spring as I see more and more people running I decide to take up running myself. Now that I live close to the Downs, which is a relatively large and flat (which is uncommon in the hilly Bristol) green area, there are even more people out running and I am even more tempted. It’s not that I cannot make myself exercise – I do manage to do yoga at home fairly regularly, but with running it’s a different story.

Since I only run sporadically every run is a challenge, and also my back hurts if I run on tarmac, so I have to run on the grass, which – you’ve guessed – is wet about 70% of the time. So I end up running only on glorious sunny days, and they are few and far between. And then the autumn comes and I pretty much shelve all my running plans. That said, I do love the idea of running and determination that comes with it and I admire those who do it on a regular basis.

My only consolation is that yesterday I heard the word which describes me perfectly – ‘a fair-weather runner‘!

Here’re are a few examples:

– Recently, I seem to have been a bit of a fair-weather runner. Do you know that feeling? You look out of the window at the dark skies and the rain, and decide that you could just as well go running tomorrow, when it might be nicer. If, like me, you live in England, you’ll already have spotted the problem here. In the last year, the chances of tomorrow being nicer have been pretty low (mattgetsrunning.com).

– I am a Fair Weather Runner. I am going to let you all in on a little secret. I am not a hardcore runner. I would like to say I am, I really do try to be (runforfun-stephanie.blogspot.com).

P.S. There’s also an expression ‘a fair-weather friend‘, i.e. someone who only wants to be your friend when things are going well for you (MacMillan Dictionary).

Some examples of this phrase:

– Britain is an all-weather, not a fair-weather, friend to Afghanistan (The Guardian)

– But he was no fair weather friend. He was loyal and generous to his family and his friends (The Guardian).

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What kind of person are you?

a ... kind of person phrase usage

Photo credit: netural.com

On Sunday I went to a staff summer party to catch up with colleagues at a language school where I… don’t teach yet, but I’m there to cover for the regular teacher should anything happen. At some point I overheard somebody saying ‘I’m not really a satchel kind of person‘, while pointing at his bag. This reminded me of the funny phrase that I’ve heard on many occasions – not necessarily with ‘satchel’ though.

A few years ago I was watching The Spooks, a British TV drama series about MI-5. One of the best phrases I learnt from this series was ‘I’m not really a cat person‘. I thought it was a great way of talking about things you like or don’t like.

So, what kind of person can you be?

– There’s nothing new in the notion that time can be a tyrant. But that’s generally held to mean that modern life moves too fast; in reality, if you’re a 200bpm kind of person, constant exhortations to slow down can be just as potentially tyrannical. Sometimes what’s more important is to know your tempo, and those of the people with whom you’re trying to sync (The Guardian).

– For most people, having this prominent book on their table will be a badge of brand loyalty. It says: ‘I’m a Python (as in Month Pythonkind of person‘. Quite right too. The Life of Brian is simply the best British comedy film ever made (The Guardian).

– The Mercury nomination still hasn’t had any major impact on me or my career. I’ve actually been quite surprised by how little it’s changed anything. But I have been worrying about what to wear to the ceremony. Apparently it’s quite posh, but I’m really not a dress kind of person, so I think I’ll stick to jeans and a smart top (The Guardian).

– He later suggested to Ferlisi that she join him but, she says, looking down a little embarrassed, she declined because “I’m more of a casual clothes kind of person, so that wasn’t really me.” (The Guardian).

– Maybe if you were a glass half-full kind of person you’d figure that you were unlucky – you caught them on a bad night (The Guardian).

– I have developed the habit of always looking down to the third or fourth response in a google search. Works for me but I have always been a road less travelled kind of person (The Economist).

P.S. I am definitely a cat person, by the way!

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Sugar

sugar fix sugar fascist sugar daddy

Photo credit: webmd.com

Yesterday I was sitting in a park proofreading my translation and occasionally glancing at other people. There was a group of teenagers who were skating down a hill on a funny kind of skateboard. I heard one of them saying ‘Sugar!’ (pronounced like shhhhh-uga) and remembered that it was a nice euphemism for ‘shhhhit!’

Today it occurred to me that I came across quite a few expressions with ‘sugar’ lately and thought I’d put them all into one post.

The other day I emailed my French colleague asking her to recommend some cafés and salons de thé in Paris. She emailed back saying ‘I don’t know many traditional salons de thé but in a it’s 4 o’clock, I need a sugar fix kind of thing, I can recommend’…. followed by a list of tea and coffee establishments. It can also be called ‘a sugar hit‘ and ‘an afternoon pick-me-up‘.

The same colleague once used a term ‘sugar fascist‘ about a parent who doesn’t let his/her children eat sweets and I made a mental note of this expression – now is the perfect time to share it with others.

However, those children with more lenient parents who don’t mind giving sweets to their offspring, might get a ‘sugar rush‘ (i.e. become hyperactive and uncontrollable), at least that’s the popular belief.

Here’s a good example in context:

  • People often get cross when you tell them there’s no such thing as a sugar rush. Especially parents. They have witnessed, time and again, their offspring going ape at parties, after mainlining jelly and ice cream. “Sugar high,” sigh the grownups, resigned to the inevitable crash. This observation has been passed down through generations, like DNA (The Guardian).

There’s another sugar phrase – ‘sugar daddy‘ – I don’t remember how I came across it though. And it means ‘an older man who gives a younger woman expensive presents, especially in exchange for a romantic or sexual relationship’.

Here’s an example:

  • “More than a hundred students at the University of Northampton signed up for so-called “sugar daddy dating” to help fund their tuition fees last year, according to an online dating website.” (BBC)

P.S. When I think of the word ‘sugar‘ a song immediately springs to mind – this is a great episode of one of my favourite films and books – ‘Hi-Fi‘ by Nick Hornby.

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Ticket tout

ticket tout meaning

Photo credit: rsport.ru

Facebook finally proved itself useful – I noticed a friend posting an ad of an upcoming gig of… The Cure. I was over the moon! They’ve been my favourite band for almost ten years, but I’ve never seen them live. They were performing at quite a few festivals back in 2011 and even went to Russia (I was at the UK at that time, obviously), but I never made it to any of these events. And now… a 3-hour performance at the Royal Albert Hall!

Actually, FB proved itself useful once again when I spotted a ‘Beat the touts‘ pre-sale for FB fans. So at 9 a.m. when it opened I was sitting there with my debit card at the ready refreshing the page every two seconds. And a couple of minutes later I had my ticket! Not the actual paper ticket, though, which will arrive in the post later, but still, I’ll get to see the Cure!

When excitement died down a little bit, I remembered that I wanted to look up those ‘touts‘. I sort of guessed that it means a ticket dealer, and that wasn’t far off. A ‘tout‘ is someone who sells tickets at very high prices outside a place such as a theatre or a sports stadium (MacMillan Dictionary).

As the examples below suggest, they are not a very popular crowd:

– Sharon Hodgson, a Labour MP, who has long campaigned for reforms to the ticketing industry, says: “This is not small-time touts. This is big-time industrial touts, power sellers, call them what you will. This is not fair means any more, this is foul means, criminal means.” But if she is correct, how are these touts able to secure tickets so much more effectively than ordinary fans? (The Telegraph)

– After tickets for Monty Python’s comeback gigs sold out before you could say ‘ni’, many went on sale again – at a vastly inflated cost. How do the touts get away with it? (The Independent)

P.S. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the photos of Robert Smith, The Cure’s front man, young, so here’s one:

Before…

Robert Smith young The Cure

Photo credit: sandinista.centerblog.net

… and after:

Robert Smith The Cure

Photo credit: itv.com

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