How is the word ‘eon’ pronounced?

(MK Chattopadhyay, Hyderabad)

First of all, there are two different ways of spelling this word. The Americans spell it ‘eon’, while the British seem to prefer ‘aeon’. No matter how you spell the word, the first syllable sounds like the ‘ee’ in ‘fee’, ‘feel’ and ‘feet’. The second syllable is pronounced like the word ‘on’. The word is pronounced ‘EE-on’ with the stress on the first syllable. It is also possible to pronounce the vowel in the second syllable like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. In this case, the word is pronounced ‘EE-en’. I understand that the word is used in geology to refer to a lengthy period of time — ‘a unit of time that is equal to a thousand million years’. In everyday contexts, ‘eon’ is frequently used to mean a long, long time.

*Sheba crossed the finish line aeons before we did.

*We’ve been waiting eons to hear from him.

The word comes from the Greek ‘aion’ meaning ‘age’. It is also related to our Sanskrit ‘aayu’ meaning ‘span of life’.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘shot in the arm’?

(Ujjawal Kalita, Newbongaingoan)

A ‘shot in the arm’ is a stimulus; something that revitalises you and leaves you feeling a lot better about yourself. It is like the ‘shot’ or the injection that the doctor gives a patient in order to get him back on his feet. Any form of encouragement given to someone who is unsure of himself or is feeling depressed about something can be called a shot in the arm. Very often, it boosts an individual’s morale.

*The pep talk given by the coach was a real shot in the arm for Rahul.

*Winning an Oscar was a shot in the arm for the ailing film studio.

The expression can also be used to refer to ‘a drink of liquor’.

*Since I won’t be driving, I guess I can have another shot in the arm.

According to some scholars, the expression comes from the world of narcotics. Addicts often inject drugs into their system in order to feel better. The expression was coined in the 1920s.

What is the difference between ‘kidnapping’ and ‘abduction’?

(M Narasimhan, Chennai)

In everyday contexts, both words are used interchangeably; when you are kidnapped or abducted you are forcibly taken from somewhere. Usually, in the case of a ‘kidnapping’, there is a motive; the kidnapper takes someone either for monetary or political reasons. When a child or an adult is kidnapped, the kidnapper often calls the family and demands a ransom — the victim will be returned unharmed provided the kidnapper is paid some money.

In the case of an ‘abduction’, however, the family members are not contacted; for the ‘abductor’, unlike the kidnapper, is not interested in making money. When a childless couple abducts a child, they don’t ring up the parents for money. Since the aim is to raise the child as their own, there is no question of contacting the parents. Perhaps this explains why people talk about ‘alien abduction’ and not ‘alien kidnapping’. Chances are the extra terrestrials are not interested in our money!


“John Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.”Student