Know your English Education

Downshift to a stress-free life

What is the difference between ‘disinfectant’ and ‘antiseptic’? (VS Shalini, Chennai)

Many people use the two terms interchangeably because both are used to kill micro-organisms and reduce the spread of any form of infection. Neither is meant to be ingested or swallowed. President Donald Trump created quite a commotion last month, when during a press conference, he suggested that perhaps one way of defeating the corona virus was to inject ourselves with a disinfectant. The reason that people get confused and use the two terms interchangeably is because another name for an antiseptic is ‘skin disinfectant’. A disinfectant is normally what we rub on or spread on non-living things — for example, the chemicals we use when cleaning floors, tables, sinks, etc. Nowadays, it has become common practice to use a disinfectant when we mop the floor. In the old days, cow dung was used as a disinfectant.

An antiseptic, on the other hand, is mostly applied on living organisms. The spirit or alcohol that a doctor rubs on our arm before giving an injection is an example of an antiseptic. It is meant to kill the bacteria and microorganisms in that area. The after-shave lotion that men put on after their morning shave is another example of an antiseptic.

What is the meaning of ‘downshift’ in the following sentence? The Government is encouraging people over 55 to downshift. (Harish Kumar, Madurai)

Nowadays, we find that many people in the software industry quit their job in their mid 40s and move on to do something totally different. Though the job is well paying, they are sick and tired of the constant pressure they have to deal with, and want to do something more meaningful — something that gives them a little more satisfaction. The new job that they take up may not be as important or as well paying, but it gives them the time to slow down and do the kinds of things they want to. So, when you ‘downshift’, you are willingly giving up your high-paying job and taking up something less lucrative — but far less stressful, one that gives you the free time to do what you want to. A person who sacrifices his salary and position for a better quality of life is called a ‘downshifter’. This use of the word ‘downshift’ is mostly found in British English. The Americans, on the other hand, use the word to mean to put the car in a lower gear, thus, slowing it down.

Several of my colleagues are seriously considering downshifting.

The downshifters get together at the club every Sunday.


Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of a lack of wisdom. Terry Pratchett

The writer retired as Professor from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 18, 2021 10:28:19 AM |

Next Story