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Friday, July 18, 2014
It is small, but confusing — the apostrophe.
Monday, July 14, 2014
What is the difference between ‘pillow talk’ and ‘small talk’?
(R Madan, Bhopal)
‘Small talk’ or ‘idle talk’ refers to the polite conversation you have with someone whom y...
Monday, July 7, 2014
What is the meaning and origin of ‘smoke and mirrors’?
(Jawaid Hasan, Patna)
This expression is frequently used in American English, particularly in the contexts of...
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February 7, 2012
What is the meaning and origin of ‘play it by ear'?
(B. Suresh Kumar, Coimbatore)
There are occasions when we do not plan too far ahead; in such cases, our response to a s...
January 9, 2012
What is the difference between ‘comic' and ‘comical'?
(D. Ananth, Vijayawada)
Both words are derived from the Greek ‘komos' meaning ‘intentionally funny'. When you say tha...
December 26, 2011
What is the meaning of ‘pancake people'?
(Kiran Gandhi, Kerala)
This is a term coined by the playwright Richard Foreman to refer to the present Internet-dependent-generati...
December 13, 2011
What is the difference between ‘ill' and ‘sick'?
There is a tendency to use the two words interchangeably nowadays. Americans seem to pref...
November 22, 2011
How is the word ‘sumptuous' pronounced?(G. Ramanathan, Chennai)There are several ways of pronouncing this word. The first syllable rhymes with the words ‘pump', ‘lump' a...
October 31, 2011
What is the meaning and origin of ‘turn a Nelson's eye'?
(K. Anantha Ramana, Kurnool)
The expression has been around for several hundred years, and it has the same meaning...
October 10, 2011
How is the word ’schadenfreude’ pronounced?
(V. Vishal, Delhi) The ‘scha' in this word of German origin is like the ‘shar' in ‘sharp' and ‘shark', while the ‘e' in the se...
September 26, 2011
What is the meaning and origin of ‘sit below the salt'?
(Dheeraj Kumar, Kanpur)
This rather old-fashioned expression is used to refer to a person of very low status. An in...
September 20, 2011
The article “Stingy texts in vogue, God save the English language!” (Sept. 18) should open the eyes of all those who misuse the English language while utilising the SMS facility in cellphones.
September 12, 2011
Wearing a headset, S. Priyadarshini a Class XII student, strains her ears to recognise the word she hears, and asks for its meaning. “An official policy of racial segregation formerly practised in...
January 31, 2012
Why is the wife always referred to as the ‘better half'?
(V.P. Balasubramanyan, Avadi)
Many people think that this rather old fashioned expression can be use...
January 3, 2012
What is the difference between ‘neophyte', ‘beginner', and ‘ new beginner'?
(Jasbir Singh, Patiala)
The first word is pronounced ‘KNEE-o-fight' with the stress on the firs...
December 17, 2011
Jargon is not only inelegant, it comes in the way of understanding.
November 29, 2011
What is the meaning of ‘chickens have come home to roost'?
When used as a noun, the word ‘roost' refers to the place where birds rest. It could be anyth...
November 14, 2011
Last week, we discussed idioms inspired by the days of the week, focusing on a few expressions around Sunday. I have one more expression related to ‘Sunday,' after which we will move on to other d...
October 25, 2011
What is the difference between ‘graveyard' and ‘cemetery'?
(R. Bharath, Chennai)
Though these two words are used interchangeably to refer to a place where pe...
October 3, 2011
What is the meaning and origin of ‘Who is going to bell the cat'?
(G. Aditya, Hyderabad)
This relatively old idiom means to perform a dangerous or a risky task. When you a...
September 20, 2011
What is the meaning and origin of ‘Soapy Sam'?
(Rakesh Sharma, Chandigarh)
This is an expression that is mostly used to show disapproval. When you label someone ‘Soapy Sam', you...
September 17, 2011
You aren't going to get a Nobel prize for spelling words the way they are; yes, but you aren't going to get a prize for omitting letters either.
August 25, 2011
Here’s something for your Twitter feed - “Tweet” has earned a spot in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Used as both a noun and a verb, the word describing a post made on the on...
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