How is the word ‘touché' pronounced?

(L. Ravikanth, Vellore)

The ‘tou' in the first syllable is pronounced like the word ‘two'. The following ‘ch' sounds like the ‘sh' in ‘ship', ‘shin' and ‘sheep', and the final ‘e' is like the ‘ay' in ‘bay', ‘day' and ‘may'. The word is pronounced ‘two-SHAY' with the stress on the second syllable. In French, the word means ‘touched'. When touché was borrowed into English, it was used in the context of a particular sport — fencing. In this sport, two individuals fought each other with swords, and whenever someone scored a ‘hit' (i.e. when one person managed to thrust his sword into his opponent), the person who had been hit acknowledged it by shouting touché. He was admitting the opponent's sword had indeed ‘touched' him. With the passage of time, touché began to be used in everyday contexts. During an argument, when your opponent says something and you respond by saying ‘touché', you are admitting that the individual has made a very good point — one that deserves to be acknowledged.

“Politicians keep saying English should be banned. But when it comes to their own children, they send them to the best English medium schools.”


Is there a connection between a ‘toad' and ‘toady'?

(V. Sridhar, Hyderabad)

The word ‘toad', as you probably know, refers to an animal that resembles a frog. ‘Toady', on the other hand, is normally used to refer to a person; he is usually someone who flatters people in power in order to gain something from them. The word is normally used to show disapproval. Some of the other words that have the same meaning are ‘brownnoser', ‘bootlicker', and ‘flunky'.

*No one was really surprised when the Minister's toady was promoted.

What is the connection between a ‘toad' and a ‘toady'? The word ‘toady' comes from ‘toadeater'. In the past, quack doctors used to visit village fairs to demonstrate how powerful their medicine was. The doctor would ask his assistant to swallow a live toad; this was a daring thing to do because in the 16th and 17th centuries, most people believed that a toad was highly poisonous. Once he had swallowed the toad — or at least pretended to have swallowed it — the toadeater writhed in agony for a few minutes before collapsing. As the audience watched anxiously, the so-called ‘doctor' took out a bottle containing his miracle potion, and held it aloft for everyone to see. He then approached the seemingly unconscious toadeater, and poured a few drops of the medicine down his throat. Within a matter of minutes, the assistant would be up and about, ready to consume another toad! Soon the expression ‘toadeater' was used to refer to the doctor's assistant. With the passage of time, it began to mean anyone who did things in order to please influential people. Later, ‘toadeater' was reduced to ‘toady'.

Which is correct ‘Is anyone home?' or ‘Is anyone at home?'

(S.V.Harindranth, Visakhapatnam)

Both are correct; the presence or absence of the preposition ‘at' does not bring about a change in the meaning of the sentence. Americans prefer to say, 'Is anybody home?', while the British tend to include ‘at'.


“I've never been married, but I tell people that I'm divorced so they won't think something is wrong with me!”Elayne Boosler