Education

What is your kryptonite?

What is the meaning of the sentence ‘She is my kryptonite’? (CV Ravichandran, Kochi)

First, let us deal with the pronunciation of ‘kryptonite’. The first syllable rhymes with ‘trip’ and ‘grip’, and the final ‘nite’ is pronounced like the word ‘night’. The vowel in the second syllable is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The word is pronounced ‘KRIP-te-night’ with the stress on the first syllable.

People who have read the comic books or watched the movies featuring the exploits of Superman know that he was born on Krypton. When the planet exploded, kryptonite or the radioactive material from it, was hurled into space. Superman’s enemies discovered that kryptonite was the only thing that could be used to either hurt or kill him. In everyday contexts, the word ‘kryptonite’ is used to refer to someone’s weakness or something that can be used to hurt someone who is strong. It has more or less the same meaning as ‘Achilles heel’.

Many tennis buffs believe that Nadal is Federer’s kryptonite.

When I was in school, Hindi was my kryptonite.

What is the difference between ‘tease’ and ‘taunt’? (Amit Kumar, Nellore)

When you ‘taunt’ someone, you say nasty or cruel things to an individual to upset or annoy him. The word has a negative connotation; the aim, in this case, is to hurt the feelings of the person intentionally. You do not laugh with him, but at him. ‘Tease’, on the other hand, suggests you are having fun. When you ‘tease’ someone, the aim is not always to hurt someone’s feelings. We often tease people that we are genuinely fond of. Husbands and wives, for example, enjoy teasing each other. Like ‘taunt’, ‘tease’ can also be used to mean to provoke or irritate someone intentionally.

The children teased their father about his absentmindedness.

The players always taunted Aravind whenever he walked out to bat.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘blue blood’? (K Mohanraj, Chennai)

When you say ‘Tiger Pataudi had blue blood running in his veins’, what you mean is that he was a person of noble birth; he came from a royal family.

Our city’s blue bloods live in this area.

The expression ‘blue blood’ is a translation of the Spanish ‘sangre azul’. For well over seven centuries (700 -1400), the Moors — people from the nomadic tribes in North Africa — ruled over much of Spain. The invaders were dark complexioned and during the seven centuries they ruled, interracial marriages were common. The aristocrats who lived in Castile, however, refused to have anything to do with the Moors; they did not allow their children to marry one. As a result, people in this area remained fair complexioned. Soon, they began to distinguish themselves from their rulers and fellow aristocrats by calling themselves “sangre azul”. What they meant by this was that because of their very fair complexion, the veins in their arms looked blue. It was as if blue blood was running through their veins.

We read about people accidentally killing themselves while taking a selfie. Is there a word for this? (Chalapthi Rao, Hyderabaad)

Some people refer to it as ‘selficide’. It is a combination of ‘selfie’ and ‘suicide’. The word has not been listed in any standard dictionary as yet.

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I notice that most men who tease me about my hair, don’t have any. — Holland Taylor

The author teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. upendrankye@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 10:14:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/know-your-english/article18303165.ece

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