Tag Archives: embarrassement

I was wondering…

i was wondering phrase

Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Today I realised that I never wrote about one single English phrase that I find to be the most useful in everyday life. A life-saver of a phrase, even! Not to brag, but I think I somehow got it right on my first trip to the UK and later on I heard it on so many occasions that it didn’t seem special any more.

So, imagine you walk into a stationary shop and you’re looking for… I don’t know, a pair of scissors. You’ve had a look around, but scissors are nowhere to be seen. You pluck up your courage and approach a shop assistant. What would you say?

Saying ‘Hi, I’m looking for a pair of scissors’ is perfectly fine, but if you want to sound a bit less direct, here’s where the life-saver phrase comes in: ‘I was wondering: do you have any scissors?’ Or if you wandered into a shoe shop and there was a pair of shoes to your liking you could say ‘Hi! I was just wondering: do you have them in size 6?’ (Or: ‘I was wondering if you have them in size 6′). More on sentence structures with this phrase can be found on this Wordreference forum thread.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of shoes, here’s my favourite bit of stand-up comedy exploring the uneasy relationship between women and shoes.

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Can I squeeze past?

can i squeeze past phrase

Photo credit: dailytelegraph.com.au

First of all, Happy New Year to the loyal readers and subscribers of this blog – it’s great to have you on board. I’ll do my best to keep it up in 2014.

Second… it’s time for a new post, I think.

I’ve been trawling through my vast linguistic archives in search of an interesting word or phrase, and I stumbled upon ‘Can I squeeze past?‘ – a handy phrase for when you find yourself in a place full of people and you need to get past them. I’ve used it a lot at a Christmas party, where I also happened to inadvertently jump the queue – I haven’t felt that embarrassed in a long while.

It’s been, what, two or three weeks, but the festive season seems but a distant memory now, at least to me.

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jumpy meaning

Photo credit: emilysmucker.com

Last Friday was indeed eventful and provided rich pickings in terms of words and phrases for this blog. After a somewhat tough week my husband and I went to one of our favourite pubs (giving a few others a miss – one too posh and one with no food and some very dubious music). We spent a great evening there and when it was time to go and I stood up my chair suddenly overturned with a lot of noise – it’s not that I was drunk, it’s just that there was too much hanging on it. One of the guys at the next table was particularly startled – I apologized profusely, to which his girlfriend said ‘It’s ok, he’s always been quite jumpy‘.

Jumpy‘ means ‘nervous and worried, especially because you are frightened or guilty’ (Cambridge Online Dictionary).

This is how it can be used:

– My mother gets very jumpy when she’s alone in the house (Cambridge Online Dictionary).

– Politicians the world over get a bit jumpy when people start looking through their expenses claims (BBC).

– In Whitehall, Toby Bell, newly appointed private secretary to Fergus Quinn, is feeling jumpy. He too has read the three-sentence description of his new boss and can tell he is a baddy (The Guardian).

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To lock yourself out / in

lock yourself out or in phrase meaning left key outside or inside

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On Sunday night we came back from Green Man music festival in Wales. My husband went to take some of the stuff to our flat while I continued unloading the car. In a few minutes he came back with a slightly worried look, saying that we were really lucky our neighbour was in, as he had managed to lock himself out (and there’re only two flats in the house!). Well, if our neighbour wasn’t in I would have been, ahem, quite angry – after two days at the festival, a hike in the mountains and a 2-hour drive, hungry, sweaty and exhausted. That’s precisely why I always insist on taking both sets of keys!

When I asked my husband a couple of hours later if he knew the English verb for what he had just done, he said he wasn’t interested in learning the verb for something he would never do again! That’s quite a statement, if you ask me!

Anyway, depending on your location and that of your key you either:

  • lock yourself in = you are inside and the key is outside
  • lock yourself out = the key is inside the flat/house and you are outside (hopefully not for long!)

Let’s hope you won’t need to use this verb much!

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I’ll be right back

i'll be right back phrase usage

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While this is not a particularly tricky or advanced phrase, it’s still very handy in situations when, say, you are with other people and you want to excuse yourself and go to the loo, for instance, but you don’t want to just disappear without a word, nor do you want to specify where you’re going. This is when the phrase ‘I’ll be right back‘ comes in very handy.

There are also some variations of the phrase – I’ll be right in / up / down / etc. – that you can explore here.

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When to say ‘Hi!’ in Britain

when to say hi in britain

Photo credit: uspto.gov

When my partner and I went to the UK for the first time, as tourists, I made an interesting observation. Once we went to Hyde Park for a walk really early in the morning and a man walking his dog said ‘Hi!’ to us. I was really surprised because it would have never happened in Russia – no matter what the time of day it is and how many people are around – you might as well be the only two on a desert island – the chances that a stranger will say ‘Hi!’ to you (or you to him) are really slim. It’s just not done.

Over the couple of years that I’ve been living in the UK I made a few more observations as to when it is appropriate to greet strangers.

Here’s an interesting illustration. A few weeks ago we went to Norfolk and walked some of the Norfolk Coast Path. We started relatively early, at about 9, and there were few people walking this path, so everyone would say ‘Hi!’ to each other. We were walking back after a few hours, between 1 and 2 pm and the number of fellow walkers was much higher, so no one bothered any more!

Today I went for a run in the park and didn’t have my headphones on as the battery on my mp3 player was flat, so suddenly all the dog walkers were saying ‘Morning!’ to me! They probably didn’t bother when I had my headphones on.

I have to say that the same principle doesn’t apply when you just walk along city streets. Somehow it’s limited to parks, public footpaths and similar places.

So, as a rule of thumb, I’d say that it’s appropriate to greet people that you happen to meet in a park or, say, on a country walk, when there are few people around, and that usually happens when it’s quite early or quite late (but maybe going for a walk in the countryside late in the evening is not always a great idea).

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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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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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