Archive for February, 2018


February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. A coquette is “a woman who likes to win the attention or admiration of men but does not have serious feelings for them”; what is the word for her male counterpart?


  1. coq au vin
  2. quahog
  3. cloque
  4. flirt

Coquette and coquet are both from French, and are diminutives for the French word for rooster.

  1. What is the meaning of curtain lecture?


  1. a lecture given by a priest to an engaged couple
  2. a lecture on the selection of proper drapes
  3. a private lecture by a wife to her husband
  4. an early form of sexual education in American public schools

These lectures were often delivered in bed, and took their name from beds of yore often being surrounded with curtains.


  1. What is the definition of lasslorn?


  1. married three times
  2. the male equivalent of a spinster
  3. forsaken by one’s sweetheart
  4. confined to a convent

This word has been in occasional use since at least the early 17th century, when Shakespeare used it in The Tempest: “To make cold nymphs chaste crowns; and thy broom-groves, Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves, being lass-lorn.”


  1. Which word used to mean sweetheartor darling?


  1. drip
  2. bully
  3. creep
  4. philosopher

This sense of bully is currently the earliest recorded one, beginning more than a century before the word began to be used to mean “meanie.”


  1. The word “unlove” means “to cease to love.”


  1. false
  2. true

We have been falling out of love (or at least had a word for it) since the 14th century.


  1. The word dulcineameans “sweetheart” or “mistress.” Which book is it from?


  1. Lord of the Flies_
  2. Romeo and Juliet_
  3. Dante’s _Inferno_
  4. _Don Quixote de la Mancha_

Dulcinea del Toboso was the name of Don Quixote’s beloved.

  1. Which word may be defined as “a marriage with a person of inferior social position”?


  1. rum-bargain
  2. tendresse
  3. mésalliance
  4. thwartage


  1. In Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionary, which word did he define as “the comfort which one hath of his wife”?


  1. predicament
  2. levament
  3. judgment
  4. testament

This word, useful though it might be, is exceedingly rare.


  1. What is the meaning of oscular?


  1. a type of weasel which uses regurgitated flower petals in a courtship ritual
  2. the feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness
  3. of, relating to, or concerned with kissing
  4. in ancient Rome, an official who would mediate lovers quarrels

Oscular comes from the Latin osculum, which means “kiss” or “little mouth.”


  1. Which of the following words has the meaning of “of, relating to, or expressing sexual love”?


  1. amaurotic
  2. professorial
  3. amatorial
  4. philosophical

This word, now fairly obscure, is one of a number of words dealing with love that come from the Latin word amare (“to love”).


  1. Where does the word “sweetheart” come from?


  1. from an Arabic word for _betrothal_
  2. from the Old English words for _sweat_ and _innards_
  3. exactly where you’d think, from mixing _sweet_ and _heart_
  4. no one knows

Sweetheart has been functioning as a noun for more than 700 years, but in the 20th century it took on an addition sense as an adjective, meaning “arranged in private for the benefit of a few at the expense of many,” as in “a sweetheart business deal.”


Answers: 1-4, 2-3, 3-3, 4-2, 5-2, 6-4, 7-3, 8-2, 9-3, 10-3, 11-3

P.S. The original variant “coquet”, which was suggested by Merriam-Webster as the right answer to Question 1 (1-4), has been replaced by “a flirt” after a remark made by a native speaker. Thanks, Matthew!


February 7, 2018

The idea of this column is to help readers avoid errors made in speech (out of ignorance or inadvertently), and – by knowing now what is the right variant – become more confident linguistically.


AMONG-BETWEEN: Fanatical quibblers incorrectly maintain that among is used to compare more than two items, and between is for relations between two things only. But between describes any relation of two or more parties that is individual and distinct <negotiations between the five front-line nations>, <a discussion between two opponents and a supporter>, <between you and me, and the fly on the wall>, while among refers to a more general relationship with an unspecified number of others: <I wanted to be among the French speakers>

IMMORAL-AMORAL-UNMORAL:The adjective immoral means contrary to established moral principles. Immoral actions are corrupt, unethical, sinful, or just wrong. Amoral means (1) neither moral nor immoral, or (2) lacking moral sensibility. So while immoral and amoral might share a little common ground, there is a clear distinction: immoral things are bad, and amoral things are either neutral from a moral perspective or simply removed from moral considerations.

A third adjective, unmoral, means unrelated to moral considerations. The line between amoral and unmoral is blurry as well, but unmoral things (usually animals or objects) are even further removed from moral concerns than amoral things, which merely ignore morality. Unmoral often appears where immoral would make more sense.

Here are a couple of examples from English-language periodicals:

  • There’s little point in a morality tale that turns to be flatly amoral
  • He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral
  • During the Taliban regime, buzkashi was banned, as were most sports, because it was considered immoral
  • Cocky and arrogant, the character thinks he’s got it all under control until a smarter, richer and truly amoral villain enters the frame.
  • After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.



February 7, 2018



The essence of modern approach to foreign language teaching is expressed in the formula: HEAR it – SAY it – READ it – WRITE it. I’m going to use the key words of this methodological motto to dwell on synonyms in several of my next posts. This time, the object of analysis will be the first word – the verb HEAR.

Hear” is a Germanic word, though Webster’s Etymological Dictionary traces it to Greek and Latin roots. The related word in Latin is cavere, which means “to be on guard.”

One of the difference between “hear” and “listen” (which is, probably, the closest in this meaning) is that the component “with attention” is more strongly expressed in the meaning of “hear” than in “listen.” Hence, another synonym of the word “hear”: HEED. The focus on attentive apprehension gave a start to the development of the meaning “to gain information”: (“I heard that…”), which makes the word “hear” synonymic to LEARN, FIND OUT, etc. One of recent developments is the meaning “to entertain the idea” (used in the negative): <I wouldn’t hear of it> The latest meaning that I registered is “to feel (with)”, like in the dialogue:

Man, I’m so tired!  —  I hear you, bud. We worked out pretty hard today!

Roget’s Dictionary gives the following synonymic groups:

Catch // listen // lip-read // listen in, tune in, tune to // overhear, eavesdrop, listen at keyholes, keep one’s ears open // bug, tap // hark, hearken, list // lend an ear, give an ear, bend an ear, be all ears, give audience to, give hearing, attend to, hang on the lips of, lap up // strain one’s ears, prick up one’s ears, listen with both ears // hear it said, hear it on or through the grapevine.

I’d like to draw the readers’ attention to another colloquial synonym: “lap up” (“to hear and accept the information with enthusiasm”): <Of course, they believed it. They just lapped it up>, or <They lapped up the lies without questioning anything>. Nowadays, in the epoch of fake news, one should take any info with a pinch of salt, and not lap it up  🙂




February 6, 2018



According to statistics, the most frequent adjective in English is “good.” This Indo-European word has historical “relatives” (officially termed  “cognates”) in many other tongues, among them – in Slavonic languages. In Czech “hod” means “feast, banquet,”  in Sorbian “hody” is “Christmas.” In Ukrainian there are words «годитися»  (to be good for), «негодящий» (poor in health),  “негідник», (evil person), «негода» (bad weather). The word “good” in English developed its meanings from Proto-Germanic *godaz “fitting, suitable” (source also of Old Norse goðr, Dutch goed, Old High German guot, German gut, Gothic goþs) through the senses ”kind, benevolent”  and also “skilled, expert” (late Old English). The modern phrase “to be good AT…” had the form “to be good OF …” or “to be good TO …”in late Old English. In Early New English the meanings “well-behaved” (e.g. “a good child) and “great, long” (about time and distance, like “a good mile” or “a good three years” ) appeared.

In Modern English there developed such meanings as “reliable”, “able”, and  also “effective, operative” : <a good Republican/Democrat>, <Is she good for the money that you lent her? = Can she return the debt?>, <Being very tired, he was still good for a laugh>, <a driver’s license is still good>. “Good” as an intensifier is functioning in modern colloquial English: <I’ll do it when I’m good and ready>. Compare: <good and angry/ good and mad>,  <Good heavens!>. The word “goodish” (= pretty much) was formed through suffixation and “the good” (= decent people) is a result of substantivization.

The point of instability is the usage of “good” (an adjective) and “well” (an adverb) after the link verbs be, seem, appear, smell, taste, look, feel. Classical grammars categorically say that only “good” must be used after these verbs, whereas “well” should be used after all other verbs (“The dress looks good”, but “The cars run well” – not “…good”).  However, some other linguists admit that both “good” and “well” can be used in such cases with a slight difference: “good” after “look” or “feel” may refer both to SPIRITS and HEALTH. “Well” after “feel”, “look” and other linking words refers mostly to HEALTH: <You are looking well; we missed you when you were at hospital>.

As for the verb “do”, the word “good” is common after it only in informal speech <He did good on the test>. In formal speech or in edited writing the word “well” is used instead: <He did well on the test>.

Finally, here are some set expressions with “good” which I like:

  1. “Good” is good, but “better” carries it” (similar to “Best” is the enemy of “good”), 2. “To be in good with other people” (to have good relationship), 3. “All in good time” (= in due course but without haste). And also: “Good broth may be made in an old pot”. This last proverb may be applied to a situation when you use an old textbook like that of Hornby or Eckersley to learn/teach English as a Second Language. Yes, topics worked on in these manuals may be outdated and exercises not so “playful”, but the general methodology is excellent for attaining the basics.


February 6, 2018

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder

Two men in a canoe rowing against each other.




  1. If Mary joins forces with Paul, it means she works with him so that they both achieve what they want.
  2. If Dick is a loner, it means that he avoids company of others and prefers to work by himself.
  3. If Jan brainstorms with Al, it means she confers with him to solve a problem.
  4. If Randy wants to go it alone, it means he wants to do something by himself.
  5. If Dave lends Tom a hand, it means he helps him.
  6. If Karen pools her resources with others, it means she combines her strengths with them.
  7. If Kathy pitches in, it means she helps someone with something.
  8. If Ken and Gene put their heads together, it means they work as a team to solve a problem.
  9. If Larry strikes off on his own, it means he leaves others in order to do something by himself.
  10. If Barb works with Jean because two heads are better than one, it means that by working together they can achieve more than if they work separately.

Exercises for ESL teaching :

Using lists A and B, write appropriate endings of the following sentences:

  1. Is a loner/ lent a hand/ two heads are better than one /put their heads together/ to go it alone
  2. Sandy and Alice decided to study together because…………………………………….
  3. Sue saw that Ann was having trouble carrying her heavy suitcase, so she…………………..
  4. Mark does not have any friends and he spends most of his time by himself because he ………
  5. Joe often works with others, but this time he decided ……………………………………………..
  6. Neither Bob nor John could do their algebra homework alone, but they had better luck when they ………………………………………….
  7. Pitched in/ pooled their resources/ strike off on her own/ joins forces with someone/ brainstorm with each other
  8. Sally sometimes would work by herself, so no one was surprised when she said she wanted to…
  9. Ken has been working for an hour on a physics problem and he does not think he will ever find the answer unless he…………………..
  10. Steve has the money and Mary has the business experience. Together they could open a restaurant if they ……………………………
  11. Karen figured it would take three hours for her to clean up the house, but it would take only thirty minutes if her roommates…………………………
  12. Ben and Phil are sure they will have a better chance of passing the exam if they…………………..


  1. In addition to meaning “help someone,” pitch in also means “throw in.” On many trash cans across the United States, PITCH IN is written. Explain why both definitions are appropriate.
  2. United we stand; divided we fall” was said by Americans fighting for their independence from England. The Americans knew that if they didn’t cooperate with each other, they would not win the war. The expression has survived to the present day and is used in many contexts. Give your example of when this expression could be used.
  3. Are there times when you like to GO IT ALONE, that is, to do something by yourself? When are they?





be a long shot = be a risk that has little chance of success

be like looking for a needle in a haystack = be like looking for something that will be very difficult to find

be out of one’s hands = not be under one’s control

beat the odds = win although one is at a disadvantage

cannot change a leopard’s spots = recognize that a person will not or cannot change

cards stacked against one = an unfair disadvantage

hand is dealt = out of one’s control or responsibility

have a snowballs chance in hell =have no chance at all

see the writing on the wall = realize that something will happen

tie one’s hands = make someone unable to do something



  1. Sam has missed a lot of classes and he failed all of his exams. In other words, he has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing his course.
  2. Mark would like a promotion, but he knows his name is not on the list of people being considered. In other words, he sees the writing on the wall.
  3. Sue wanted to lend Mike some money, but she didn’t have any to give him. In other words, her hands were tied.
  4. Mr. O’Toole, 65, dies not want to retire, but the company he works for wants to replace him with a younger person. In other words, the situation is out of Mr. O’Toole’s hands.
  5. Lucy is going to ask her boss for a raise even though she knows that business hasn’t been good lately. In other words, she knows it is a long shot.
  6. Joan is running for president of the student council, but she is competing with two others who are better qualified for the position than she is. Joan has never been on the student council. In other words, the cards are stacked against her.
  7. Ted went to the racetrack and bet all his money on a horse  that has never won a race. Ted had a feeling that today the horse would come in first. In other words, he tried to beat the odds. 
  8. Gary made a serious mistake at work and his manager fired him. Gary did everything he could to get rehired, but his manager wouldn’t listen to him. In other words, the hand was dealt.
  9. Alice forgets everything. She promised her friend, Ann, that she would remember to bring the theatre tickets, but when they met to go to the play, Alice realized that she had forgotten them. In other words, you cannot change a leopard’s spots.
  10. Jenny was in her backyard raking leaves and had gathered a huge pile of them when she noticed she had lost an earring. She was sure the earring was in the pile of leaves, so she started looking for it. However, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.


  1. Under what circumstances might someone say, “The hand is dealt?”
  2. Make several analogies that end with “…is like looking for a needle in the haystack.”
  3. The following is the beginning of a list of situations in which people try to beat the odds. Add to this list: 1) Poker, 2) Horse racing…
  4. Many countries have lotteries that help pay for programs that otherwise would not have any money. People buy lottery tickets because they hope to win a lot of money, even though the chance of winning is small. Does your country have a lottery? If so, what programs does it support? If your country does not have a lottery, would you like to have one? Why or why not?



February 6, 2018

flat-tire (1)


On the eve of their finals, four sophomores made a quick getaway (= escaped) from the campus to an off-the-map (= remote) place for a picnic. They enjoyed their time: they ate, danced, drank, cooked roast turkey and all etceteras (= and many other similar things). They weren’t top students. When they applied for admission a year before, the university was scraping the barrel with (= using something of extremely poor quality) applicants, and those four were the best the admission board could get. During seminars the students’ work was scarcely up to scratch (= not up to the required standard): they were rather happy-go-lucky (= took nothing seriously), but they reckoned themselves (= thought high of themselves) and were even kind of uppish ((=conceited): they were sure they would prepare for the finals in next-to-no time.“(= very quickly). It doesn’t take much doing,” (= it’s not difficult at all) they said. However, the rich meal and drinks took it out of them (made them exhausted) and they had to stay at the dorm to hang-over the first day of the finals.

The next day they made it to (= to appear, to turn up) the examination and explained they hadn’t been able to come the previous day because they had gone from town with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

Professor Peterson wasn’t “all dead from neck up.” (= he wasn’t altogether stupid). In his time he was a student too, so he was “all there.” (he understood which was which). But while a student, he (unlike these sophomores) had made the most of his time (used the time effectively) at university. Measuring present-day students by the standards of his younger years, he was willing to give a deserving person a leg-up (= to give support), but practiced a zero tolerance policy against laziness (completely ruled it out).

Still, having no proof that the sophomores were lying, Mr. Peterson didn’t want to take it out on the students (= to punish someone because one is angry) openly and agreed that they could make the final exam. He placed them in separate rooms and handed them a test booklet, and told them to begin. The first problem was worth 5 points, something simple from the course. “Cool,” the students thought. This is going to be easy. No wash-out. (we won’t fail)” Each finished the problem and then turned the page.

On the second page was written (For 95 points): Which tire was flat?


Pete's Idioms11a

Pete's Idioms11b

Pete's Idioms11d

Pete's Idioms11e

Pete's Idioms11f

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