“Hi! You don’t look too good. Is anything the matter?”

“Problems at the office, I’m afraid. The workers have been on strike for a week now. They have been raising Cain and we...”

“Raising Cain? I have no idea what it means.”

“It means to protest angrily about something. The person who raises Cain usually behaves in a disruptive manner. He creates problems for others.”

“Here’s an example. When the parents were informed that the children wouldn’t be allowed to write the exam, they raised Cain.”

“That’s what many parents do. You should see what...”

“What are you doing here anyway? Shouldn’t you be at home swotting for your exams?”

“What should I be doing?”

“Swotting for your exams. The word is spelt s...w...o...t. The ‘o’ is like the ‘o’ in ‘lot’ and ‘pot’.”

“I see. Tell me, what does ‘swot’ mean?”

“It means to study very hard. The word is normally used in the context of exams.”

“That’s the only time when people like me study hard!”

“I know! It’s true of...”

“So when you ‘swot’, you attempt to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can about something. Is that right?”

“Well, you could say that. It’s a word that is mostly used in informal contexts in British English. Let me give you an example.”

“Wait! Let me give it a try. Right now, Archana is sitting at home swotting for her Board exams.”

“That’s a good example. It’s also possible to say ‘swot up on’. For example, Sekhar spent several hours in the library swotting up on his chemistry.”

“The word ‘swot’ can also be used with people as well. When you call someone a ‘swot’, what you mean is that he studies very hard. Other than this, he is not interested in anything else.”

“So by calling a person a ‘swot’, you are making it clear that you disapprove of him.”

“Exactly! Here’s an example. Whatever you do, please don’t invite that swot Dilip to the party.”

“In school, I’m surrounded by swots.”

“I seriously doubt that. I wouldn’t call any of your friends, swots. Tell me, what are you going to do once the exams get over?”

“I’m planning to go to Mumbai. What about you? Are you going anywhere?”

“I don’t know. I’m terribly busy negotiating with the workers right now. I hope to get some downtime next week.”

“Downtime? I don’t think I’ve heard that expression before. What does it mean?”

“It’s a period of time when you don’t do anything. You just...”

“You sit back and relax. You basically chill out. Isn’t that the expression?”

“Very good! That’s exactly what you do. I’ve been working 15 hours a day for the past month. I need some downtime.”

“Let’s borrow some DVDs and have some downtime at my place.”

“No chance of that happening. Your mother would raise Cain if she saw you watching movies.”

“You’re right! I’d better go and start swotting for my exams.”

“Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

“I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.”Fred Allen

S. UPENDRAN

upendrankye@gmail.com