Category: Common English mistakes

Through the eye of the needle: biblical idioms

The English language is so rich and diverse that one lifetime is just not enough to master all of it.

But I have discovered that as much as English owes many of its idioms to the writings of the great Shakespeare, the bible has made a significant contribution of its own.

I hasten to add at this point, that researching Shakespearean idiomatic origins is a whole lot easier than that of biblical references.

Less is more in the writing discipline

Make your verbs work
Verbs must do the hard work in a sentence

I am reading a book in which the author has swamped the pages with an oversupply of adjectives.

Of course, this is just my opinion, but I find the need to qualify every verb and every noun in the sentence an overreach and, worst of all, a punishment to the text. And the reader.

How do you like them apples?

The apple: On first appearance, there’s nothing special about it at all.

It’s typically green or red on the outside with a crunchy white interior (if it’s a quality mid-season apple).

This seemingly common or garden apple has been installed with the most amazing qualities, least of all for its medicinal properties although ‘an apple a day, keeps the doctor away’ was embedded in my consciousness from a very early age. And it has remained the basis of my healthy eating plan throughout my life.

Say it all in the essay

In my school days, I loved writing essays and sometimes the result was so impressive that my teachers rewarded me with the highest marks in the class.

Such was the honour that I was called upon to read my composition to my lesser scoring classmates.

Why is the world your oyster?

An erudite scholar presented a speech in which he used the phrase, “the world is your oyster”.

At first it hit me as the millionth use of a tried and tested and tired cliché, and I silently cringed. Later, on deeper thinking, I wondered why indeed the world was my oyster, or anyone else’s and why it’s such a popular idiomatic expression.

Can writers be replaced by Artificial Intelligence?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Stand aside fellow writer as a machine does your work.

This is highly possible, and as early as 2018, if writings on the power and glory of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is anything to go by.

How big is your appetite for words?

Browsing through the Huffington Post, I happened upon a blog about strange and wonderful words.

When I reached the end of the text, I realised with horror that I have been known to groke on several occasions.

Conniption over court appearance: A modern day hissy fit

Conniption

Last month I received a self-sealing letter in the post. These are usually some or other form of traffic infringement notice. Indeed, it was. But it was red. This was the first time in my life that I had received a fine in red. Reading further, I found the fine showed a photograph of a car that is not mine, for a date on which I was not available, in a city I haven’t visited for more than 10 years. “No admission of guilt”, the document warned.

Thinking I would have to show up in court to defend these outrageous allegations, I had a conniption. Or a conniption fit, as is sometimes incorrectly stated.

Why is surgery an operation?

Why is surgery an operation?

When asking this question, it brings to mind a scenario in a sitcom. For example, in The Nanny, Fran could be devastated when she learns that Mr Sheffield has to go for surgery. “Oh, an operation,” she might exclaim, explaining to herself that her boss will be going under the knife.

In modern language, surgery and operation are used interchangeable but not in equal measure.

Very, very, completely: Keep language crisp and clean

I was alerted to my default descriptive style about two weeks ago. It happened when I ran my own document through spell check prior to a more serious edit and it stopped me at ‘really, really’.

I realised these words were redundant and creating unnecessary hyperbole.