Know Your English

Know your English — What is the meaning of ‘luke’ in ‘lukewarm’?

What is the meaning of ‘luke’ in ‘lukewarm’?

(R. Keshav, Bangalore)

The word is normally used to talk about the temperature of something. For example, when you say that the coffee was lukewarm, you are suggesting that it was tepid — it was moderately warm. The brew wasn’t as hot as you would have liked it to be. ‘Lukewarm’ is also used when talking about someone’s attitude or response to something. When you tell a joke and you get a ‘lukewarm response’, it means that your audience did not really appreciate your joke; the response wasn’t as enthusiastic as you had hoped it would be.

*My father likes his sambar piping hot, not lukewarm.

*The ageing star received a lukewarm reception at the premiere.

I understand that the word ‘luke’ comes from the Middle English ‘leuk’, which in turn was borrowed from the Dutch ‘leuk’ meaning ‘tepid’ or ‘weak’. Since tepid means ‘barely warm’ there was no reason to add ‘warm’ to ‘luke’ in ‘lukewarm’!

Which is correct: ‘by the by’ or ‘by the bye’?

(Jagdeep, Kanpur)

Both are correct; according to dictionaries ‘bye’ is just an alternative spelling of ‘by’. In writing, ‘by the by’ is much more frequently used today than ‘by the bye’. In terms of meaning, there is no difference between the two expressions; they both mean the same as ‘by the way’. All three expressions are used as a connector to mean ‘incidentally’.

*By the by (e)/way, how is your new boss?

People tend to use ‘by the way’ much more frequently than ‘by the by (e)’.

How is the word ‘melange’ pronounced?

(J Aravind, Vellore)

The first syllable of this rather formal word sounds like the word ‘may’. The following ‘a’ is like the ‘o’ in ‘hot’, ‘pot’ and ‘got’, and the final ‘ge’ is like the ‘s’ is ‘treasure’ and ‘measure’. The stress is on the first syllable; the ‘e’ in this syllable usually has an accent mark on it. A melange is a medley or a mixture of different things.

*The buffet consisted of a melange of Chinese and Italian dishes.

*At the carnival, there was a melange of young and old people enjoying themselves.

What is the difference between ‘garbage’ and ‘trash’?

(N Hemavathi, Chennai)

Most of us would be tempted to say that there is no difference between these two words frequently used in American English. In everyday conversation, we tend to use the two interchangeably to refer to the rubbish that we discard every day. Dictionaries, however, maintain that there is a difference between these two words. ‘Garbage’ is mostly limited to the waste food we discard while working in the kitchen — vegetable peels, stale bread, leftovers, etc. ‘Trash’, on the other hand, refers to the other unwanted things we throw away: paper, old notebooks, rubber bands, empty matchbox, cigarette butts, etc. Unlike the word ‘garbage’, ‘trash’ can be used as a verb as well. In informal contexts, it can be used to mean ‘to criticise’.

*After seeing the movie, most of my friends trashed it.

The word can also be used to mean ‘to damage or destroy’.

*The angry students trashed the Registrar’s office.


“In California they don’t throw their garbage away — they make it into TV shows.”Woody Allen

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 6:54:26 AM |

Next Story