How is the word ‘convalesce’ pronounced?

(M. Nagesh, Madurai)

The first syllable is pronounced like the word 'con', and the 'a' in the second sounds like the 'a' in 'china'. The final 'lesce' is pronounced like the word 'less'. The word is pronounced 'con-ve-LESS' with the stress on the final syllable. It comes from the Latin 'con' meaning 'together' and 'valescere' meaning 'to grow strong'. Usually after an illness, people take rest in order to recover their strength. This period of time one spends trying to recuperate after a serious illness or accident is called 'convalescing'. In some countries, what we call 'nursing homes' are referred to as 'convalescent homes'.

*After the surgery, Mahesh spent nearly six months convalescing.

What is the meaning of ‘I would like to powder my nose’?

(Ratan Prasad, Warangal)

Some people don't like using words like 'bathroom', 'lavatory', 'toilet', etc. They feel rather embarrassed to use these words in everyday conversation. If they wish to know where the bathroom is, they find a roundabout way of asking for it. Women use the expression 'I would like to powder my nose' to mean that they would like to use the bathroom. Another expression that has the same meaning is, 'I'd like to wash my hands'. Bathrooms are often referred to as 'powder rooms' because women use it to freshen up. They touch up their makeup while they are there- applying a bit of lipstick and dabbing a little bit of powder on their nose to make sure that it doesn't shine. Other words that are frequently used to refer to the bathroom are 'restroom', 'john' and 'facility'.

What is the meaning of ‘skedaddle’?

(V. Girija, Nagpur)

First, let us deal with the pronunciation of the word. The first syllable is pronounced like the word 'ski', and the second like the word 'dad'. The final 'dle' sounds like the 'dle' in 'candle' and 'handle'. One way to pronounce the word is 'ski-DAD-el' with the stress on the second syllable. It is mostly used in informal contexts to mean to run away or leave quickly.

*When the kids saw the Principal, they skedaddled.

No one is really sure about the origin of the word. It became quite popular during the American Civil War (1861-65); soldiers who beat a hasty retreat during a battle were said to be 'skedaddling'. Men who refused to fight and ran off to Canada to escape being conscripted were labelled 'skedaddlers'.

Is it okay to say ‘Me and my children went to the park yesterday’?

(Anurag, Chennai)

There is nothing wrong with the sentence. In fact, even native speakers of English come up with such sentences, especially in informal contexts. It is common to hear people say 'Me and my friends played football yesterday'. People who are fond of grammar, however, would maintain that such sentences are wrong. They would argue that the pronoun 'me' can occur only in the object position of a sentence. According to them, one should say, 'My children and I went to the park yesterday' and 'My friends and I played football'.


“How long is a minute? Depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.” — Unknown