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

tad1

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

tad2 

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

 He’s a tad drunk, can’t you tell?

Advertisements

Mesmerise

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.

mesmerise2.jpg

Image:https://www.kapray.com/accessories/contact-lenses/hypnotise

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.

mesmerise1

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.

Three-peat

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!)

Segue

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.

segue2

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.

segue1

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.

segue3

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

 

Truculent

One of those words which has a hint of magic for me.  It seems longer than it is, you can rhyme it with succulent (note the double c), and it has the mystery of its meaning not being easy to guess unless you already know it or have looked it up.

For the record, it means hostile, belligerent, aggressive or savage and it is derived from Latin.  I have always summed it up as ‘keen for a fight’.

His grandfather was a truculent sort, always disagreeing with the rest and ready to argue hard to impose his view.

truculent 2

 Lotte has a very truculent attitude towards her staff.  She doesn’t trust them, criticizes them openly and will treat them harshly if they disobey her.

truculent1

Sometimes it can mean fierce.  Truculence is the noun form. Not a word to use every day but fun to drop into conversation and see what reactions you get.

 

 

In fits and starts

A rather nice expression to describe doing something in an irregular fashion, starting and stopping at various intervals and thereby causing the action to drag out over time.

I asked Jerry to cut the grass but he’s doing it in fits and starts and it’s taking him ages.  The lawn itself looks a mess half mown like that.

fits1

The start part is easy to understand but apparently this idiom came into being when the ´fit´ part was added.  This meaning of fit refers to a seizure or spasm, like an epileptic fit.  So, fits adds this spasmodic quality to the various starts a job is being done with.

The government promised to build a new highway but progress is going in fits and starts. Who knows when they will open it?

fits2

 

Uplift, upload

These words derived from phrasal verbs are also mutating into new forms and meanings.

uplift

Will Karen Brown please return to the information desk to uplift the small bag she has left behind?

This announcement over the airport loudspeaker may have an element of bureaucratic talk but it is clear what is meant. Why pick up or fetch or collect could not be used I don’t know.

Likewise, I heard the following a little while later:

Passengers for Emirates Flight 123 should head to the gate as the upload has begun

upload

So, we no longer board an aircraft but we upload it? Interesting changes that may not be really necessary.

Pander

No, I haven’t spelt the cute black and white Chinese bear wrongly.  We have another word pronounced the same way.  This is the verb “to pander”.  It basically means acting to please someone and do what they want, even if you don’t necessarily agree.  Some even say it extends to indulging someone’s whims.

The Prime Minister is always pandering to big business and agreeing to their demands.  What about the rest of society?

pander

Jenny knows that her mother refuses to pander to her whims so she tries her father first and he almost always panders to his darling daughter.  His latest gift to her was a new cellphone as she said her old one was already out-of-date.

You can pander to someone’s ego by saying what they want to hear.  As you will have noticed you pander to someone or something.

panda

 

Flick

flick1

Flick is an action performed with the thumb and forefinger in order to get rid of dust, dirt or an insect. The momentum of the “flick” can be rather fierce and propel the unwanted object away at great speed.

I remember flicking spitballs when I was at school and I guess earlier generations flicked marbles and the like.

Now it seems we can flick emails!

We’ll flick you an email when the technician has finished and your machine is ready to pick up.

I heard this use several times in my week in New Zealand so it is obviously gaining in use.

Lacklustre

No big mystery here. It means that there is no shine or brilliance or that something is uninspiring. Often used in reference to performances and productions.

Yesterday’s match saw a lacklustre effort from the league leaders who spent most of the game on the defence and only had one chance at the opposition goal.

lacklustre

During the election debate the Vice President was distinctly lacklustre, giving brief and unconvincing replies and failing to inspire his supporters.

It can also be used to describe hair and I guess, by extension, aspects of grooming.

lacklus hair

It is not a word I use or have heard used much in spoken English and tends to appear more in reviews or reports but what I like about it is that it sums up a particular state perfectly.