Know your English Education

Lipstick on a pig

Is it okay to use the word ‘gorgeous’ to describe a man? (Monju Choudhury, Hyderabad)

First, let us deal with the pronunciation of this bisyllabic word. The first syllable ‘gor’ rhymes with ‘core’, ‘four’ and ‘pore’, and the following ‘g’ sounds like the ‘j’ in ‘jam’ and ‘juice’. The ‘eou’ sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The word is pronounced ‘GOR-jes’ with the stress on the first syllable. It means very beautiful or attractive. Native speakers of English use it to describe both sexes - not just women.

Tom beamed when Puja told him he looked gorgeous in kurtha pyjama.

I caught a glimpse of Satish’s gorgeous sister at the temple.

What is the meaning of ‘put lipstick on a pig’? (Franics, Changanasserry)

If you were to apply a little bit of lipstick on a pig, would it alter the appearance of the animal? Would people still be able to recognise it for what it is or will they mistake it for something else? Chances are, most people will recognise it for what it is — a pig! The American expression, ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, is mostly used in informal contexts to suggest that you are making superficial changes to make something more appealing; you are merely providing a temporary or a band-aid solution to a problem. Not many people are likely to be fooled by this.

If we want people to eat here, we need hire better chefs. Without doing that, improving the decor will be like putting lipstick on a pig.

Is it okay to say, ‘This flat is belonging to my father-in-law’? (Suresh Kumar, Warangal)

Such sentences are very common in India. Native speakers of English do not use the verb ‘belong’ in the continuous tense to indicate possession. For example, they would not say, ‘This car is belonging to me’. Instead, they would say, ‘This car belongs to me’.

The flat opposite ours belongs to my father-in-law.

What is the meaning of ‘Procrustean’? (K Jyothi, Meerut)

The first vowel can be pronounced like the ‘o’ in ‘go’ and ‘so’ or like the ‘a’ in ‘china’; the following syllable sounds like the word ‘crust’. The word is pronounced ‘pre/o-CRUST-i-en’ with the stress on the second syllable. It comes from the Greek ‘Prokroustes’ meaning ‘one who stretches’. According to one story, Procrustes was a robber who lived in ancient Greece. Whenever a weary traveller sought shelter for the night, the robber readily obliged, and even provided the guest a special bed to sleep on. He then proceeded to tie the unfortunate traveller to the bed and ensured that the struggling individual fit the length of the cot perfectly. Victims who were found to be too tall for the bed had their limbs amputated, and those who were found to be short had their limbs stretched. Therefore, when you refer to any system as being ‘Procrustean’ in nature, what you are suggesting is that it is one that aims at bringing uniformity by any means — including very violent ones! Just as the unfortunate traveller had to fit the size of Procrustes’ bed, a ‘Procrustean system’, be it educational or political, does not allow or permit any scope for individual differences.

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To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep. — Joan Klemper

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

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Printable version | Sep 15, 2021 7:22:27 PM |

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