Mutating idioms by Angela Caldin

He did it off his own back You hear that a lot these days, so much so that it’s entered into common use. In fact, the original expression is ‘He did it off his own bat’. The bat in question is a cricket bat and the first activity that was said to be done ‘off someone’s own bat’ was to score runs. The idiom conveys the idea of someone doing something independently, without prompting. Each one worse than the next This phrase makes no sense if you pause to think about the… Read More

Similes and metaphors by Angela Caldin

What’s the difference? Both similes and metaphors are used to make writing more interesting by using striking comparisons. The difference between them comes down to two words. Similes use the words like or as to compare things: The thunder sounded like several fireworks going off at once. In contrast, metaphors directly state a comparison, as in Katy Perry’s song: Baby, you’re a firework! Here are some other examples of similes and metaphors: Life is like a box of chocolates. (Simile) My life is an open book. (Metaphor) The dancer’s hands fluttered like… Read More

Words sometimes confused: incredible and incredulous by Angela Caldin

Incredible means that something is difficult to believe whereas incredulous means that someone is unwilling or unable to believe. So something that seems unbelievable or implausible is incredible, but if you have trouble believing something, you are incredulous. The word incredible is often overused to describe something astounding. It applies to an unbelievable situation, while incredulous applies to an unbelieving person rather than a situation. They paused for a few minutes to admire the incredible sunset, fiery red and brilliant orange against the darkening sky. Maradona was an amazing footballer with fantastic… Read More

Words sometimes confused: faint and feint by Angela Caldin

Faint and feint are homophones, but they have different meanings. Faint can be a noun, a verb, and an adjective. As a noun and verb it refers to a brief loss of consciousness. As an adjective, it means lacking in strength, conviction, clarity, or brightness. She turned her ankle so badly on the uneven path that she fell down in a faint. Noun. The shock was so great when the guilty verdict was announced that he fainted. Verb. They were hanging on to the faint hope that there were still people alive… Read More

Fans and stans by Angela Caldin

I came across a word that was new to me the other day. It was at the end of a Randy Rainbow tribute to Dr Fauci which was itself a parody of the song Gee, Officer Krupke from West Side Story. Randy sings ‘Dr Fauci, you’re the one we stan.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUiDLcp_hIw I thought this was a strange verb and that maybe it was a mistake and had some letters missing. But then I saw the word again in The Guardian when the columnist Hadley Freeman wrote that she was ‘no Prince William… Read More