What is the difference between ‘betwixt’ and ‘between’?

(Narayana Rao, Hyderabad)

In terms of meaning, there is no difference between the two. Native speakers consider ‘betwixt’ to be rather old-fashioned, and limit its use to literary contexts. The word comes from the Old English ‘betwiox’ meaning ‘between, among’. The expression ‘betwixt and between’, however, is frequently heard in everyday contexts to mean to be undecided about someone or something. When you are ‘betwixt and between’ something, you are unable to choose between the two alternatives given to you; you are neither here nor there.

*Suresh is so betwixt and between about lending his brother money.

*Das is betwixt and between quitting his job.

How is the word ‘connoisseur’ pronounced?

(K Arpita, Bangalore)

The first syllable is pronounced like the word ‘con’, while the ‘oi’ in the second sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The final ‘eur’ is like the ‘ir’ in ‘sir’, ‘shirt’ and ‘dirt’. One simple way of pronouncing the word is ‘con-e-SIR’ with the stress on the final syllable. It comes from the French ‘conoistre’ meaning ‘to know’. A ‘connoisseur’ is an expert; he is someone who knows a great deal about and has an appreciation for some of the finer things in life — dance, painting, food, theatre, etc.

*They tell me that Raghu is a connoisseur of Carnatic music.

What is the meaning of ‘needless to say’?

(S Rajeshwari, Kurnool)

This is an expression mostly used at the beginning of a sentence to suggest to the listener that although what you are going to say is fairly obvious, you are going to say it anyway. It is also possible to replace ‘needless to say’ with ‘of course’.

*Needless to say, Ramesh is not very happy about the transfer.

*Needless to say, the police didn’t believe a word I said.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘up the ante’?

(Anuvarudheen, Palakkad)

When you ‘up the ante’, you increase the stakes or risks in something; you are in a situation where you are willing to take more risks in order to achieve better results or a better pay off.

*The union has upped the ante by refusing to meet the management till all charges against the workers are dropped.

The expression comes from the world of poker; a card game that people who like to gamble, play. The ‘ante’ (pronounced like the word ‘anti’) refers to the fixed amount of money each player puts into the pot in order to participate in the game.

In poker, before every game, all players are expected to put a certain amount of money on the table before the cards are dealt. Once this has been done, the player who has good cards will increase the stakes by adding more money to the pot — he will ‘up’ or ‘raise’ the ante.

The expression is used in non-financial contexts as well. One can ‘up the ante’ in the case of an emotional relationship as well. Nowadays, the expression ‘ante up’ is frequently used in informal contexts to mean ‘to pay up’.

*Sailaja anted up her share of the bill.

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“Men are like a deck of cards. You'll find the occasional king, but most are jacks.”Laura Swenson

S. UPENDRAN

upendrankye@gmail.com