Start at the very beginning


What is the meaning and origin of ‘start from scratch’? (K Rajender, Gulbarga)

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” This is the opening line of the famous song ‘Do Re Mi’ from the movie The Sound of Music. It more or less sums up the meaning of the expression. When you ‘start from scratch’, you make a fresh or a new start; you create something new. If, after reading your report, your boss tells you to start from scratch, what he wants you to do is to rewrite it. He wants you to discard the first draft and start afresh. He wants something new, something better.

Our clients didn’t like any of our ideas. So we had to discard everything and start from scratch.

Geetha is not interested in running her father’s company. She wants to build her own from scratch.

According to most scholars, the expression comes from the world of sports. The word ‘scratch’ refers to the starting line of any race. In the old days, this line was scratched on the ground — a stick or stone was used to draw it.

How is the word ‘myriad’ pronounced? (TN Vijaya, Tirupathi)

The ‘y’ and ‘i’ are pronounced like the ‘i’ in ‘bit’, ‘sit’ and ‘kit’, and the ‘a’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The word is pronounced ‘MI-ri-ed- with the stress on the first syllable. It comes from the Greek ‘murias’ meaning ‘ten thousand’. Nowadays, the word is used both as an adjective and a noun to mean ‘countless’ or ‘very large number’. It is mostly limited to formal contexts.

When we moved into this house, we had myriad problems.

There are myriads of English medium schools in the city.

What is the difference between ‘adjacent’ and ‘adjoining’? (A Jadeja, Pune)

Some people use the two words interchangeably, but careful users of the language maintain a subtle distinction between them. Two houses that are adjacent to each other could be next to each other or near each other. They are side by side, but are not touching each other. ‘Adjoining’, on the other hand, suggests that the two houses are ‘joined’; they touch each other. For example, when you say Andhra Pradesh adjoins Odisha, what you are suggesting is that the two States have a common border. One usually talks about something being ‘adjacent to’ something. ‘To’ is not used in the case of ‘adjoin’.

Amrit wants the study to be adjacent to the balcony.

Ganesh lives in a huge house adjoining the famous golf course.

Is ‘agenda’ followed by a singular or plural verb? (S. Natrajan, Chennai)

There was a time when ‘agenda’, meaning ‘things to be done’, was considered to be the plural form of the Latin ‘agendum’. It was, therefore, always followed by a plural verb. But times have changed; ‘agenda’ is now considered to be a singular noun - it is always followed by a singular verb. The plural form is ‘agendas’.

The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting hasn’t been sent as yet.

The agendas are being prepared by my boss.

* * * * *

It seems like everyone’s got an agenda, and the agenda seems to be selling magazines or air time with sensational stories. — Scott Weiland

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

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:40:13 AM |

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