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What is the meaning and origin of ‘tip one’s hands’?

What is the meaning and origin of ‘tip one’s hands’? (M Revathi, Mangalore)

It is not ‘tip one’s hands’ but ‘tip one’s hand’. This idiom has been part of the English language for several hundred years, and it is mostly used in informal contexts to mean to reveal one’s secret. When you tip your hand, you unintentionally reveal what you are planning to do; you blurt out your secret.

Vijay is being extra cautious. He hasn’t tipped his hand about who he is going to vote for.

Let’s continue to keep the media guessing. Let’s not tip our hand.

The expression comes from the world of cards. When you play cards, you try to ensure that the other players do not see what cards you are holding. If you accidentally tip your hand, you let everyone know what you have — your secret is out.

Is it okay to say ‘He is having a cell phone?’ (Akash, Tuticorin)

Although sentences like ‘I’m having a cell phone’, ‘I’m having a car’ and ‘I’m having two beautiful children’ are frequently heard in our country, native speakers of English would consider them to be unacceptable. The word ‘having’ is not usually used to indicate possession — you do not use ‘having’ to mean that you own something. You normally say ‘I have a car’ and not ‘I’m having a car’. You can, however, use ‘having’ when you are talking about a medical condition. For example, you can say, ‘I think he’s having a heart attack’.

She has a husband who supports her in everything she does.

How is the word ‘chauvinism’ pronounced? (R Dilip, Chennai)

The ‘chau’ is pronounced like the word ‘show’. The ‘i’ is pronounced like the ‘i’ in ‘bit’, ‘sit’ and ‘knit’, and the ‘s’ sounds like the ‘z’ in ‘zoo’, ‘zero’ and ‘zing’. The word is pronounced ‘SHOW-vi-ni-zem’ with the stress on the first syllable. Some people drop the vowel in the second and fourth syllables and pronounce the word ‘SHOV-ni-zm’. A chauvinist is someone who blindly believes that his country and the people in it are the best in the world. He will not be willing to listen to arguments or acknowledge facts that go against his belief; he will turn a blind eye to them. When you refer to man as being a chauvinist, what you are suggesting is that the individual very strongly believes that men are superior to women. The word has a negative connotation.

Why Vani married a male chauvinist pig like Hemant is beyond me.

Their chauvinism prevents them from seeing that their country is at fault.

Nicolas Chavin was an extremely patriotic soldier in Napoleon’s army.

What is the difference between ‘prophecy’ and ‘prophesy’? (Anjali, Delhi)

The first is a noun and the second is a verb. There are a few pairs like this in English: advice (noun), advise (verb); practice (noun), practise (verb); device (noun), devise (verb), etc. Prophecy means having the ability to predict what is likely to happen in the future.

He had prophesied that India would win the World Cup.

According to the prophecy, you will die a horrible death.

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Men are like a deck of cards. You may find the occasional king, but most are jacks. — Laura Swenson

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