Know your English Education

Keep the count

“Come on in! Haven’t seen you in a while. Have you been busy?”

“Extremely! Haven’t you been reading the forwards I’ve been sending you all week?”

“Sorry, no! I generally make it a point not to waste my time reading a forward.”

“We’re staging a protest in front of the CM’s office on Friday. We’d like you to be there. Everyone believes it’s going to be a huge success.”

“The success or failure of the protest is going to depend on how many boots you manage to have on the ground. You’ll need all the…”

“Boots on the ground? What are you talking about?”

“The expression was first used to refer to the soldiers who actually participated in a military campaign or operation.”

“In other words, you’re talking about the soldiers who actually fought.”

“That’s right! We’re not talking about the Navy personnel at sea or the Air Force pilots. We’re talking about those men and women who were present in the war zone and actively participated in the fighting. The Defence Minister said that, in order to put an end to the recent skirmishes along the border, we require more boots on the ground.”

Physically present

“How about this example? According to our boots on the ground, 12 militants were shot dead last night while attempting to cross the border.”

“Sounds good! America no longer wants to have boots on the ground in Afghanistan.”

“So, when you said that we should have boots on the ground for the protest, were you suggesting that we should ask soldiers to join us?”

“Not at all. The expression ‘boots on the ground’ is now being used in everyday contexts as well. All the volunteers, for example, who help political parties during the time of election can be referred to as boots on the ground. These could be people who go door to door to request everyone to vote for their candidate or party.”

“Or they could be the people who call you up and ask for your vote.”

“That’s right. If you want your organisation to function efficiently, you need fewer boots on the ground.”

“Only a small team is involved in planning the protest. But the good news is we have received a positive response to all our messages sent via email and WhatsApp. I think we’ll have quite a few boots on the ground on Friday.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. For all you know, many of those who have said ‘Yes’ could be mere clicktivists.”

“Clicktivists? Never heard that word before. What does it mean?”

“It’s a combination of ‘click’ and ‘activist’. A clicktivist is someone who supports political or social causes through online petitions. He is very active on the various social media. There is very little to suggest that he is committed to the various causes he claims to support.”

“In other words, he is not really an activist!”

“He is an activist, actually — an armchair activist! Never really participates in the protests that he claims to support online. But more about this word later.”

**************

“We are not retreating — we are advancing in another direction.” General Douglas MacArthur

The writer taught at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. upendrankye@gmail.com


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 5:09:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/a-column-on-idioms-phrases-vocabulary-and-more/article35247895.ece

Next Story