Education Plus

Know your English: October 31, 2016

What is the meaning of ‘Supreme Court reads the riot act to BCCI’? (KV Karthika, Nellore)

The expression ‘read the riot act’ is mostly used in British English to mean to reprimand someone; you speak angrily to a person about the wrong he has done, and warn him of consequences. Nowadays, the expression is mostly used to mean to criticise or scold a person quite severely. It is used to show disapproval. In the context of the sentence that you have given, it means that the Supreme Court gave BCCI a stern warning — and perhaps threatened its members of dire consequences if they did not carry out the necessary changes they had been asked to.

The teacher read the riot act to the three students who walked in late.

Mother read me the riot act when she caught me smoking.

In the early decades of the 18th century, the political situation in Britain was rather unstable — people were very angry and unhappy with King George I. To ensure that people did not take matters into their own hands and create chaos, the Riot Act was passed in Parliament in 1714. According to this Act, not more than a dozen people could assemble in public places. If more people came together, then the local law enforcement official ensured the crowd dispersed. He achieved this by reading aloud the Riot Act. If the people chose to ignore the warning, they were put in jail.

What is the difference between ‘frown’ and ‘scowl’? (J Badri, Chennai)

The ‘sc’ in ‘scowl’ sounds like the ‘sk’ in ‘skin’ and ‘skit’, while the following ‘owl’ is pronounced like the word ‘owl’. Both words can be used as a noun and a verb, and they both refer to the expression on someone’s face. When you ‘frown’ or ‘scowl’, you knit or bring your eyebrows together; this results in lines appearing on the forehead. The word ‘frown’ has several different meanings. One can frown because he disapproves of someone or something — you can frown at someone in anger. People also frown when they do not understand or are puzzled by something that someone has said. Very often, people frown when they are focussing or concentrating on the task at hand. ‘Scowl’ is mostly used to indicate one’s displeasure. The anger displayed or shown in this case is much more intense than a frown. According to experts on usage, “a scowl is a type of a frown, but not all frowns are scowls”.

Amit walked out of the room with a scowl on his face.

The students scowled at the Vice-Chancellor defiantly.

When she saw what I was wearing, Usha gave me a disapproving frown.

Very few people actually frown upon gossip.

Is it okay to say ‘With regards to your query...’? (M Jayanthi, Coimbatore)

No, it is not. According to standard dictionaries, it is always ‘with regard to’ and ‘in regard to’; not ‘regards to’. But the expression ‘with regards to’ is becoming common even among native speakers of English - especially, in informal contexts.

With regard to the matter raised at the last meeting, we are still looking into it.

* * *

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. — George Eliot

Email: upendrankye@gmail.com

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 12:05:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/Know-your-English-October-31-2016/article16085339.ece

Next Story