Tag Archives: shopping

That’s a different kettle of fish

fish kettle

Photo credit: rosekentishkitchen.blogspot.com

Monday was a bank holiday in the UK and we benefited from some more time to spend together as a family. This also meant that we didn’t have to cram all the things into just two days and could do our grocery shopping on Monday. I went online to check opening hours of a local Waitrose (disclaimer: we don’t always shop in Waitrose, it’s more of a treat really) and while I was looking at a general information about the branch I noticed that you can borrow champagne flutes and… a fish kettle there! Now that was exciting. I googled “fish kettle” and realised it was an oval pan.

However, whenever I’ve heard an idiom “that’s a different kettle of fish” I always imagined a regular kettle (OK, perhaps not an electric one), and wondered how you were supposed to squeeze a fish in there and whether the tea would stink of fish afterwards. I should have known better!

The idiom means ‘to be completely different from something or someone else that has been talked about’ (Cambridge Dictionary). However, its origin – as is usually the case with idioms – is far from clear. You can check Michael Quinion’s website for more information.

Here are some examples of its usagethough:

  • Matthew Kneale had a well-deserved critical and commercial hit in 2000 with his Whitbread prize-winning novel “English Passengers”, about 19th-century Tasmania. His new collection of short stories is a completely different kettle of fish. It is resolutely up to the minute, with its quaint Italian villagers shopping at IKEA—and, with one or two exceptions, also middle-class and metropolitan (The Economist).
  • I do not really get inflamed at the thought of some busybody checking out my books, or looking at which clothes I have packed, although, in a straw poll of the office, it seems I am alone in this. But trying to log on to a computer or tablet is a very different kettle of fish (The Economist).
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Swanky

swanky meaning

Today’s linguistic revelation came from… a pot of yogurt. I never win anything in these contests, but at least I can learn a word or two – that’s my consolation prize!

A ‘swanky‘ hotel stay is the one that’s going to be ‘luxurious and expensive’, according to the Oxford Dictionary, but totally free for you if you’re lucky enough to win it!

Here are some ‘swanky’ examples:

– The latest swanky spa to make a splash on the London scene is Notting Hill’s Hydro Healing, where treatments to help with common ‘lifestyle disorders’ (I think that means tiredness, stress and overflowing toxins) have an aquatic focus (The Guardian).

– The outlook is bleak for swanky stores, much better for discount chains (The Economist).

– The chink of wine glasses, the clatter of cutlery and the chatter of low voices fill the warm air of the latest swanky restaurant to open in London (The Economist).

 

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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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Losable… and other -able adjectives

losable

Photo credit: funnyjunk.com

What an eventful week… Yesterday I taught my first Russian class at a language school – it was a new experience for me as so far I have only taught individual students. It is also a men-only group, so it was very funny when they arrived and got their little notebooks out and said they felt like they were back to school. Then they started comparing notebooks and telling each other where they got them from – some ‘stole’ theirs from work, while some had to go to a stationary shop. The guy who came with a brand-new notebook said he didn’t know whether to buy a large A4 one or a smaller (A5) size, but decided to go for the smaller one, which, they all agreed, was more portable, but also more ‘losable‘! What an adorable word!

I’ll be honest – I do have a strange fascination with these made-up-on-the-spot words ending in ‘-able’.

When I watched ‘Closer’ for the first time, there was a scene in which Jude Law said about Nathalie Portman ‘She’s completely lovable, and completely unleavable‘, and it just blew me away. I guess one of the reasons I love English so much is that it is so flexible and it lends itself to puns and wordplay and making things up and really encourages a playful attitude to a language.

I am really looking forward to the next lesson in the hope that my students learn some Russian and I maybe learn some an English word or two!

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Shirkers

shirker meaning

Photo credit: in.reuters.com

The other day I popped into a café after a satisfying visit to my favourite charity shops, and, as usual, there was a nice chap with impressive moustache serving coffee. He is quite a character, but in a good way!

While I was waiting for my coffee the next customer, probably a regular, asked: ‘Are you all on your own today?’, to which the barista replied ‘No, there are a few people around today, but they are shirkers!’

While I’ve come across the verb ‘to shirk‘, I don’t think I’ve heard about ‘shirkers‘ (= people who shirk, i.e. avoid their duties and responsibilities whenever possible).

Here’re a few examples:

– He doesn’t have time for those what don’t care to work, and he’d sooner drown you than put up with idlers or shirkers (Oxford Dictionary).

– Janet Street-Porter said she was a “striver not a shirker” and pensioners like herself should enjoy their travel passes and winter fuel payments (BBC).

– I work in an industry where taking more than three weeks a year holiday is frowned upon – we lose the other days. Taking paternity leave would be job suicide and as it’s a fairly confined industry word would get around that I was a shirker not a worker so would find it hard to find a new position (BBC).

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In good (or not so good) nick

in a good nick meaning

Photo credit: calliopegifts.co.uk

Today I went for my regular volunteering shift at the local bookshop – to strengthen my willpower by resisting the temptation to buy more books, to get my weekly fix of chocolate biscuits, to spend time around some lovely people and… hopefully to hear some more cool phrases.

A customer came in asking whether we had any more books by Marina Lewycka apart from A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian that we had in the shop. He said he had seen another book, but it was in such a bad nick that he didn’t get it.

I hear this phrase – ‘in good/bad nick‘ – from other volunteers very often. ‘Nick‘ essentially means ‘condition’.

You can also say that a book that is in a bad nick is ‘tatty‘.

I must say that in the days when I was buying books from charity shops like there was no tomorrow, I did buy some tatty ones, but I ended up donating them back to charity shops as I never read them. Much as I love books – all kind of books – I find that they need to look appealing.

I still find that I have hoarded way too many books and I need to slowly work my way through them so that I could buy new books!

This is how my current ‘to-read list’ looks like (or at least its English section – there’re at least as many books in other languages waiting to be read and they make me feel bad):

bookshelf shelfie

And while we’re on the subject of books and shelves… I recently came across the word ‘shelfie‘, i.e. ‘selfie of your bookshelf’. Here are some shelfies from Guardian readers.

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I’m nearly through it

to be nearly through something phrase meaning

Photo credit: framedcooks.com

I heard this phrase today when I nipped out to the shop to grab some lunch. There was a dad doing food shopping with his tree daughters and he said that he needed to buy some cereals. The girls weren’t too enthusiastic about it for some reason, but he said ‘I’m nearly through my (let’s say tangerine granola), and I do like my tangerine granola, you know!’

This is quite a common phrasal verb and it can mean:

1) having finished an activity or piece of work

– I’m not sure what time he’ll be through with his meeting.

– Only one more letter to write. I’m nearly through.

2) to have ended a relationship

– I’ve told Larry I’m through with him, but he keeps bothering me.

3) to have finished using something

– Let me know when you’re through with the hairdryer.

4) to have decided to stop doing something that you used to do

– Are you through with politics?

(All examples: MacMillan Dictionary)

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It’s a long shot

it's a long shot phrase meaning

Photo credit: lindisfarnecottages.co.uk

A few weeks ago I started volunteering at a local charity bookshop. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and finally decided to fill in an application. However, I’m finding that this is only going to aggravate my book-hoarding problem.

Anyway… today a lady came into a shop and approached me and my fellow volunteers saying ‘I know it’s a long shot, but do you think you might have a book…’

I’ve heard this expression on numerous occasions and I am quite fond of it. It means ‘an attempt or guess that is not likely to be successful but that is worth trying’ (MacMillan Dictionary).

More examples of usage:

– It’s a long shot, but well worth trying (Oxford Dictionaries).

– Though not impossible, attempting to obtain permission for residential use would be a long shot (Oxford Dictionaries).

– Mr Yu, a 26-year-old policeman, describes himself as conservative and is looking for a woman with “traditional virtues”. His attendance at the expo, the city’s largest yet, is a long shot; he would prefer a marriage set up by colleagues or by his parents. It worked for them 30 years ago, he says (The Economist).

 

There’s a similar-sounding phrase that I wasn’t aware of – ‘(not) by a long shot‘, meaning ‘(Not) by far or at all’:

– We don’t have our act together in Washington by a long shot (Oxford Dictionaries).

– And in agreement with one of the comments made – Egypt is not ready for democracy, not by a long shot (The Economist).

– Dr Thatcher is dead and her one-time advisors do not have a chemistry degree from Oxford. Not by a long shot (The Economist).

 

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