Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Preposition Collocations

Continuing with an earlier blog on collocations of prepositions, here are some verbs and the prepositions that go with them

Verb                  Preposition            Example
Affix                 to                           Photographs must be affixed to the space marked on the form.
Band                 against                   The schoolboys banded up against the intruder & overpowered                                                               him.
Bequeath          to                           The Duke bequeathed his property to his wife.

Fawn                on(upon)                The toadies fawned upon the rich student.

Gossip              about                     The elderly man did not like to gossip about others.

These are a few to start with; do try and make sentences that are similar and send them in as comments!😀

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

in Mint condition- a refreshing idiom

'In mint condition' is an idiom which derives from the state of freshly minted coins. We all know that after a while, coins that are in use, lose the sharpness of the images that are impressed upon them by the Mint that produces them.
Hoever, when some one sees something, - a car , a cell phone , a camera which is well maintained, it is said to be 'in mint condition' which is supposed to represent a coin that is freshly produced from the Government Mint! Peppermint has nothing to do with it!😀

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Corbetts' Garhwal- A hero's tale!

An excerpt from one of my favourite books, written by my hero Shikari, Jim Corbett.

The village, as I have told you, is situated on a ridge, and is surrounded by forests. Two women had already been killed by the man-eater while cutting grass in these forests, and for several months the cattle had been kept alive on leaves cut from the trees surrounding the village. Each day the men had to go further afield to get their requirements, and on this particular day the party of twenty-one, after crossing the cultivated land, v went for a quarter of a mile down a very steep rocky hill to the head of the valley which runs east for eight miles, through dense forest, to where it meets the Ramganga river opposite the Dhikala Forest Bungalow. At the head of the valley, the ground is more or less flat and overgrown with big trees.

Here the men separated, each climbing into a tree of his choice, and after cutting the quantity of leaves required they tied them into bundles with rope brought for the purpose, and returned to the village in twos and threes. Either when the party of men were coming down the hill, talking at the tops of their voices to keep up their courage and scare away the man-eater, or when they were on the trees shouting to each other, the tiger, who was lying up in a dense patch of cover half a mile down the valley, heard them.

Leaving the cover, in which it had four days previously killed and eaten a sambur hind, the tiger crossed a stream and by way of a cattle track that runs the entire length of the valley hurried up in the direction of the men. (The speed at which a tiger has travelled over any ground on which he has left signs of his passage can be easily determined from the relative position of his fore and hind pug marks.)

The lad of my story had selected a Bauhinea tree from which to cut leaves for his cattle. This tree was about twenty yards above the cattle track, and the upper branches were leaning out over a small ravine in which there were two rocks. From a bend in the cattle track the tiger saw the lad on the tree, and after lying down and watching him for some time it left the track and concealed itself behind a fallen silk cotton tree some thirty yards from the ravine. When the lad had cut all the leaves he needed he descended from the tree and collected them in a heap, preparatory to tying them into a bundle. While doing this on the open flat ground he was comparatively safe, but unfortunately, he had noticed that two of the branches he had cut had fallen into the ravine between the two big rocks, and he sealed his fate by stepping down into the ravine to recover them.

As soon as he was out of sight the tiger left the shelter of the fallen tree and crept forward to the edge of the ravine, and as the lad was stooping down to pick up the branches, it sprang on him and killed him. Whether the killing took place while the other men were still on the trees, or after they had left, it was not possible for me to determine.

The father of the lad returned to the village at sunset and was greeted with the very gratifying news that his son had been accepted in the army, and that he had returned from Lansdowne on short leave. Asking where the lad was, he was told that he had gone out earlier in the day to get fodder, and surprise was expressed that the father had not found him at home. After bedding down the bullocks the father went from house to house to find his son. All the men who had been out that day were questioned in turn, and all had the same tale to tell—that they had separated at the head of the valley, and no one could remember having seen the lad after that.

Crossing the terraced cultivated land the father went to the edge of the steep hill, and called, and called again, to his son, but received no answer. Night was by now setting in. The man returned to his home and lit a small smoke-dimmed lantern, and as he passed through the village he horrified his neighbours by telling them, in reply to their questions, that he was going to look for his son. He was asked if he had forgotten the man-eater and answered that it was because of the man-eater that he was so anxious to find his son, for it was possible he had fallen off a tree and injured himself and, for fear of attracting the man-eater, had not answered his call.

He did not ask anyone to accompany him, and no one offered to do so, and for the whole of that night he searched up and down that valley in which no one had dared to set foot since the advent of the man-eater. Four times during the night —as I saw from his foot-prints—when going along the cattle track he had passed within ten feet of where the tiger was lying eating his son.

Weary and heartsick he climbed a little way up the rocky hill as light was coming, and sat down for a rest. From this raised position he could see into the ravine. At sunrise, he saw a glint of blood on the two big rocks, and hurrying down to the spot he found all that the tiger had left of his son. These remains he collected and took back to his home, and when a suitable shroud had been procured, his friends helped him to carry the remains to the burning ghat on the banks of the Mandal river.I do not think it would be correct to assume that acts such as these are performed by individuals who lack imagination and who therefore do not realize the grave risks they run.

The people of our hills, in addition to being very sensitive to their environments, are very superstitious, and every hill-top, valley, and gorge is credited with possessing a spirit in one form or another, all of the evil and malignant kind most to be feared during the hours of darkness. A man brought up in these surroundings, and menaced for over a year by a man-eater, who, unarmed and alone, from sunset to sunrise, could walk through dense forests which his imagination peopled with evil spirits, and in which he had every reason to believe a man-eater was lurking, was in my opinion possessed of a quality and a degree of courage that is given to few.

All the more do I give him credit for his act of heroism for not being conscious that he had done anything unusual, or worthy of notice. When at my request he sat down near the man-eater to enable me to take a photograph, he looked up at me and said, in a quiet and collected voice, ' I am content now, sahib, for you have avenged my son.'

Corbett,Jim.- Man Eaters Of Kumaon (Kindle Locations 2728-2734). Oxford University Press. 


It's a moron on Oxygen, ain't it? It's not! It is a figure of speech, where two words of opposite meanings are right next to each other 
e.g. The kind cruelty of surgeons knife.

This adjective phrase wishes to capture the 'kind' intent of the surgeon in relieving pain in the long term or even saving lives, while also capturing the intense pain as one who is being operated on, assuming of course, that no options for anaesthesia were available in the circumstances.

Can you think of any such phrases that you may have come across?  
I have listed some for you below so you may embellish your writing:

Open secret: refers to something that cannot be officially said but is  known to everybody
Bitter sweet: Often used with experiences that leave you both happy and sad at once.
Deafening silence: Used in the context where a person is expected to say something, but keeps quiet because he/she is afraid of the effect of doing so. 
Please do visit this link for more

Tuesday, 11 July 2017


No, it is not an infinity that became inquisitive! It is just the basic way a verb is written when we want to discuss verbs, like so:
to write,
to walk,
to fight, and so on.
There is no tense involved. It is just a simple way of referring to a verb. It is used in sentences:-
e.g. He wants to write about his experiences while travelling.
       She decided to walk to the theatre instead of taking a bus.

Be careful about split infinitives, that is putting a word between 'to' and the 'verb'.
e.g. The pup began to noisily bark at the postman.
This is not as elegant as:-
e.g. The pup began to bark noisily at the postman.

No rules of Grammar are broken, but the sentence rolls off the tongue much smoother!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Compound Nouns

No, these are not nouns that are always playing in the compound! Take commonly used words like cupboard, bedroom, doughnut and shopkeeper. These words started off as two separate words. For example, prior to the 14 century, cups were kept on a sideboard and used as and when needed. Over time, these two words were fused to form the word cupboard which means 'a closed cabinet for the storage of food! 

Likewise, the bedroom was meant to be the room that contains the bed, ( bed + room) a room where one could sleep. It was also called the bedchamber previously, probably because of the Norman invasion which brought along French words like 'Chambre' which means room in French.

If you never knew, words also have a history of how they were formed and that is a subject called Etymology. An interesting link is, it is a free reference created by Mr Douglas Harper.  

Friday, 7 July 2017

Open and closed questions

In the early '80s, when I was in University, studying for a Marketing course, I had to design a questionnaire, for the Marketing Project that was part of the course. My Professor, Mr Tarun Gupta, encouraged us to use 'open' questions, not 'closed' ones. That is when I came upon this classification.
An 'open' question is one where the person answering is allowed to answer with no restrictions. 
e.g. Where did you spend your summer vacations?
       Which is your favourite actor?

A closed question is when the person answering is asked to choose from a list of choices
e.g. Do you like hockey or tennis?
The person answering may like neither and may yet feel forced to choose. Not an ideal situation for both the questioner and the respondent.

In life, you get a mix of these questions. When you are just getting to know a person or doing an exploratory survey, open-ended questions may be the best way to learn about a person/persons.
When you already have some degree of acquaintance with someone and you want to know which is his or her preference then you can use closed-ended questions.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The impact of English on Asian Cultures

The largest Asian cultures are the Chinese and Indian cultures and because the English did not rule China, the impact was largely on Indian culture. The British studied Indian culture and over a period  slowly gained power over larger areas, adopting many words from local languages as I have stated in a previous post.

But as they really could not  bring enough English people to stay in the colonies , they trained a class of Indian people to administer territories and collect taxes to run the same. These people were trained in English , and became exposed to many English ideas that affected their culture. 

It was from among these that the first Indian social reformers, like Raja Rammohan Roy and others were drawn. Ideas like Democracy, Equality were unheard of in India, long used to an unequal Caste based society. The British passed laws and implemented the abolition of Sati, a disgusting practice, where widows were burnt on the funeral pyre of their husbands.

Many of India's freedom fighters were lawyers who understood the import of British law and fought for freedoms  enshrined in it .

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Saladin or Sala'uddin the Great and Richard the Lionheart

A beautiful pen-picture of a Historic meeting between the 2 monarchs, by Sir Walter Scott in his Historical Romance "The Talisman". Sorry, but some of the words are not politically correct , but they are not mine!

The riders were Georgian and Circassian slaves in the very prime of life. Their helmets and hauberks were formed of steel rings, so bright that they shone like silver; their vestures were of the gayest colours, and some of cloth of gold or silver; the sashes were twisted with silk and gold, their rich turbans were plumed and jewelled, and their sabres and poniards, of Damascene steel, were adorned with gold and gems on hilt and scabbard. This splendid array advanced to the sound of military music, and when they met the Christian body they opened their files to the right and left, and let them enter between their ranks. 

Richard now assumed the foremost place in his troop, aware that Saladin himself was approaching. Nor was it long when, in the centre of his bodyguard, surrounded by his domestic officers and those hideous negroes who guard the Eastern harem, and whose misshapen forms were rendered yet more frightful by the richness of their attire, came the Soldan, with the look and manners of one on whose brow Nature had written, "This is a King!" 

In his snow-white turban, vest, and wide Eastern trousers, wearing a sash of scarlet silk, without any other ornament, Saladin might have seemed the plainest dressed man in his own guard. But closer inspection discerned in his turban that inestimable gem which was called by the poets the Sea of Light; the diamond on which his signet was engraved, and which he wore in a ring, was probably worth all the jewels of the English crown; and a sapphire which terminated the hilt of his cangiar ( Khanjar= Dagger) was not of much inferior value. 

It should be added that to protect himself from the dust, which in the vicinity of the Dead Sea resembles the finest ashes, or, perhaps, out of Oriental pride, the Soldan wore a sort of veil attached to his turban, which partly obscured the view of his noble features. He rode a milk-white Arabian, which bore him as if conscious and proud of his noble burden.

Scott, Sir Walter. The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott (Kindle Locations 7664-7672). KaPonGZaYo. Kindle Edition. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

When borrowing makes you popular...!!!

Partly because of colonialism, and partly because of the British approach to their colonies, they were exposed to words from other languages. They incorporated these words into English, or from another point of view, English borrowed words from every language of the colonies and even from countries that they never ruled.
There are Indian words from all of the various languages of India, there are Chinese words, there are African words there are Native American words, Persian words and then words from French, Spanish, Italian, German, and even Russian all serendipitously borrowed, with nary a thought for parochial outrage! In fact, there would be a mere handful of countries from whose languages English did not borrow some words.
Here's a list that I can come up with from the top of my head

Hindi- Bangla -Bungalow
Malayalam- Kattumaram -Catamaran
Urdu - Paijamas - Pyjamas
Marwari - Jodhpuri - Jodhpurs
Chinese - Cha - Chai (This may have been borrowed from India)
Vietnam/Malaysia/Singapore - Sarong - Sarong
Tibet- Shangri-la - Shangrila 
African ( Swahili) - Safari - Safari
African (Afrikaans) - Apartheid- Apartheid
Arabic - Souk - Souk 
French - Abattoir - Abattoir 
Spanish - Cucaracha -cockroach
Native Australian- Wo-mur-rang -Boomerang

The list goes on! This is partly because many of the early settlers/explorers did not rule as soon as they arrived in the colonies, they were traders and evangelists.  They studied the local culture and today some books by British authors are the authority on local cultures. I know that some studies of the culture of Kerala were so thorough that today they are quoted as references of the culture of the day! I have read some of the books on Ethiopian culture which have not yet reached that status of being a reference but may do so some day! No wonder it has become the language of the world today, everybody can recognise part of their own language in English!