Don’t get bent out of shape now

Know your English

Know your English | Photo Credit: Getty Images

What is the meaning and origin of the expression ‘get bent out of shape’? (K. Naresh, Chennai)

This is an expression that is frequently used in American English in informal contexts. When someone ‘gets bent out of shape’, he becomes very angry about something. The individual takes offence at something, and in the process, loses his cool. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has a short temper. Something has occurred to make the person angry. We all get bent out of shape every now and then.

Mohan has always been known for his integrity. So, it didn’t surprise anyone that when he saw the rampant corruption in his new department, he was so bent out of shape that he fired everyone.

When his best friend didn’t invite him to the party, people thought Bala would be bent out of shape. But, he wasn’t.

As for the exact origin of this expression, nobody is really sure.

What is the correct response to the question, ‘How are you?’ Is it ‘I’m doing well’ or ‘I’m doing good’? (M. Aditi, Bengaluru)

A lot of people generally say, ‘I’m fine, thank you’ or just ‘Fine, thank you’. In the past, it was common to hear people reply ‘I’m doing well’, but never ‘I’m doing good’. The reply ‘I’m doing good’ was considered ungrammatical because in this sentence ‘good’ is being used as an adverb — according to the rules of grammar, ‘good’ can be used as an adjective (good boy/book), but not as an adverb (ran good/wrote good). In such sentences, ‘well’ was to be preferred over ‘good’ because it could be used an adverb. ‘He ran well in the race’ and ‘He wrote well in the exam’. This was the standard explanation as to why ‘I’m doing good’ was unacceptable as a reply. In the past few decades, however, ‘I’m doing good’ is frequently heard as the standard response to ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘How are you?’ — especially, in American English in informal contexts. While those that believe that grammar rules must be followed shudder whenever they hear ‘I’m doing good’, there is nothing they can do about it. It has become a legitimate reply.

How is the word ‘cupboard’ pronounced? (Mukesh Khanna, Pune)

The first syllable is pronounced like the word ‘cub’, and the following ‘oar’ sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The word is pronounced ‘KUB-ed’ with the stress on the first syllable. The ‘p’ and ‘b’ in the spelling are reduced to single sound — ‘b’. We all know what a cupboard is. It is a piece of furniture with shelves which we use to store things — clothes, utensils, grocery, etc. Nowadays, of course, we have inbuilt cupboards and closets. When it was first used, the term ‘cupboard’ referred to a ‘board’ or a small side table on which one placed the cups, plates and cutlery. With the passage of time, the word took on a wider meaning.

You are not angry with people when you laugh at them. Humour teaches tolerance.

-Somerset Maugham

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 3:56:10 am |