Time to play with a full deck

What is the difference between ‘postpone’ and ‘adjourn’? (L. Sethuraman, Chennai)

Most of us are familiar with the word ‘postpone’; it is the more common of the two. When you ‘postpone’ doing something, you delay doing it. You put it off to another day or another time. A meeting scheduled to be held on Monday may be postponed to Thursday. Postponing a meeting usually happens before the meeting actually takes place. It could be a few hours or a few days before the scheduled time. The word ‘adjourn’ brings to mind the Parliament sessions in our country. When you ‘adjourn’ a meeting, you are bringing it to a close temporarily; you are making it clear to everyone that the meeting will resume at a later time or on a later date. Unlike in the case of ‘postpone’, the meeting has already begun; it is not possible to adjourn something before it has begun. As for the pronunciation of ‘adjourn’, the first vowel sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘China’, and the following ‘dj’ sounds like the ‘j’ in ‘jam’, ‘juice’ and ‘jump’. The final ‘ourn’ rhymes with the ‘urn’ in ‘burn’, ‘turn’ and ‘churn’. This rather formal word is pronounced ‘e-JURN’ with the stress on the second syllable. It comes from the French phrase ‘a journ’ meaning ‘to another day’.

The wedding had to be postponed because of the groom’s serious illness.

With the members becoming restless, the CEO decided to adjourn the meeting.

How is the word ‘elite’ pronounced? (M. Jayaraju, Hyderabad)

The first ‘e’ sounds like the ‘i’ in ‘bit’, ‘pit’ and ‘kit’, and the following ‘lite’ rhymes with ‘beat’, ‘seat’ and ‘meat’. The word, which can be used both as an adjective and a noun, is pronounced ‘i-LEET’ with the stress on the second syllable. According to the Dictionary of Etymology, it comes from the Old French ‘eslite’ meaning ‘pick out, choose’. When you refer to a group of people as belonging to the elite, what you are suggesting is that they are powerful and influential — it could be because of money power or their ability to excel at something thanks to the special skill set they have. These individuals belong to the privileged class — the cream of society.

Kohli, Federer and Ronaldo are elite athletes.

According to this report, the wealthy elite is unhappy with the PM.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘not playing with a full deck’? (K. Nandini, Mysuru)

The expression is mostly used to show disapproval in American English, and its use is limited to informal contexts. When you say that someone is ‘not playing with a full deck’, what you are suggesting is that the person is not bright; he is, in fact, rather dull or stupid. The expression can also suggest that the person in question is not mentally sound — in everyday language, he is ‘crazy’. The deck in the expression refers to a deck of playing cards. The person is being compared to a deck that does not contain the 52 cards that are required to play any game — something is missing in both the person and the pack of cards.

I don’t wish to work with Pankaj. I don’t think he’s playing with a full deck.

The way she behaved at the party makes me suspect that she’s not playing with a full deck.


Insanity doesn’t run in my family — it gallops. Cary Grant

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

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Printable version | May 22, 2020 9:28:40 AM |

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