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by Zahid Islam
"Some Expressive Words and Idioms"
Although it is always advisable to be brief and concise while writing a post, there are times when your work will take an appealing color if it is found interspersed with some expressive words and idioms. Readers and listeners also tend to become somewhat impressed even if they do not have a clue about what the word or phrase means. One of Pakistan's most popular cricket commentators always uses the phrase 'at sixes and sevens' while describing batsmen who are not comfortable at the crease and finding runs difficult to score. Do you know what the phrase means? (The commentator is trying to say that the batsman is totally bewildered and confused).
Many years ago I remember using the word 'babbittry' while describing the smugness and supercilious attitude and behavior of a particular community that happened to be our hosts. I was surprised when my western colleague asked me what the word meant. I told him to read Sinclair Lewis' novel-cum-satire "Babbitt' (1922) and he would immediately understand the meaning of the word. Although Sinclair Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1930, this colleague of mine had never heard his name. The incident I am referring to took place in 1997 when the facilities now provided by Google or YouTube did not exist, so I found him muttering to himself "who is Sinclair Lewis" again and again till I explained the significance of the novel that had brought the name of its chief character into both English and American dictionaries. Similarly, I am sure many of you may have watched the 2013 movie 'Walter Mitty' with Ben Stiller in the title role, but are you aware that the title is now a part of every dictionary of idioms because of the popularity of the short story written by James Thurber in 1939 under the title 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'? The name has become synonymous with all day-dreamers, those who would aspire to be a hero in the mold of the fictional Spiderman but are actually afraid of spiders in real life.
Here are some words and idioms that you will find very useful:
1) tin-god: a self-important and small minded person.
(Some of our government bureaucrats behave like tin-gods).
2) under wraps: concealed or secret.
(Let us keep this rumor under wraps for the time being).
3) peremptory: dictatorial; tolerating no opposition.
(The peremptory stance of some of our political leaders really surprises me).
4) also-ran: a loser or a failure.
(He is such a bad speaker that he usually finds himself among the also-rans).
5) internecine: mutually destructive. (There appears to be a constant internecine quarrel between the opposition leaders in this town).
6) ring hollow: sound insincere; unbelievable.
(His flattery usually rings hollow and nobody takes him seriously).
7) throw a tantrum: become very angry.
(My uncle always throws a tantrum whenever his favorite cricket team loses a match).
To conclude, I can do no better than repeat the following anonymous quotation which is the best that I have come across in many years: "I don't regret the things I've done. I regret the things I didn't do when I had the chance."
By Zahid Islam
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