Slapdash and slipshod

Two lovely words for a not so lovely concept. They mean doing something in a hurried and careless way. Nonetheless, they have a nice sound to them.

Joe, this homework is not acceptable. It is very slapdash and you need to take more time and care over it.


The council took a very slapdash approach to the road repairs and within two months the old potholes were back.

Slipshod means much the same and derives from a Hindi term describing shoes that are worn down at the heel.
Thanks to the builder’s slipshod work, the roof has already sprung a leak.


It was clear from Marga’s slipshod way of working that she would not last a month in the job.


On the never never

Language changes and evolves according to the trends and fashions of life. I imagine that the expression to buy something “on the never never” has probably reached the end of its useful life.
It means to buy something in small instalments. Before credit cards came along and the banks decided there was money to make from that business, it was customary, particularly in the first half of the 20th century for people to finance large purchases by using payment plans that stores, farmer’s societies and other cooperatives offered. Sometimes this was called hire purchase, meaning the buyer “rented” the product for use until they had paid all the instalments whereupon they became the owner. Other arrangements involved paying sums on a weekly basis until all or most of the product had been paid for and it was delivered to you.


We bought the fridge on the never never and won’t finish paying it off until next year.

In the past, people often had to wait to acquire something new and household management involved setting small sums aside each week for the different future purchases they were working towards.
Once credit cards became popular, the idea of laboriously saving up for appliances etc. became old fashioned and people like my parents’ generation who were brought up in the depression and would comment on the younger generation getting everything so fast seemed out of touch.


Not even thirty and they have a two story house, two cars, a timeshare and a huge wardrobe! Talk about having it all!


A couple of weeks ago people were wishing each other “Season’s Greetings” which is another way of saying “Happy Christmas and New Year” or “Happy Holidays”. It may be a bit old fashioned and reminiscent of greeting cards but the phrase is still hanging in.  The season referred to is, of course, the festive season of Christmas and the following days celebrating the birth of Jesus and the change of year.

Season is also the term for a quarter part of the year: spring, summer, autumn, winter. Here it is associated to the climate, the length of the day, etc. And from there we get the use of season to refer to periods when some activity is taking place.

The duck-shooting season commences in May and lasts for six weeks.

 The clay court tennis season lasts for much longer than it used to.

The opera season is awaited with much delight by its fans.

Raspberries have a very short season – a few weeks in midsummer at most.

 We even refer to season in the television world to refer to the number of series a particular programme has had.  Usually it will be one season per year.

Empire is now in its fourth season for the Fox Network.

 Another logical use is to refer to female animals who are ready to breed.

My mare is in season now, so she stays in a paddock away from the other horses, especially the stallion.

 But how do we get to season meaning add spice to food?

Now season the meat, in other words, add some salt and pepper to add flavor.

 Or the noun form,

Paprika is a colourful seasoning for this dish and there is no reason why saffron wouldn’t work well too!

 And then we have loads of other versions: off-season, high season, both common in the travel business.

Finally, we have ‘the silly season’, which is that moment of the year when people seem to be doing crazy things, publicity stunts, making up exaggerated news.

And now for another antic from the silly season: local man Keith Willis has chained himself to a pole in the supermarket carpark with a dozen chains and 40 padlocks and says he will marry the first girl who can manage to unlock them all.



This word literally means the edible stomach lining of an animal like a cow. In some countries, it is regarded as a delicacy.  Can’t say I was very fond of it despite my mother’s attempts to disguise it in different recipes.

I´ll make you a lovely plate of tripe and onions.

I was not influenced however by the other use, which is negative.  Informally, tripe is rubbish or nonsense.


The press just write loads of tripe these days on the subject of freedom of speech.

You are talking tripe Jerry, no one knows what the President took into account when he decided to promote a change in the law.

I suspect that it is losing ground to the more graphic and once offensive terms like bullshit, bull or crap.  Still, for those who are not tripe lovers, its derogatory meaning makes sense!


Maybe it is because I have just become addicted to online scrabble games, playing against my phone but all I seem to see these days are weird words and strange combinations of spellings as I try to outwit my phone by using top scoring letters on triple letter or word scores. One word I doubt I would have space for is unbeknownst.

It is nevertheless a very pleasing word.  The meaning is simple – that a certain person is ignorant of a fact or action.


Unbeknownst to Simon, his girlfriend planned a surprise birthday party.

 Unbeknownst to the public, most of the cast had food poisoning but managed to finish the show without any major difficulties.

 Checking on internet led me to various forums with writers vehemently denying use or existence of the word and many others defending it.  I tried to recall when I first saw it and it was probably in a novel.  It’s colourful old worldly style makes it a good addition to narratives but it would tend to be found in more formal, less casual work. There is a version, unbeknown, but I have preferred to use the version with –st. Corpus data rate it as seldom used but the number of contributors online who swore they use it regularly shows that it has its fans.


Poem from:

To mar


The game was marred by the behavior of some rowdy fans shouting and letting off fireworks in the stands.


Being on the flightpath to the international airport is the only factor that mars the peace and quiet of this neighbourhood.

 When you don’t want to use the verb spoil, which itself has multiple meanings, the word mar is an effective synonym and is shorter than the somewhat ambiguous impair.  To mar doesn’t seem to be that commonly used and may be more often found in written English.

The verb is a regular verb, so the past form is marred and it derives from Old English and Saxon verbs merran and merrian which meant to hinder or to waste.

Given that el mar is the sea in Spanish and il mare in Italian, perhaps some foreign speakers of English will find it a strange choice, since it has nothing to do with marine or maritime.

A tad

Growing up in New Zealand I don’t recall the expression “a tad” being used very much at all but subsequent return visits have confirmed that it is now a firm fixture in local language.

Its origins seem to be in the US and as an abbreviation of tadpole (the baby frog), used to refer to a small child. Reference materials for British English also attribute a similar meaning.

We use it however in two main forms: as a noun


How much milk do you take in your coffee? Just a tad, not too much

 And as an adverb to mean slightly,

I’m running a tad late. I’ll get there as soon as I can


Today will be a tad chilly with temperatures reaching a high of 12 degrees.

 He’s a tad drunk, can’t you tell?


Here we will use the British spelling as befits a word deriving from a historical figure, Austrian doctor Franz Mesmer, who founded a therapeutic movement called Mesmerism.  The American spelling uses the z: mesmerize.

His treatment of patients involved inducing a trance state which would help unblock an invisible fluid to move around the body and heal it.

Sounds rather like the Chinese chi or other Eastern health systems that prioritise the balance and flow of energy.



For us, to mesmerize or mesmerising speaks of something that fascinates and captivates us, enchanting, enthralling or spell-binding.  Seems like you can’t have too many words to describe such a blissful state!

For the record, Mesmer was hounded out of Vienna as a fraud and met a similar fate in Paris.  While his movement disappeared, the basic concept has lived on in hypnotism and is now being rediscovered in Eastern medicine.


We were mesmerized by the keynote speaker.  He had our undivided attention for an hour with this fascinating talk.

The boys are mesmerized by that new detective game online.  We hardly see them during the day and they only appear for dinner full of the stories of what they have been playing.


One of the many new coinings that begin in sport and then cross over to other contexts, three-peat is a portmanteau word, a blend of three and repeat.  Quite simply, it means winning a championship, race or other competition three times. If they are consecutive wins, even better.

3 peat2

Lydia Ko gets the three-peat, winning the Sticky Bunker Golf Championship for the third year running!

 The backstory to this term is that it was registered as a trademark in 1989 by the coach of the Lakers basketball team.  There have been several legal challenges to this on the grounds that the word is too generic (too much in everyday use as a noun describing a general state or situation) to qualify as a trademark but so far, its status remains.

3 peat1

Rap singers and the more creative have shifted three-peat over to other achievements like having sex with three different people in the same day/night/weekend/week (You choose when you use it!)


This word, usually used as a noun, has moved from the area of music to general usage in the last few years.  It describes moving smoothly from one part or section to another.


The musical is so well constructed that one song segues into another with the audience barely noticing.

It has been adopted in other circumstances.

The debate segued from a discussion on rape to an analysis of gender politics overall.


The main living room segues into a bigger community space, suitable for as a games room or a large study space for the children.

 The pronunciation is “seg-way”, and there has also been some attempts to spell it in this way, given that the Italian original could be tricky for some.  It can also be used as a noun “ the/ a segue”.

I can’t help feeling that it is the sort of word you use to show off, unless you belong to a culture that might use it frequently and outside musicians I have a hard time thinking who they might be.  Nonetheless, it is now a commonly employed word, especially in the US. Maybe we can say it is bringing some color into the language.


By the way, the word “Segway” is the brand name for a two wheel scooter!