What is the difference between ‘woozy’ and ‘dizzy’?

(Shrivatsa, Guntur)

When you feel ‘dizzy’, you feel giddy. Everything around you seems to be spinning, and you feel as if you are going to fall down or collapse. ‘Woozy’ means more or less the same thing, but unlike ‘dizzy’, this word is mostly used in informal contexts. Dizzy, unlike ‘woozy’, can also be used to mean ‘extremely rapid’.

*Chethan began to feel dizzy/woozy after being hit on the head.

*The new captain’s popularity rose at a dizzy rate.

What is the meaning of ‘hue and cry’?

(Dinesh Pai, Bangalore)

The expression refers to an angry protest by the public about something. Think about the student protests in recent weeks in Delhi demanding better protection for women, and you get the picture.

*There has been a hue and cry about the government’s plan to increase taxes.

The word ‘hue’ in this expression comes from the Old French ‘huer’ meaning ‘to shout’. In the past, when the police force did not exist, the common man was expected to provide a helping hand in catching the culprit. Whenever an ordinary citizen saw a crime being committed, he shouted and alerted everyone. He raised an alarm; he raised a ‘hue and cry’. Since the law demanded that people near by should help, they too went in pursuit of the felon.

How is the word ‘carte blanche’ pronounced?

(Sanjana Sukumar, Trichy)

The first word in this French expression is pronounced like the word ‘cart’. The ‘che’ in ‘blanche’ is pronounced like the ‘sh’ in ‘should’ and ‘shall’, and the ‘a’ is like the ‘o’ in ‘hot’ and ‘not’. It is pronounced ‘cart BLONSH’ with the main stress on the second word. When you give someone ‘carte blanche’, you are giving the person complete freedom or authority to do whatever he wants to. Another expression that has more or less the same meaning is ‘blank check’.

*The children were given carte blanche to buy whatever they wanted.

‘Carte blanche’, a term first used in the military, literally means ‘white card’ or ‘blank paper’. In the past, whenever an army wished to surrender, the commander of the losing army sent to the victor a blank sheet of paper with his signature on it. This was a message to the victorious commander that he was free to write whatever he wanted to; he could determine the terms of surrender.

December 31 is called ‘New Year’s Eve.’ Is there a term for December 30?

(Rani, Chennai)

Some people have suggested that December 30 should be called ‘New Year’s Adam’. Logic? Adam was created before Eve! Needless to say, the term has not really caught on.

*I’ll be coming to your place on New Year’s Adam.

What is the opposite of ‘out of the box thinking’?

(Jessica Cherian,


If you are not ‘thinking outside the box’, then chances are you are ‘thinking within the box’. In other words, your style of thinking is rather conventional, clichéd, and stereotypical.

*Let’s hire someone who thinks within the box for a change.


“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Mark Twain