Archive for February 3rd, 2011

February 3, 2011

Turn on a dime

Another phrase involving money, or more specifically a dime, a 10 cent coin, the smallest coin in the US.  The expression is “to turn on a dime”.

Something that turns on an dime changes direction very quickly, more or less instantaneously.  The origin of the expression goes back to to high performance cars, airplanes, boats.  The ability to turn around on the smallest of coins implies that you can turn very quickly in a very small space.  Turning on a dime does not imply change for better or worse, just quick change.

Here are two examples:

“We are all hoping the economy will improve quickly but it is not likely it will turn on a dime.”

And in a more literal sense: “I love this little car.  It can turn on a dime.”

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February 3, 2011

Another German loan word

Here is one of my favorite German loan words: “zeitgeist”.  It is in so many ways a typical German word starting with the fact that it is a composite noun to it’s somewhat abstract, philosophical meaning.

Zeitgeist of the 60s, pic: people.howstuffworks.com

Zeitgeist means “the spirit of the times” or “the spirit of the age”.  Wiki adds: “Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.

Now, that’s a mouthful so here are some examples where the word is used in a sentence – not sure it makes the meaning any clearer, though.

“The zeitgeist of the Victorian era  is generally  seen as being prudish and increasingly industrial.”

“The zeitgeist of the 60s was one of protest.

In English the adjective “zeitgeisty” is also used.  Funnily enough, there is no German equivalent for zeitgeisty – this is a recent English addition.