What is the difference between ‘talent’ and ‘skill’?

(Kapila Vishnu, Chennai)

‘Talent’ is something that one is born with; it is your natural ability to do something without really thinking about it. For example, you may have no experience in playing tennis, but if you have the talent, you may have no problem keeping the ball in play. You are a natural on the tennis court. ‘Skill’, on the other hand, is something that you acquire after putting in a lot of hard work; unlike talent, it is not inborn, but learnt. Not everyone is talented, but if you make the effort, you can learn a new skill.

*Sheba’s talent for painting showed at a very young age.

*Hemant is a wonderful teacher. It’s a skill he’s honed over the years.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘devil’s advocate’?

(Shivam Mishra, Kanpur)

Sometimes, when you are making an argument for something, the person sitting with you deliberately chooses to provide a counterargument. Though this individual may not actually believe in the position he has taken, he may choose to contradict you in order to prolong the argument. When you ‘play the devil’s advocate’ you pretend to be against something that someone has said; you do this in order to make the other person consider his argument in greater detail. You are compelling him to examine the merits and demerits of his case.

*Are they your true beliefs or are you merely playing the devil’s advocate?

The term ‘devil’s advocate’ is actually a translation of the Latin ‘Advocatus Diaboli’; it was first used by the authorities in church. Whenever people demanded that someone be made a saint (canonised), the Roman Catholic Church appointed a devil’s advocate. It was the job of this official to argue as to why the individual should be not be made a saint.

How is the word ‘hyperbole’ pronounced?

(Zeenat, Kochi)

The word consists of four syllables, not three. The ‘hy’ is pronounced like the word ‘hi’, and the following ‘er’ sounds like the ‘ir’ in ‘shirt’, ‘dirt’ and ‘skirt’. The ‘o’ in the third syllable is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’, and the final ‘e’ sounds like the ‘i’ in ‘bit’, ‘sit’ and ‘hit’. The word is pronounced ‘hi-PER-be-li’ with the stress on the second syllable. It comes from the Greek ‘hyperbole’ meaning ‘exaggeration’ or ‘extravagance’. When you use hyperbole in your speech or writing, you make someone sound much more important than he actually is — you exaggerate the person’s importance.

*When you introduce the speaker, please avoid hyperbole.

Is there a difference in meaning between ‘She has hidden the jewels’ and ‘She hid the jewels’?

(L Sreemathi, Nellore)

The first sentence suggests that the jewels were hidden sometime ago — we don’t really know when — and they still continue to remain hidden. No one has found them as yet. We cannot say, ‘She has hidden the jewels, but the police found them’. In the case of the second sentence, we are not really sure about the fate of the jewels. Perhaps they are still hidden. There is also the possibility that someone has found them.

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“When a woman hires a detective to follow her husband, it’s probably to learn what the other woman sees in him.”Leo J Burke

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