Know your English Education

Credible or credulous?


What is the meaning of ‘nerd’? (SK Rajendran, Madurai)

The word, which is mostly used to show disapproval, rhymes with ‘herd’, ‘bird’ and ‘curd’. A ‘nerd’ is someone who is socially very awkward; he doesn’t know how to behave when he is in the company of others. He says or does the wrong thing. He is extremely intelligent, but the things he can talk about are the limited topics that he is passionate about; he finds it difficult to make polite conversation. Physically, he is not appealing. The four male characters in the television series, ‘Big Bang Theory’, are classic examples of nerds. The well-known American writer of children’s books, Dr. Seuss, coined the word.

Like most nerds, Devi spends most of her time in the library.

They tell me that Nathan is a computer nerd.

What is the meaning of ‘tiger by the tail’? (R Janet, Hyderabad)

How safe would you feel if you held a ferocious tiger by its tail? Not very, I am sure. While you are holding on to the tail, you are constantly worried about the teeth at the other end. The expression ‘have a tiger by the tail’ is frequently used in everyday contexts to suggest that you have taken on a task which you are not truly prepared for — you have inadvertently bitten off more than you can chew. The situation you are in or the person you are dealing with is dangerous. You have too big a problem to cope with, and you have no clue how to wriggle out of it.

I was keen on becoming the team leader. Now, six months later, I feel like I have a tiger by the tail.

What is the difference between ‘credulous’ and ‘credible’? (K Jayalakshmi, Erode)

Although both words come from the Latin word ‘credere’ meaning ‘to believe or trust’, they have vastly different meanings. When you say that someone’s story is ‘credible’, what you are suggesting is that it sounds believable. When you say that someone made a ‘credible’ witness, you are suggesting that he came across as someone ‘worthy of trust’. ‘Credulous’, on the other hand, has a negative connotation. When you refer to someone as being ‘credulous’, what you are suggesting is that he/she is willing to believe whatever the other person tells him/her. He/she ‘trusts’ others blindly; he/she is naive or gullible.

Raju’s account of how the accident happened didn’t sound credible at all.

Das doesn’t have a job. He makes ends meet by duping credulous tourists.


Be nice to nerds. Chances are, you’ll end up working for one. Bill Gates

The writer teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 2:02:20 PM |

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