Archive for November 23rd, 2010

November 23, 2010

Want a piece of my mind?

I am going to give this rascal a piece of my mind! pic:

To give somebody a piece of one’s mind has nothing to do with mind-melts and other sci-fi ideas.  It also doesn’t mean to share deep and profound thoughts with somebody – although that would sort of make sense.

It means actually pretty much the contrary, namely to speak angrily to someone because they have done something wrong.  It implies that one is fairly angry and upset with the wrongdoer and plans on telling him or her in no uncertain terms exactly how one feels.

The expression betrays the speakers own state of mind – rather strong anger, upset, or displeasure – so it shouldn’t be used lightly.  If you confront  somebody after promising to give him/her a piece of my mind and then say “I really feel a little sad about your being so unpleasant to me” then you look weak, like you didn’t dare to really say what was on your mind and backed down.

“Giving somebody a piece of one’s mind” is most often used by parents when their children misbehave, bosses for completely incapable staff or between peers.  If you give your boss a piece of your mind better update your resume before you do so.

November 23, 2010

Word confusion, part 5

Another word pair that make life difficult but can be explained readily – discreet and discrete.

A shocking secret, please handle it discreetly, pic:

Discreet means judicious in conduct or speech, careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress esp. with regard to keeping a secret or a delicate fact.


“He is a very discreet person, he would never give away your secret.” or “Thank you very much for handling that delicate matter so discreetly, it could have caused me a lot of embarrassment if this had come out.”

Discrete is more of a technical term meaning distinct, separate, apart or detached from others.  Here are a couple of examples:

“There are several discrete steps that are required to complete this task.” and “There are several discrete buildings making up the campus of the university. ”

Both terms are really quite different in meaning but confusingly similar when it comes to spelling and pronunciation, in fact the pronunciation is identical for all practical purposes so in spoken English you will have to tell from the context which of the two words apply – which should be fairly straight forward, now that you are aware of the meaning of this confusing pair.