Tag Archives: conversation

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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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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To cobble together

to cobble together meaning

Photo credit: chocolateandzucchini.com

This exciting new phrased cropped up at today my Russian lesson (which goes to show that I don’t speak Russian all the time, which, perhaps, I should, but nevermind) in the context of teachers who sometimes ‘cobble together‘ textbooks for their course using different bits and pieces. That’s what I do because so far I haven’t found the book for teaching Russian, for better or for worse.

As you’ll see from the examples below, it’s an incredibly useful verb and there’re lots of things that lend themselves to cobbling together:

– He cobbled together a meal from leftovers in the fridge (MacMillan Dictionary).

– Even if an agreement is cobbled together it will not please everyone (Oxford Dictionary).

– Consumers who want to cobble together different subscriptions from HBO, Netflix and others may find it is not that much cheaper after paying for broadband (The Economist).

– When the overspend was officially announced, almost a year later, the Scottish government acted shocked and took a weekend to cobble together a rescue package despite knowing the full increase in costs (BBC).

However, when I heard this phrase, it made me think of a cobbler recipe I recently saw on Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog called Chocolate and Zucchini. And although some suggest that ‘cobblers get their names from the biscuits on top, which look like cobblestone streets’, the assumption that ‘perhaps it’s called a cobbler because you take whatever fruits you have on hand and cobble them together’ also makes perfect sense to me.

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To go to pot

go to pot meaning

Photo credit: travelground.com

I’m sure that today’s phrase will be relevant for many people! How many times have you had a day which had gone sooooo terribly wrong from the moment you got out of bed?

I learnt this phrase from a newsletter of a coffee chain which I normally don’t bother reading, but here you go – sometimes they can be useful! They were advertising their new campaign:

#MyMorningHasBroken
When your mornings go to pot, we’ve been fixing the with yummy offers and freebies – here’s one of our favourites.

Indeed, it’s not only mornings that can “go to pot“, but many other things too:

– My late night writing session went to pot, as it were (Oxford Dictionary)

– The house has been going to pot for years (Macmillan Dictionary).

– All that said, the single market is an unambiguously good idea, and the idea that one could let half of Europe go to pot is ludicrous (The Economist).

– These people are following this charlatan as if they would follow a Messiah. They do it because of pie in the sky. With him Italy will go to pot (The Economist).

If you’re wondering how this phrase came about, here’s a little explanation of its etymology. “That meaning alludes to the fact that the journey of an animal or ingredient to the pot was a one-way trip, with a very short future ahead”.

 

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I am swamped!

swamped meaning usage

Photo credit: jonnycooper.net

Actually, it’s not me that is swamped right now – if anything, I’ve had a rather leisurely week, reading an exciting novel, baking biscuits and brownies for my family in Russia and doing some last-minute Christmas shopping. This was what one of my students said, apologizing for not being able to make it to our Russian class.

I’ve come across this expression before, but I must admit I hardly ever use it myself. However, it’s a nice alternative to ‘snowed under‘ (the latter, however, is probably more appropriate for this time of year).

Being ‘swamped‘ implies being overwhelmed with a large amount of something, but not only work, as you will see from examples below:

– Like hospitals, many of the province’s mental health facilities are swamped with requests for help, and the people who need their services can’t wait (Oxford Dictionary).

– Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has claimed British towns are being “swamped” by immigrants and their residents are “under siege”, in an escalation of the emotive language being used by Tory ministers calling for a renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with Europe (The Guardian) – yay, always blame the immigrants!

– Claims by Scottish government ministers that Scotland‘s universities will be “swamped” by English students seeking free tuition after independence have been challenged by an expert study (The Guardian).

– People have long groused that they were swamped by information (The Economist).

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Could you watch over my stuff?

watch over stuff

Photo credit: gourmetravelista.com

A couple of weeks ago I was having a tea in a café between my lessons, and a girl sitting opposite suddenly said ‘Excuse me, could you watch over my stuff?’ I nodded to say I could. Until that day I wanted to ask other people the same thing on several occasions, but wasn’t sure whether it’s ‘done’ in this country. Apparently, it is!

Here’s a little post on the subject of watching other people’s stuff from a fellow WordPress blogger.

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Russian up… and some other phrasal verbs you never knew existed

russian out up

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

The other day I had another class with my Russian beginner group and one of my students had just returned from a trip to Russia. We all asked how it went and he was really enthusiastic about it, though he admitted he was ‘a bit russioned out‘ by the end of it (= a bit tired from hearing Russian all the time). Wow! Once again I was surprised by the creativity of English!

However, this reminded me of how I went to visit my friend and her baby daughter, and when her English husband was in another room we obviously switched from English to Russian, so he shouted ‘Stop russioning her [the baby] up!’

Ah, the ever-so-flexible English language, even when it comes to Russian!

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Diary-intolerant

diary-intolerant

Photo credit: oldragbaggers.com

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, at some point in the morning I usually listen to Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show on BBC 6 Music, which never fails to cheer me up.

Today he mentioned he had so many things to do this week (just like me!) that he was struggling to fit in a lunch with a friend, who was also very busy. In fact, that friend of Shaun’s has developed ‘a condition’, which manifests itself in high blood pressure, increased heart beat, etc. whenever the guy tries to write up his to-do list for the coming week. The condition is called ‘diary-intolerance‘. At this point I nearly choked on my muesli! What an excellent pun!

I won’t bother with examples this time – I don’t think there would be many – and I really need to get back to my work. I also need to make sure I don’t look into my diary too often – it’s becoming too scary!

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