Know your English Education

Think on your feet

“Hey, there’s a big bump on your forehead. Did you have a dustup with someone?”

“Dustup with someone? What are you talking about?”

“The word is sometimes used in informal contexts to mean to have an argument or a fight with someone.”

“I see. Well, I didn’t have a dustup with anyone. I somehow managed to bang my head against the wall. I did have a major dustup with Sujatha about the proposed conference.”

“That’s nothing unusual. You and Sujatha are famous for your dustups. I had a dustup with the new manager, yesterday.”

“Really? You have fought with your new boss already? What was it about?”

“He was giving my friend a hard time. Making fun of him, actually. I was in no mood to sit by and let him get away with it!”

“To sit by? In other words, you felt that your boss was doing something wrong.”

“And I was in no mood to allow it to continue. I put a stop to it. I am your friend. I cannot just sit by and watch you waste all your hard-earned money on a silly car.”

“Are we just going to sit by and let the students decide what is good for the university? Tell me, why were you upset with your boss?”

“He was telling my friend that he lacked the ability to think on his feet, and...”

“Think on his feet? Does it mean having the ability to think quickly?”

“Actually, it is the ability to think quickly in tricky situations — when you are under tremendous pressure. If you have the ability to think on your feet, you will come up with new ideas and...”

“And quickly come up with possible solutions to problems.”

“Very good. It also suggests the ability to make decisions quickly. Nowadays, most companies are looking for people who can think on their feet. They are not interested in those who just follow orders — those who merely do as they are told.”

“That’s true! Last week, the gas cylinder began to leak. Luckily for us, my mother was able to think on her feet and found a way to stop it.”

“That is a good example. When I was in school, I was never able to think on my feet.”

“I never had that problem. Listen, since I have the ability to think on my feet, do you think I will be able to get a job in your company?”

“If you join my company, you will probably end up having a dustup with everyone there.”

“I’ll probably have one with you every day. Tell me, is dustup written as one word or two?”

“Some people write it as one word. Others put a hyphen between dust and up.”

“Thanks. Let’s hope you don’t have another dustup with your boss before the year ends.”


He who hesitates, meditates in a horizontal position. Ed Parker

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

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:08:13 AM |

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