Tag Archives: informal

Dice: singular or plural

dice die singular plural

Photo credit: r o s e n d a h l (Flickr)

These days I rarely make discoveries about the English language – it’s not that I’m super-fluent or fully proficient, it’s probably that I haven’t been reading or speaking it enough. At home we speak Russian, when I teach I have to use as much Russian as my students can stomach, at the moment I’m also studying for a French exam and the rest of the time I spend on my computer, translating, and only rarely do I feel like talking to it.

And I learnt this extremely exciting thing about the singular and plural of ‘dice‘ at a… Spanish class, where we were playing a game with dice!

Amazingly, it turns out that ‘dice‘ used to be the plural of ‘die‘, but these days you use ‘dice‘ for both singular and plural.

P.S. The other day I noticed this amazing coin in my purse – issued on the 250th Anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, one of the most famous dictionaries in history. I think I’ve mostly been using ‘penny’ and ‘pence’ correctly, but I realized I wasn’t fully aware of ‘pence‘ being the plural of ‘penny‘.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

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’.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tenuous

tenuous meaning

Photo credit: Francesca Alviani (flickr)

Today I was listening to my favourite radio show on BBC 6 Music – presented by Cerys Matthews – which was dedicated to Norwegian Constitution Day. One of my best friends lives in Norway (hello, Sasha!) and I know that it’s a big deal over there. So Cerys was picking tunes – not necessarily from Norwegian singers or bands – but those that had some links with Norway and listeners had to guess what the link was. As answers came in about Elvis Presley’s song, she said these were all good guesses, but the link she had in mind was more ‘tenuous‘. So, this is my new word for today: a tenuous link is the one that is rather weak or perhaps even far-fetched.

Here are a few more examples:

– Every night, it seems we read of yet another instance of a local trader virtually forced out of business by the hike in car park charges or, however tenuous the link, the introduction of car parking charges during the evening (Oxford Dictionary)

– The Plantagenets’ family connections to the king are far more tenuous: Richard had no surviving children but five siblings, and now could have several million similarly distant descendants (The Guardian).

Tagged , , , , , ,

Everything but the kitchen sink

 everything but the kitchen sink meaning

I apologize for my prolonged absence and for not posting anything for months. I cannot even say that I was extremely busy – at least not all of the time – but there was a fair amount of things going on and maybe I just needed a bit of a break from the blog as well. From now on I hope to be able to update this blog more often!

I took this picture near where I live. It’s an advertisement for Gumtree – a website where you can sell or buy pretty much anything, from cars to furniture (and some people do sell sinks there!) – and it reminded me of a funny expression ‘everything but the kitchen sink‘, which means, well, everything you can imagine.

Here are some examples:

– The kitchen needs to look at its salads which contain everything but the kitchen sink (Oxford Dictionary).

– Peter went to London for the weekend with a huge bag of things – clothes, computers, his special shampoo… He really took everything but the kitchen sink (BBC Learning English).

– So he took the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to reform – ranging from a ban on MPs getting involved in lobbying through to fixed-term parliaments. He even talked about moving towards a written constitution (BBC).

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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”.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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).

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements