Category: idioms

Black swan, a label for COVID-19

Black swan as a metaphor for unprecedented events

In much of my research for clients in the past couple of months I have often seen the term black swan. As I know swans to be white in most cases, I was intrigued by this phrase suddenly popping up all over the place.

The term black swan has come to be associated with COVID-19 and its various impacts.

On the shoulders of giants: idiom usage

Standing on shoulders of giantsAlthough English is widely spoken, it’s seldom spoken well. And nowhere is this more true than in the use of idioms. People who speak English as a first language are often tripped up by the idiomatic turn of phrase.

Letting the cat out of the bag: idiom origin

Yesterday on my walk as I approached the park I saw a massive canvas bag, filled to the brim with litter.

I hoped that it was a sign that the debris and been collected and responsibly discarded. However, this was not the case as the trail of rubbish still surrounded the park.

Kicking the can down the road: idiom usage and origin

Kick the can down the roadWhen I take my evening walk after about six blocks I reach the park and I walk around it. I can’t help noticing that the streets are strewn with litter. From KFC boxes to disposable face masks, singular socks, uneaten slap chips and a few empty Coke tins, there is just a big mess.

Veracity and voracity: use these words correctly

Is this voracity or veracity?
Voracious appetite

In the spell of untruths around COVID-19, today, we are going to have some fun exploring the difference between veracity and voracity.

These words if not heard correctly can be interchanged to disastrous effect.  The one has to do with truth, the other appetite.

Cat got your tongue? Origin of idioms

Cat got your tongue?
Cat got your tongue?

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, my mouth feels like a snake has slept in it and left its blanket behind. My mouth gets that uncomfortable woolly feeling that only a good cup of tea can resolve.

Now, just imagine that the cat’s got your tongue. It’s climbed into your mouth, and with its claws yanked out your tongue to ferry away and eat somewhere as a delicacy.

Visual Aid

This creates a lively visual picture, vivid enough to have us believe that we cannot speak if the cat has our tongue.

“Cat got your tongue?” is an idiom that dates back to the 18th century and is asked of someone who is not responding. This is particularly so, for example when a child is asked, “Why have you not done your homework,” and there is silence. The adult would say, “What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”

The most confident source on its origin comes from www.theidioms.com

Origins

“This phrase has an interesting origin. In the 18th century, the English Navy had the practice of whipping erring sailors with a whip which had multiple endings. This whip was nicknamed “the cat” because it commonly had nine endings. So, after receiving a beating, while the poor sailor lay in a corner sulking or not speaking, other sailors will walk up to him and tease, “Did the cat get your tongue?”, referring to the whip. As time went on, this became shortened to Cat got your tongue.

The expression “cat got your tongue” is always directed at someone else. You could never say in response to a question, “The cat’s got my tongue,” because by making this utterance you are making it clear that your tongue is well placed in your mouth and you are free to use it.

Take the log out of your eye and other idioms

On the horns of a dilemma: origin of idioms

From six yards to nine: how idioms originate

 

Speak better English

Tintinnabulation: Words – old and new

Pic by Aakash Sethi

Finally, I’ve found a word to rhyme with it . Constipation. Not just the physical kind. The emotional, psychological and social constipation that lockdown has forced upon us.

But back to the word. Try to say tintinnabulation when you are sober – that is prior to a binge as lockdown opens up to sales of alcohol.

How sticking to your knitting will get you stuck: idiom usage

Pivot on your toes
Pic by David Hoffman -unsplash

There was not enough wool to buy for all the crochet hours I would need to fill during the slumpy ‘non-work’ hours of lockdown. For one thing, I only bought enough for three weeks.

How years and ears distort the English language: origin of idioms

pic by Thomas Morse (unsplash)

Shakespeare was the theme of our Toastmasters meeting last week. We learnt about how much The Bard contributed to the English language – from general words and phrases to idiomatic expressions and even people’s names.

Hanged for a sheep as a lamb: idioms

My crimes are small. Stealing pens from the office, wishing ill will against my husband, and using a credit card which refuses to close no matter how many times I phone to request this. I must say I am enjoying this free money and the guilt has all but evaporated.

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