Tag Archives: decisions

To cough up

to cough up meaning usage phrasal verb

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

It’s been ages since I published anything on my blog – there were simply far too many things getting in the way. Now, after I moved back to Bristol, I am gradually finding my feet and the normal life has (almost) resumed. So I’ll try to keep the new posts coming.

On Friday I had a few errands to run and, most importantly, I needed to go to a post office to post some documents. One of the customers needed to send some documents to make sure they’d arrive the next day. This service is called ‘Next Day Delivery’, but, my god, it costs a lot! When the lady was told how much she would need to pay, she was rather shocked, but said ‘I would need to cough up anyway – it has to be there tomorrow’. I thought it would make a nice come-back phrase for my blog.

The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines ‘coughing up‘ as ‘producing money or information unwillingly’.

For more examples of usage see below:

– I’ve just had to cough up £40 for a parking fine (Cambridge Online Dictionary). So far I’ve had to cough up £40 for my parking mistakes!

– Add the $4.5 billion together with the $6.5 billion it has paid on claims from individuals and businesses that suffered and the $7.8 billion it agreed to cough up to settle further such claims and the bill, excluding clean-up costs, has hit some $19 billion so far (The Economist).

– Peruvians, for example, are relatively poor so cannot cough up as much as people in richer countries (The Economist).

– Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “Millions of us prefer to deal with our bank on the phone, yet we are expected to cough up for a costly call when we do (BBC).

However, ‘to cough up‘ can be used in its direct meaning in a medical context, for example:

– Tuberculosis (TB) is spread by an airborne germ and leads to people coughing up blood (BBC).

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To look the other way

to look the other way phrase meaning

Photo credit: Reuters / Mario Anzuoni

Yesterday I went to see Woody Allen’s new film Blue Jasmine – it was my reward for a long working week, and I must say I wasn’t disappointed. I’ll try not to spoil too much of the plot, but the story is about the wife of an indecently rich guy who turned out to be a crook and got his fortune by stealing from others. She was often accused by her friends of ‘looking the other way‘ when he came up with dubious financial schemes and other illegal stuff.

While the meaning is pretty clear I don’t think I’ve come across this phrase before. However, there’s a good synonym – ‘to turn a blind eye to something‘.

Here are a few more examples:

– Apart from a few dogged journalists at the profile news magazine who exposed Waldheim and much else besides, Austria chose to look the other way. That’s a habit that is not an Austrian monopoly (The Guardian).

– If the international community looks the other way now, the violence will flare up again and the government of Sudan will go back to slaughter  (The Guardian).

– European nations look the other way while Greek officials abuse migrants, particularly children, to keep their borders secure (The Guardian).

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On timewasters

timewaster meaning usage

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Whenever I came across a phrase ‘no timewasters‘ in adverts where people were selling kittens or furniture or some other stuff I used to wonder what exactly that meant and how exactly these timewasters could waste your time. Until I found out.

My badly dented disgrace of a car almost completely disintegrated and I had to sell it. So I posted an ad on one of the local websites hoping to get rid of it fairly quickly. As my husband and I were watching a film on a Friday night somebody texted to enquire if I still had the car, which I did. Five or six texts were exchanged to inform the potential buyer of what exactly was wrong with it and tell him where I was based (which I did of course mention in the ad). We agreed that he’d come next morning between 9 and 10 to pick it up. So next morning we woke up earlier (not really a bad thing) and skipped on a morning run, but no one came.

The guy texted several hours later to say he got drunk the previous night (how sweet!) but could still come in the evening. We agreed on 8 pm this time and went to play tennis as we had plenty of time until then. During the hour that I was playing tennis (and obviously not checking my phone) he called 4 times and texted saying he was going to come now, not at 8 pm. By that time I was getting really angry. I texted him again to ask if he was going to come after all but got no reply. Now that’s one serious timewaster! Now I know exactly what that means!

PS. We did sell the car after all.

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I am torn between…

i am torn between phrase

Photo credit: allvoices.com

This weekend we went camping again and on Saturday evening we decided to go to a pub, no, to walk to a pub using a public footpath. It turned out that this path had far too many bits of shoulder-height nettle and other stingy weeds and also featured some serious-looking bulls, but we did get there in the end. It turned out to be quite a good pub (and I felt compelled to have a dessert too after all the nettle-fighting and gate-climbing). I was surprisingly quick in deciding what to go for, but I heard a man at the next table saying to the waitress ‘I am torn between a steak and sausages’.

All too often I’m torn between things on the menu too, so I decided this phrase simply had to go on the blog.

Here are some more examples. This time some of them are from the brilliant Intelligent Life magazine, an offspring of The Economist.

– But until that happens, many of the UK’s 1.5 million Muslims will remain torn between the practical necessities of economic life, and their traditional Islamic beliefs (The Guardian).

– Germany remains torn between its support for the euro and its aversion to the costly bail-outs that will be needed to restore its health (The Economist).

– If I beat him at cards or a word game, he was torn between being annoyed at himself for losing and proud of me beating him (Intelligent Life).

– “The Museum of Innocence” is Orhan Pamuk’s first novel since he won the Nobel prize in 2006. It takes him back to familiar turf, a Turkey torn between East and West; this time, however, politics are merely a backdrop to the war of the sexes (Intelligent Life).

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To tag along

to tag along meaning

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Yesterday I was picking up my husband from work and when I arrived he was chatting to his colleagues, seeming somewhat reluctant to go home. It turned out he was telling them about our camping plans for this weekend and one of his colleagues promised to tag along. He was only joking, of course, as camping is not really his thing. As for us, we’re going! In about 4-5 hours.

To tag along‘ means to go somewhere with someone else although you are not needed (MacMillan Dictionary).

Some more examples of where you can along to:

– True to that last role, she invited all those present to a drink around the corner afterwards. A remarkable third of the audience tagged along. She laughed and cried with each and every one of them (The Economist).

– Until the Olympic reporting rules came into force in January last year, foreign journalists based in China needed government approval for any reporting trip outside their city of residence. Officials often insisted on tagging along. Many journalists would travel without permission, but local police often stopped them, seized their notebooks and expelled them from their areas (The Economist).

– A 14-year-old girl lands the lead role in a short film being shot in Aberdeenshire after tagging along to an audition (BBC).

– It was Pam who had wanted to come to this lunchtime radio recording (Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Showcase) and Gloria had tagged along in the hope that at least one of the comics might be funny, although her expectations were not high (Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn)

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Don’t hold me to it

don't hold me to it

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Today I went to a garage that a friend of a friend has recommended to see how much it would cost to fix my car (here’s what happened). It’s quite funny to look at people’s facial expressions when they see the damage, and I assume people who work in garages must have seen all kinds of things. They forget all about typical English understatement and say ‘Oh, it’s very bad’ or just ‘Flipping hell!’

Anyway, after the initial shock the guy gave me a quote of roughly £350, but said ‘It’s only a rough estimate, don’t hold me to it‘ (implying that it could be more).

Here are a couple more examples:

– You promised me that you would buy six of them, and I’m going to hold you to your promise (The Free Dictionary).

– I was talking to my friend and was saying ” I think it’s the week after that but don’t hold me to it ” We were talking about the October Holidays. By ‘don’t hold me to it’ I meant ‘don’t take my word for it’ .. i would also like to know how to say that [in French] (Wordreference.com).

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To stick to your guns

to stick to your guns meaning

Photo credit: healthymessage.com

Today our landlord was showing new potential tenants around the flat and he touched upon the issue of parking, which has been a real nightmare for me ever since we moved here. The issue with parking is simple – there is none, so I end up paying at least a few quid every single day (ok, apart from weekends) to just be able to park my car. He was saying that all the residents have been applying to the Council to get parking permits, but they ‘stick to their guns‘ and insist that there is going to be no parking.

To stick to your guns‘ is an informal way of saying that  you refuse to change your mind despite what the others are saying or doing.

Below are some examples:

–  I have told my husband I won’t attend, but he says I should go out of respect for his parents. Do I stick to my guns by not attending? Or should I just attend, given it is only one hour of the year? (The Guardian)

– He has had most success where he has promoted choice in public services and ensured that private companies can compete with public authorities to deliver services. He needs to stick to his guns with this approach  (The Guardian).

– Made any resolutions for 2006? Broken them already? Or are you sticking to your guns? (BBC)

– But with America sticking to its guns, the Hatoyama administration is bound to upset one side or other (The Economist).

– Mr Zapatero wisely said this week that he would stick to his guns. But he is on the way out  (The Economist).

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To separate the wheat from the chaff

separate wheat from the chaff expression meaning

Photo credit: Science Photo Library

Today I went to a get-together with fellow translators and was rewarded with some stimulating and intelligent conversation. At some point an expression ‘to separate the wheat from the chaff‘ was used and I thought it should make an appearance on this blog, considering I’ve come across it a few times already.

This means ‘to separate things or people that are of high quality or ability from those that are not’ (Cambridge Dictionaries Online). It can be used with the verbs separate, sort or sift.

Some examples:

– The first round of interviews really separates the wheat from the chaff (Cambridge Dictionaries Online).

– Barbara Epstein was both sorts of editor—the one at the top and the one who separated the wheat from the chaff—and, to those outside the literary and intellectual world in which she lived, she was unseen: no bylines for her, no book tours, no interviews on talk-shows. But she was not in the business of publishing chaff (The Economist).

– AltaVista still lacked Google’s uncanny ability to separate the wheat from the chaff (The Economist).

– “We have something like a Wild West on the internet,” says Jamie Bartlett, senior researcher at Demos. “There’s a huge amount of very trustworthy, academic, good bits of journalism [on the internet], more than ever before, which is extremely liberating. But at the same time, equal proportions of distortions, propaganda, lies, mistruths, half-truths and all sorts of rubbish. It can be very difficult, especially for younger people, to sort the wheat from the chaff.” (BBC)

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