Archive for January 15th, 2011

January 15, 2011

Confusing words: spendthrift

This one I used wrongly for the longest time and it still gives me pause every time I use it (which isn’t very often, because I still am afraid I will get it wrong: spendthrift.

Marie Antoinette - the archetypical spendthrift, pic:

When I first heard the word I thought: easy – spend like in spending money, thrifty as in being careful about how much you spend on what – so a spendthrift person is someone who spends their money wisely and carefully.

Wrong!  A spendthrift is the exact opposite – a person who spends money extravagantly, recklessly and wastefully.   Or, to use another not so common word spendthrift means profligate.  Go figure!

I didn’t find any very convincing explanations for why this word means to opposite of what it should mean.  Wiki might have done it best by saying that a spendthrift is a person who is able to recklessly spend money that was acquired by the thrift of others.

I guess, this is just one of those words one has to memorize and not rely on intuition.



January 15, 2011

The fox in the henhouse

“Like a fox guarding the henhouse” or “Don’t let the fox guard the henhouse” is an idiom that is used to point out to somebody that his/her action invite disaster.

Hungry fox looking for a henhouse, pic: © Allegretto |

If you assign somebody a duty and doing so put that person into a position where he or she then can exploit the situation for his own benefit then you let the fox guard the henhouse.  What is more: not only can that person exploit the situation, he/she likely will – like the fox who can’t help himself looking at all those yummy chickens.

Here is an example of a fox-guarding-the-henhouse situation:

“You put your spendthrift brother in charge of managing your inheritance and gave him power of attorney for your account?  That is letting the fox guard the henhouse!”

Here is an example of a headline using the expression: “Did Obama’s Monsanto Choice Put the Fox in Charge of the Hen-House”

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