You should use shank’s mare to go to the gym from now on

My neighbour was admitted in the hospital for a week, after which he was removed to hospice care

January 22, 2023 10:57 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:08 am IST

Know your English

Know your English | Photo Credit: Getty Images

What is the meaning and origin of the idiom ‘shank’s mare’? (Amit Tanwar, Delhi)

This is a relatively old expression, and it is seldom heard nowadays. Some dictionaries list it as ‘shanks’s mare’. According to scholars, ‘shank’s mare’ is a translation of the Scottish ‘shank’s naig’. ‘Mare’, which rhymes with ‘share’, ‘dare’ and ‘ware’, is a female horse. The word ‘shank’ does not refer to a person; in the context of the idiom, it refers to the portion of the leg between the knee and the ankle. When you say that you will be using ‘shank’s mare’ to get from one place to another, what you mean is that you are going to be using your legs — not the mare’s shank, but yours! In other words, you are going to be walking to your destination. It is also possible to say, ‘shank’s pony’. We have similar slang expressions in our own languages. For example, the Tamil equivalent of ‘shank’s mare’ would be ‘Nataraja service’ — which I understand is a corruption of ‘nada da raja’!

Whenever I have to go to the club, I prefer to use shank’s mare.

You need to lose weight. Stop using your motorcycle, and get into the habit of using shank’s pony.

What is the difference between ‘hospital’ and ‘hospice’? (T. Jaganathan, Hyderabad)

We all know what a hospital is. It is a place that we go to when we are unwell. We may spend a few hours there or it could be a few days — the duration depends upon the seriousness of the illness or the injury. The important thing, however, is that most patients who go to a hospital hope to come back alive — and many of them actually do. Being admitted to a hospital is not always a death sentence. The fact that we may spend some time there should not come as a surprise, for the word ‘hospital’ comes from the Latin ‘hospitale’ meaning ‘guest house’. In the past, it referred to the shelter provided by churches and monasteries to weary travellers and pilgrims. With the passage of time, the word took on the meaning that we are familiar with today.

A ‘hospice’ is very different from a hospital; only the terminally ill are usually admitted to one. In other words, those who are seriously ill and have no chance of recovery are admitted to one. Someone who is admitted to a hospice knows that he will be dying there; he will not be returning home. The function of the medical staff in a hospice is not to cure a patient of his illness, but to keep him as comfortable as possible till his death. The word ‘hospice’ consists of two syllables. The first (hos) rhymes with the words ‘boss’, ‘loss’ and ‘toss’, while the second (pis) rhymes with ‘miss’, ‘kiss’ and ‘hiss’. The word is pronounced ‘HOS-pis’ with the stress on the first syllable.

You need to be in a hospice and not a hospital.

Anu makes it a point to visit the patients in the local hospice at least twice a week.

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