Angela’s ABCs – clichés and idioms by Angela Caldin

At the weekend, I was telling anybody who would listen that I’d been spending time with someone who spoke using a lot of clichés. To illustrate my point, I gave an example, ‘We mustn’t upset the apple cart.’ My younger daughter, who, surprisingly, had been listening, said, ‘That’s not a cliché, it’s an idiom.’ I was intrigued. She knows about these things because she’s a primary school teacher and she teaches her Year 4s all about these figures of speech: metaphor, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia, idiom and cliché. Even so, I still felt… Read More

The elusive cappuccino by Angela Caldin

When I was a child in the 1950s, if I wasn’t playing with the many shiny and exotic buttons in my mother’s button box, I would probably be reading from a book of poetry for children written by A A Milne, the creator of Christopher Robin, entitled When We Were Very Young. It was first published in 1924, and was illustrated by E H Shepard. It didn’t take long for it to become a best seller. Butter or marmalade One of my favourite poems was The King’s Breakfast, an engaging story of… Read More

What’s in a name? By Angela Caldin

There’s a New Scientist journalist called John Hoyland who invented the term ‘nominative determinism’ for those strange and interesting cases of people who seem drawn to their chosen profession because of their name. He became interested in the subject after hearing of a scientific paper by authors JW Splatt and D Weedon on the topic of incontinence, on the same day as seeing a book on the Arctic written by Daniel Snowman. Some obvious examples include Judge Judge and Doctor Nurse, as well as the music teacher called Miss Fiddle who became… Read More

The many meanings of ‘chuck’ by Angela Caldin

Sometimes I’m struck by the richness of the English language, by how one word can have so many different meanings, arriving as it does by a variety of linguistic routes over the years across Europe and beyond. One such word is chuck which I discover has numerous meanings both as a noun and as a verb. Chuck as a verb means to throw something carelessly or casually: The family was frightened when someone chucked a brick through their window. Some people can make a living out of stuff other people chuck away…. Read More

In the slimelight by Angela Caldin

When I was a child in the 1950s, we had various ways of passing the acres of unoccupied time, including cat’s cradle, jacks, yo-yos, marbles, plasticine and something involving an empty cotton reel, four nails and some wool which was called French knitting. This produced a long thin snake of woven wool which you could spiral round into little mats or even a hat if you went on long enough. Things were much less sophisticated in those far off days. Progress or not? French knitting is not unlike the recent craze of… Read More