I love this word. A cute flat fish found in various parts of the world and called flounder at least in Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Delicate to eat and in terms of managing the bones, it is quite straightforward as the central bone holds together. If you look up on the internet, there is quite an interesting fact about one eye migrating to the other side (the one which faces up!) as they tend to live on the sea bed merging into the sandy bottom where possible.

To flounder is a word to describe someone wobbling or struggling, which is perhaps a little mean towards this fish but gives a graphic picture all the same. When you flounder, you find it difficult to control the situation or you act clumsily and without certainty.

The President floundered about unable to answer the opposition’s questions in Congress.


 When the teacher asked Lucy the question she found herself floundering and unable to come up with a coherent answer.


 The players floundered about on the muddy field unable to control the ball.

 In this economic crisis, even well established firms are floundering.


Drop a record

In the days of vinyl records you’d drop one and risked it breaking.  The meaning was literal and the common one of something falling.

There has been quite a bit of fuss in New Zealand lately as our international pop star Lorde has been dropping singles. One a week to date.  In the past, she would have been releasing them which was media talk for making them available to the market.

Several times The Beatles released two singles in the same week and had numerous songs in the chart at once.

Which is a pretty strange use as well. Releasing them from what? Captivity?


Lorde dropped her second single from the upcoming album yesterday, when Liability was posted on Youtube.

Makes it sound like a hen laying eggs onto the straw of the chicken pen.  I wonder how many singles she plans to drop this time around!  And miracle of miracles, male artists can do it too!




mansplain 1


This word has been around for a little while but is picking up in usage. It is a portmanteau word blending man and explain and describes the way that a man will condescendingly explain something to a woman in the belief that she won’t or doesn’t understand and needs informing.


A recent example occured in the multi-award winning film La La Land in which the hero decides to give his new girlfriend a potted history of jazz music, which she of course couldn’t possibly have known about. Some commentators have denied this on internet saying that Ryan Gosling’s character was simply talking about his passion. You decide!

Pear-shaped and Turn to custard


Do you need some more expressions to describe failure? I guess there’s always room for another one or two especially if they take the sting out of the experience. Here are two that I rather like, especially the second which comes from my beloved New Zealand.


Pear-shaped seems to be regarded as British in origin although I recently heard it used by a North American. Basically it means to go wrong. The idea seems to be that you want a perfect circle and instead of drawing that because you are not so good, you end up drawing a pear.

The latest expedition by explorers to walk to the North Pole has gone pear-shaped with the loss of two support sleds and the breaking up of the usually reliable pack ice.


Turn to custard tends to be used when the plans and preparation amount to nothing because of circumstances beyond our control.


We thought we might take a picnic to the beach but that idea turned to custard when it started to pour down.

The city council had intended putting a much needed bypass through Silverton. With the public protests, the difficulty of getting resource consents and the budget deficit that has all turned to custard.

The All Blacks were advancing well towards a try when they fumbled the ball, lost possession and their manouevre turned to custard.

Oddly enough, some people object to these expressions. Some say that pear-shaped is positive, like the shape of a woman’s body especially those Renaissance nudes.

On internet I read someone commenting that she makes great custard and why should it get such a bad reputation?  I imagine that as custard is somewhat runny, it describes perfectly when your solid plans become uncontrollably fluid.




Latin language speakers may immediately translate this as flu, from la gripe in Spanish and la grippe in French. Well, it is actually something of a false friend. There is a medical meaning for this word in English (pronounced graip by the way). It refers to sharp gastric or intestinal pains, something that babies and young children apparently suffer a lot from.

When you are more likely to come across gripe is when someone is complaining about something. It is a synonym for moan when a moan means to complain but it does not refer directly to the type of sound. Nevertheless, you can imagine the tone of complaint.

The neighbour is having another gripe about the lack of rubbish collection.

Stop griping about your teachers and just get down to your homework.

Felix is really not ideal company at a party. He’s always pulling talk around to his gripes and moans about life.



shanghai bund.png

Of course you know this word as the Chinese port city with its impressive buildings and waterfront.

But have you come across it as a verb?  I was watching La La Land the other day and the hero uses it to excuse himself from missing a date.

I was shanghaied by the neighbour who insisted I go in for a cup of tea and a look through his holiday photos.

Unsurprisingly, the word dates from the days when captains sought crews for their ocean-going sailing vessels and sometimes had to oblige the sailors to “sign on” by getting them drunk and virtually abducting them.  All illegal and not above board at all! Signing on for a voyage was in many ways a type of imprisonment for the sailors who were not free to leave the ship.


There is a Charlie Chaplin movie with this title.




This word, which can be both a noun and a verb is roughly synonymous with scam or fraud.  It means to cheat the system in some way.  It’s a word that has been in quite common use in Australia and New Zealand and is now being found in the States and further afield. Originally it was quite a slang expression but with the easing up in formality of language, rort is being employed in a range of different linguistic registers.

So, we get to hear of social welfare rorts, tax rorts, rorts in sports (cute rhyme huh?) and wherever people are seeking to gain a benefit from the system.

Gladys is onto a great rort. She is receiving the dole (unemployment benefit) and all the concessions like free transport for that but is getting paid fortunes by being part of a house-a-refugee scheme. She has at least four in her house and the government pays thousands for each one on top of what she receives for being unemployed.

The transport companies were accused of rorting the government by claiming subsidies way in excess of their needs.