Posts tagged ‘word’

May 2, 2011

Groups of animals

a bunch of sandpipers are called a fling, pic: flickr.com

Many animals hang around in larger groups and these groups have names, different names for different animals.  Some of these names are fairly well-known others I had never heard of until I looked them up today.  Here are a few useful ones – ones you will hear in everyday life, although not on an everyday basis – and a few weird ones.  In my world everything I have never heard mentioned in conversation in my 14 years in the US are qualify as weird ones.

Probably the most well-know example is herd, it is used for cattle, deer, bisons and alike

Flock is also a common one, it is used for birds and, apparently for camels, goats and lice.

Monkeys come in troops

Beavers, bats and badgers, along with ants, chinchilla,s frogs and penguis form colonies

Fish in general come in schools (I thought this one weird when I first heard it but I got used to it).

Now for a few strange ones:

Barracudas come in batteries, sea birds in wrecks, caterpillars in armies, cheetahs form coalitions (how sensible) and cockroaches, intuitively, come in intrusions.

Forget the last few ones – you will probably never need these words.  If your brain works like mine, however, this is exactly the reason why you will never forget these terms.

April 17, 2011

Sucks!

Life can suck, pic: redriverpak.wordpress.com

Today we were driving and playing the radio when Kelly Clarkson was singing “My life would suck without you.”  My 6 year old love this song about dysfunctional love – go figure – but he did not understand what “my life would suck” means.  Personally, I don’t think he has to at his age but then again he asked and I promised myself 6 years ago (almost) never to dodge a question.

This sucks! is a fairly widespread slangy (bad not bad in the sense of being obscene) expression used to say that something isn’t good, actually, that it is fairly bad or annoying.

The phrase is okay in every day use, especially for younger people, I wouldn’t use it in conversation with my boss, though.

Here are a couple of examples:

Student 1: “I got an D on the accounting test.”

Student 2: “Man, that sucks!”

Person in a movie theater: “This movie totally sucks.  Let’s go.”

A variation of suck is sucky – the adjective of suck.

“What a sucky day.”

“We saw this really sucky movie yesterday.”

Okay, that was the easy part.  Now how do I explain Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream??

April 14, 2011

-ish

Today on the way home from lunch I listened to the radio and listened to the announcer speaking about the weather and the forecast for the next few days.  The prognosis for tomorrow was, that – as opposed to today – the weather would be normalish again tomorrow.

Mine is the greyish car over there! pic: torontoist.com

Using the suffix -ish with normal is a bit weird – that’s why I even noticed it, because in everyday language the use of  the suffix -ish with adjectives has become so common place I barely realize it anymore.

So what does it all mean: -ish after an adjective give the adjective the connotation of “somewhat” or “rather”.  It can be used with a wide variety of adjectives and here are some examples:

“my car is that one over there?” “Which one, the red Honda?” “No the blueish Camry right next to it.”  – In this case the care wasn’t real blue but of a color looking sort of like blue.

“We live in a smallish house” – same idea, it ain’t really small but sort of on the small side.

It is also used with time:  “When should we come over for dinner?” “Sixish would be good.” – this indicates a certain flexibility, you aren’t expected at six but sometime around six.

And one last one example: “How’s that stew?” “Strange, the meat tastes sweetish – kind of weird.”

And now I wrap up this longish blog.

April 13, 2011

Cliches

American English has its share of cliches particularly in business settings – but maybe that is just my bias because that’s where I ran across them so often.  First a brief definition of cliches before I list a few that I think are particulalry overused.

Sports cliches, not covered in the blog, maybe next time. Pic: http://www.buzzpirates.com/2009/08/the-topbottom-10-worst-sports-cliches/

A cliche is a stereotyped or trite phrase or expression that has been so overused that it has lost its value or appeal.  This, of course, is a somewhat subjective category, what some people think is a wonderful expression others think of as a trite cliche.  Some of the expressions I have covered in this blog one might think of as cliches.  Here are some more examples of truly overused ones:

24/7 – for all the time, constantly

There is now i in team – pointing out the fact that the individual (the “I”) does not play a role in a team effort

At the end of the day – for finally, ultimately

Cutting edge – very up-to-date, very advanced and novel, often used in connection with technology “we deliver cutting-edge law mowing solutions to your back yard.”  This is one pretty overused if one deals with any type ot technology but it isn’t as bad as the next one:

Innovative – I have seen this applied to everything from DNA sequencing technology to cat litter odor remover and thought processes.  If reasonably possible I avoid innovative products these days because I am so tired of the word.

And finally an oldie (not goldie to abuse another cliche): time is money.  yes, we’ve all heard that one  before – about 3 million times ever since we were toddlers.

 

March 14, 2011

Gym terms

another perfect excuse to show Daniel Craig shirtless, pic: offmybirdchest. blogspot.com

I just got home from the gym and that gave me the idea to write about a few “gym terms”.  lets start with gym, when I first moved to the US I did not know what a gym was, I knew fitness studios – that’s what we call those places back in Germany – but gym, as in the abbreviation of gymnasium  – no idea, or rather the wrong idea as Gymnasium is a form of high-school in Germany.

Anyway, I got gym sorted out and have morphed into somewhat of a gym rat over the last couple of years.  A gym rat is somebody who frequents a gym regularly.  Sometimes people like that are also called gym bunnies – but when in doubt I personally prefer to be a gym rat over a gym bunny.  Bunnies just don’t portrait the idea of a strong body all that well.

Other than working out one might see a ripped body or two at the gym.  Ripped means very low body fat therefore showing of the muscles nicely.   Sometimes one sees a nice six-pack – abdominal muscles that are so well developed that they can be seen as separate muscles strands. It is mostly guys who sport six packs (also called washboard)

Ideally all those muscles are achieve without juice – anabolic steroids that help guys to bulk up but tend to have nasty side effect also known as roid rage (Aggressive behavior after taking large amounts of steroids).

March 10, 2011

Snafu

Sever snafu, pic: http://obamapacman.com

Snafu is an acronym, spelled out it means: situation normal, all fucked-up.  This expression implies that a normal situation is not in a good state but that that is pretty much the normal state of affairs.

The term is believed to have originated in the US Army during World War II.  It was picked up by the mainstream media in contexts like this: “Last week U.S. citizens knew that gasoline rationing and rubber requisitioning were snafu.” (Time magazine, June 16, 1942).

Since then the word has undergone a bit of a shift in menaing, it is now often used to mean mistake or confusion.

Here are a couple of examples:

“A server snafu caused the breakdown of the Intranet and disrupted internal communicatiuons for hours.”

A news headline using the word snafu is here.

Snafu is fairly widely used as an acronym, I suspect, though, that many people do not know what it stands for (I certainly didn’t until 10 minutes ago …)

March 10, 2011

Moonlighting

Bouncer at a bar. Maybe he is moonlighting, pic: wellarentyouclever.com

Moonlight, obviously, is the sunlight reflected off the moon onto earth.  But what is moonlighting?

If you moonlight you work a second job in addition to your full time one, and since your full time, primary job likely takes up most of your day time hours your second job will be during the night hours, when there is moon light.  Hence you are moonlighting.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 7 to 8 million Americans — about 5+ percent of all workers — work multiple jobs and therefore moonlight.

An example sentence would be: “He works as a construction worker during the day and moonlights as a bouncer at the Fancy Bar”  It is not necessary to add “at night” here because it is self evident that his second job as a bouncer is at night, not just because that’s when bars are open and need bouncers but also since moonlighting implies that.

March 3, 2011

Philosophical German words

No discussion of German loan words in English would be complete without the philosophical pair Weltanschauung and Weltschmerz.

Granted, they are neither particularly useful in everyday conversation nor easy to pronounce but nevertheless they seemed important enough and missing in the English language that they got adopted despite these shortcomings.

Jean Paul, the man we owe "Weltschmerz" to, pic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Paul

Weltanschauung means “comprehensive world view,” a philosophy or conception of the world, universe, and human life.  It also refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.

I was looking for the origin of the word or the philosopher who coined it but didn’t find anything definite.  The word is old which in the end isn’t that surprising, it is a very German concept and has probably been used for a long time.

Speaking of German concepts: Weltschmerz – “world pain,” or the melancholy over the state of the world is probably even more so typically German. Weltschmerz expresses pessimism associated with the poets of the Romantic era that arose from their refusal or inability to adjust to those realities of the world that they saw as destructive of their right to subjectivity and personal freedom.   The expression was coined by the writer Jean Paul, who despite his French sounding name, is a German romantic writer.

Enough philosophy for one day.

March 1, 2011

Jaywalking

A case of Jayjogging, pic: tucsoncitizen.com

Jaywalking is the term for all you petty criminals who cross the street against the light, walk across the street between intersections, run across th2 street without yielding to cars  and otherwise engage in illegal crossing of streets.

The term jaywalking is a compound noun consisting of the words jay and walking.  In the olden days in the American Midwest jay was a derogatory term for people from rural areas.   Then, like it might still be the case, people fro the countryside were considered to, well, at least naive and inexperienced when it comes to the ways of the city, especially traffic.  And so the poor jays walked all over the streets with no regard to traffic.

The dissemination of the term after its (alleged) first use in 1909 is believe to have been helped by the car industry which wanted to redefine the streets as places were cars drive, not people wander around.

February 20, 2011

Funny words, persnickety

The fussy Mr. Persnickety, pic:tvrecappersanonymus. wordpress.com

As I am writing about funny words I realize how often my first intuition about a word’s meaning is completely wrong.  Point in case: persnickety.  To me it sounds like sneaky or conniving – probably because of the “snickety” part that sound like “sneaky.”

Alas, it means something quite different: being fussy about details, being snobbish, requiring a great degree of precision.  if you require that everything is done just so you are a persnickety person.  Good synonyms would be nitpicking and finicky.

Here are some examples:

“The older he got the more persnickety he became.”

“Our math teacher is very persnickety, if not everything is perfect he gives you a bad grade.”

The word is fairly old and apparently of Scottish origin.  It is one of those words one uses rarely to make a point rather than incorporating it into the  everyday vocabulary.