Tag Archives: personality

Geek magnet

geek magnet meaning

Photo credit: hdwallpaperstock.eu

The other day I went to a free self-defence workshop organised by one of the sports clothes shops here in Bristol (maybe I need to mention their name and get paid for this!). It’s not that I’ve been in any situations where I needed to resort to self-defence, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Our instructor was really experienced, both in psychology and martial arts, and she had many stories to share from her personal experience. She called herself “a geek magnet” – someone who seems to attract a disproportionate amount of weird (and sometimes dangerous) people. This is probably not a set expression just yet, but still my inner linguist was clapping her (surely my inner linguist is also female) hands, mostly because my best friend is exactly like that – a proper geek magnet – and now I know that in English there’s perfect phrase to describe her.

However, I was thinking that maybe ‘geek’ doesn’t not always have a negative connotation, and maybe ‘a weirdo magnet‘ would work equally well or even better. Indeed, there’s an entry in Urban Dictionary, with the following example:

– Ashlee is such a weirdo magnet, that guy sniffing paint just sat right next to her (Urban Dictionary)

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I’m tied up

to be tied up meaning

Photo credit: irez.me

This week I learnt another useful phrase – it was in an email rather than in a conversation, but it doesn’t make it less authentic, I’m sure. I was going to arrange to speak to somebody on Skype to save us sending each other another half a dozen emails. I mentioned I could call right not, but the reply was ‘I’m tied up at the moment, shall we Skype later today?’

The meaning is quite obvious, really, but I think it’s one of those ubiquitous (but handy!) phrasal verbs that can express so much in so few words!

Some more useful examples:

– Oh, is it eleven o’clock already? I got so tied up with sending out these invitations that I didn’t even notice (phrasemix.com).

– Sorry, I’m kind of tied up at the moment. Can I call you back? (phrasemix.com).

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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:


Robert Smith young The Cure

Photo credit: sandinista.centerblog.net

… and after:

Robert Smith The Cure

Photo credit: itv.com

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We’ll stretch you!

we will stretch you stretch somebody meaning usage

Photo credit: axlbarnes.blogspot.co.uk

It is only recently that I became aware of yet another meaning of the verb ‘to stretch‘. A couple of weeks ago my husband, who had been offered his dream job, reported that after hiring him his future boss said ‘We’ll stretch you‘. It sounded a bit menacing, I thought.

Today a fellow translator asked my opinion on the sentence ‘People learn how not to make mistakes by being in a climate where they are stretched‘. By then I was well prepared to clarify the meaning of ‘stretching’ people.

To stretch somebody‘ means ‘to make someone use all their intelligence or ability, especially in a way that is interesting or enjoyable’ (MacMillan Dictionary). Not so menacing, after all!

Some more examples of usage:

– I agree that G&T (gifted and talented) students do need exceptional teachers, ones who don’t feel threatened by them, who are open to being challenged beyond the usual and open to many things. Indeed a multi-subject specialist of some sort would fit the bill. G&T students too often coast and we must push and stretch them (The Guardian).

– Don’t delegate anything that is totally beyond the knowledge, understanding or capability of the person you’re delegating to. It’s the difference between stretching people and drowning them (The Guardian).

– A tenth of home-schooling parents say that one of their children has a physical or mental problem that the local school cannot or will not accommodate. And some parents teach at home because their children are brilliant and public school fails to stretch them (The Economist).

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A swot / to swot

a swot british meaning usage

Photo credit: Daniel Sokol

You would say that a Spanish podcast for beginners is an unlikely place to hear some cool new English words, and you’ll be right. However, today I started listening to the Notes in Spanish podcast, narrated by a Spanish lady and an English guy, and they mentioned that for those who are really keen to do some homework – swots – there’s a forum on the website where they can practice some writing. I haven’t been to the forum just yet but when it comes to languages I think I qualify as a bit of a swot.

A swot‘ is a student who works very hard and has no time for (or interest in?) other fun activities and it is usually used disapprovingly.

To swot‘ means to study hard, usually before an exam.

Here’s a selection of examples I’ve found:

– Want to become a British citizen? Better swot up on Monty Python. New citizenship test will quiz people on all aspects of British life including comedy, music, history and science (this is very relevant for me, actually, as I might be taking this test some time in the future) (The Guardian)

– Born in the southern city of Augusta, Georgia, in 1953, and raised in the city of Dillon, South Carolina, Bernanke was a school swot, winning the state spelling bee at the age of 11, and teaching himself calculus (The Guardian)

– It was fine being clever at school – at any rate if you were at a girls’ school, as I was – but being clever outside, when there were boys around, made you a social leper. If anyone wanted to do real damage they would call you a swot – no boy would ever go out with a swot (The Guardian).

– At school I was what they called a ‘swot‘ and going to Cambridge was what I got in return; I was able to cash in all those boring hours of homework and sneering looks from more popular kids for three years living in a listed building and a master’s degree you don’t have to do any work for (The Guardian).

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To tag along

to tag along meaning

Photo credit: projectpoint.in

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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To give it a wide berth

to give it a wide berth meaning usage

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

I must admit I haven’t been very active lately as I was away quite a lot for the past two months, but now that I’m back in the UK there should be no shortage of interesting expressions and idioms to write about.

This one I actually heard a while ago when a friend invited me to a proper English barbecue. I have to say it was a very international gathering, with British, Russian, Uzbek and Polish barbecuers (or barbecuants?). I mentioned my recent trip to Paris, to which one of the guests replied that she always ‘gave it a wide berth‘ whenever she went to France, trying to stick to more rural areas.  I thought it was a bit of a radical choice, but then… each to their own. And, considering that no love is lost between the Brits and the French I wasn’t really that surprised.

Even though I instantly recalled the meaning of this expression – basically, ‘to avoid’ or ‘to leave more space between you and another object’ if used in its literal sense – I realised it wasn’t really a part of my active vocabulary, so I thought it was a good idea to mention it here. With some more examples, of course:

– My mother recalled how he was given a wide berth by the local populace, though whether this was because he was an artist or a rent collector was never clear (The Guardian).

– Make eye contact with drivers. Peek back over your shoulder every now and then – you’ll be amazed how many drivers slow or give you a wider berth (The Guardian).

– Recent headlines about horse meat have led Europe’s consumers to give some “beef” products a wide berth – but horse has long been enjoyed in some European countries. In Paris, fashionable chefs have actually been putting it back on their menus. So will more diners now be jumping for the horse tartare? (BBC)

– I wish the games every success, but I intend giving London a wide berth later this summer. The lure of a 2012 soccer match at the ground formerly known as St James’ Park isn’t enough to make me want to spectate in person (BBC).

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To give it a miss

Today I went to the gym only to find out that my favourite Body Balance class was cancelled and something called ‘Stretch and Relax’ was going to take place instead. A lady came up saying that she had done stretch and relax before and found it to have much more relaxing than stretching and said she would give it a miss.  I thought so too and headed for the treadmill thinking that I’ll write a post about this phrase.

The meaning of ‘give something a miss‘ is quite obvious – to decide not to do something that you would normally do.

Here are some examples of where you can use this expression:

– Give it a miss, splash out on something a bit better! (tripadvisor.co.uk)

– Great location but give it a miss if you want a quiet relaxing holiday (tripadvisor.co.uk)

– With the dates it’s going to have too much of an impact on my other competitions, so I think I’ll have to give it a miss next year (BBC)

– I’ll give the barbecue a miss. I’m on a diet (The Free Dictionary)

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