Category Archives: Words, phrases & expressions

Intent or intention? Exhibit or exhibition?

Do you ever hear people saying the word intent or exhibit — and think there should surely be an “-ion” on the end of it? “You mean that was your intention rather than your intent?” “Are you talking about a whole exhibition, rather than a single exhibit?” Well this might well happen if you’re an Englishman abroad (i.e. on the other side of the pond), where you’ll hear exhibit and exhibition used interchangeably these days. Intent and intention have also become similarly synonymous Stateside — and I’m not sure if this is also happening over in the UK. Read what distinguishes — or used to distinguish — the “-ion” version of each noun from its “-ion-less” counterpart. Continue reading

“Vranyo”: a previously untranslatable Russian word …

 

Vranyo – “Pioneered by the Soviets and perfected by Putin, this is a special word in Russia which means telling a barefaced lie which you do not expect anyone to believe.” — The Sun, UK

“When I recently opened The New York Times and saw Vladimir Putin … walking out of the Black Sea with two nearly intact ancient amphorae in his hands, the vranyo alarm went off. … The smell of vranyo was so strong I had to put down the paper. … Putin was lying to us, we knew he was lying, he knew we knew he was lying, but he kept lying anyway, and we pretended to believe him.” — Elena Gorokhova in the New York Times, 2011 Continue reading

Some sketchy business email language

Wikimedia Commons

We’ve all got our own lists of business buzzwords that set our teeth on edge. Synergy, bandwidth, actionable items, scalable, leverage — and the more recent and ubiquitous “circle back”: these are just a few of my personal bugbears in the boardroom, and I know you’ve got more. (You can get your fill of them from an earlier Glossophilia post on The ubiquity of buzzwords and business speak.) But there’s another category of business-lingo that’s getting some of our backs up: it’s the common misuse in emails of certain standard English words or phrases, which just never will sound or be right, however often they’re typed and no matter how good the intention. They’re not just icky words and phrases: they’re just plain wrong. Continue reading

Labor Day: the meaning of labor

 

labor

Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882

It’s Labor Day here in the U.S.: an annual holiday on September’s first Monday that celebrates the American labor movement and honors the social and economic achievements of workers. Labor Day was first marked in 1882 in New York City. What does labor actually mean? Continue reading

Overleaf …

Is overleaf a Britishism? This morning I received a Glosso-related question from Andrea, one of my American friends. “My friend Mary*, who has written several books, uses the word overleaf (which I have come to find out is an adverb) in this sentence: ‘You can see some alternative models of ‘stuck’ overleaf.’ In this sentence, overleaf must describe a verb — like ‘see’. My brain can’t absorb that word as an adverb. It is more like a preposition+noun. Do you have experience with overleaf? Does that sentence sound normal to you?” Continue reading

I’ve just twigged …

In a recent letter in The Times (of London), a reader described his experience of driving his old Renault 4 through France: “On the road, the beeping by other drivers made me nervous — until I twigged the car was being saluted.” Does the word “twigged” make any sense to you in that context? If you’re a Brit, it probably does. But I’m sure most Americans won’t twig … Continue reading

Aussie dimmos

 

Dripos, in Aussie speak

English is littered with diminutives — commonly abbreviated words — in standard usage. Phone, bike, fridge, gym, typo, photo: they’re all diminutives* in that sense. Sometimes we add a suffix after butchering a word to give it an even more informal feel: think comfy (comfortable), cardie (cardigan), telly (television), and even brolly (umbrella). OK, admittedly those are all British colloquialisms: we Brits [see?] are more prone than our neighbors across the pond to add weeny appendages back in once we’ve sliced off the fatty syllables. (And see Glosso’s earlier post: “I’ll take that with a side of small words.“) But wait: there’s a country that’s even more inclined to hypocorism (yes, that’s what it’s called) than English-speakers on either side of the Atlantic. G’day Aussies! Continue reading

Online dating slang: a glossary

Santeri Viinamäki / Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for Cupid’s help online — as most love-seeking singles are inclined to do these days — then you’ve probably encountered some of these common 21st-century dating behaviors up close and personal. Their names are almost as ridiculous as the activities they describe — especially since most of them are gerunds formed from nouns-or-even-proper-names-masquerading-as-verbs. Sigh. Continue reading

Bigly – update

“And they’re taking it over bigly.” … “Obamacare kicks in in 2016, really bigly.” … “Mexico is ripping off the United States bigly and we have to do something about it.” Donald Trump likes that word bigly, but is it legit?

Update 9 August 2018: Apparently it was indeed a word back in the late 19th century, as used by a literary great of the time (as illustrated above). It fairly pains me to mention these two men in the same breath. Please note in a comment below if you can guess who that author is … Continue reading