What is the meaning of ‘flabbergasted'?

(Md Imadullah,

Melvish aram)

First, let's deal with the pronunciation. The English pronounce the first ‘a' like the ‘a' in ‘cab', ‘nab' and ‘lab', and the second like the ‘ar' in ‘park', ‘dark', and ‘mark'. The Americans, on the other hand, pronounce the second ‘a' like the ‘a' in the first syllable. The first ‘e' is like the ‘a' in ‘china', and the second like the ‘i' in ‘bit', ‘hit', and ‘pit'. The word is pronounced ‘FLA-be-gaa-stid' with the main stress on the first syllable. It is mostly used in informal contexts to mean to be astounded, surprised or shocked.

* When I told Prema she hadn't got the promotion, she sat flabbergasted.

* I was flabbergasted when I saw Meera's grandmother watching the WWF tournament.

Though the word has been around since the 18th century, nobody is really sure about its origin. Some believe it is a combination of ‘flabby' and ‘aghast'.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘Faustian bargain'?

(Faustine Gilbert, Kollam)

According to most stories, Faust was a German scholar who was rather unhappy with his lot in life. The devil, Mephistopheles, appears and promises him that in return for his soul, he will give Faust unlimited power and knowledge. The greedy scholar signs on the dotted line and experiences all the worldly pleasures; but, in the process, condemns his soul to hell. A ‘Faustian bargain' or ‘Faustian deal' therefore is a deal that one makes with the devil; a bargain that ultimately results in one's ruin. The person who makes such a deal is called a Faust or Faustus. The expression is mostly used nowadays to refer to a bargain made for temporary gain without taking into consideration future consequences. A much more common expression used nowadays is ‘make a pact/deal with the devil'.

* In order to win the elections, our leader has made a Faustian bargain with some of the extreme right wing parties.

How is the word ‘ubiquitous' pronounced?

(A. Reshmi, Chennai)

The ‘u' sounds like the letter ‘u', and the following ‘i' like the ‘i' in ‘bit', ‘hit', and ‘sit'. The ‘quit' is pronounced like the word ‘quit' and the final ‘ou' like the ‘a' in ‘china'. The word is pronounced ‘yu-BIK-wi-tes' with the stress on the second syllable. The word is mostly used in formal contexts to mean ‘omnipresent'.

* We didn't really enjoy the concert because of the ubiquitous mosquitoes.

What is the meaning of ‘dun for'?

(Rohit Sharma, Lucknow)

What is it that some of the banks supposedly do when you fail to repay the loan that you have taken from them? They hire people to harass you day and night till you return the amount. These individuals call you up at odd hours of the day and sometimes pay a personal visit to your home/office when you least expect it. The expression that best describes this persistent demand for the repayment of the loan is ‘dun for'. According to one theory, the word comes from Joe Dunn, a London bailiff who was well-known for tracking down defaulters.

* If you don't repay the amount Nikhil, they will dun you for it day and night.


“Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.” — Ann Landers

S. Upendran