Snowflake Children, Flaky

snowflake kid

I have seen this term used in a couple of different ways recently.

One is to describe children born via embryo adoption. This is when by using in vitro fertilisation, an infertile couple can have a baby, neither of them being one of the donors. The snowflake part seems to come in because the embryos are frozen along the way.

The other is to refer to young people who are becoming adults in this decade. In some circles they are being described as the Generation Snowflake, with an inflated sense of their importance, overly quick to take offence or get upset (the mall is closed one day and it is a major disaster or the fast broadband service goes down and they burst into tears).

Apart from this low threshhold of emotional vulnerability they also display less resilience.

It is not a particularly favourable term and reminds me of the word ‘flaky’, a slang word for crazy, unreliable or wacky.


Jim’s new girlfriend is definitely flaky, you don’t know what she is going to come out with next.



Another word that you don’t tend to find being taught or used that often by speakers of English as a second language According to Google’s trawling of the corpus world, it is not however going out of fashion.

There are two main uses of fraught basically:

Sailing in the Indian ocean is fraught with danger given the number of pirates in the area.

Doing up an old house can be fraught with difficulties and hidden structural ‘surprises’.

 So, the first meaning is ‘full of’ and we are referring to negative or unpleasant things.

The other meaning, probably less commonly used, is that of worried, anxious or tense.

fraught party

(Jen Yuson Photography)

The mood at the reception suddenly became fraught when her drunk ex-husband turned up.

 Relations between the two departments are somewhat fraught at the moment since the discovery of the theft.

 What I did not know before is that the word derives from Middle Dutch and means laden with something, like a cargo. So, it is a relative of the word freight! Interesting how some offshoots stand the test of the time!




From the French, meaning a slice or a portion, this word has started appearing with greater frequency in financial and legal circles.

The loan should be repaid in four tranches, one every three months.

tranche 2

The former president has a tranche of law suits to answer to in his name.

The residents will receive their compensation in three tranches, the first at the beginning of the work and the others to be paid as the project is completed.

So while the word is clearly used in the jargon of bankers and economists, it is also starting to gain ground in the media and in everyday English.



Another of those words, which sounds fun in English is umpteen.  Basically it is a substitute word for countless or a very high number which we do not wish to or cannot specify.

I have umpteen orders waiting on my desk to action on Monday

It also has an ordinal number form.

This is the umpteenth time I’ve told you to clean your room

For a commonly used concept, the term is relatively new and supposedly emerged from use by the British Army in World War 1.

There are umpteen dozen ways of making a mistake in this job so make sure you pay special attention.


 Larry has called Judy umpteen times this weekend. He sure is persistent!

Bare bones

bare bones

Another graphic expression.  The bare bones of something are the bare essentials, without any flesh or padding.  The meaning is very clear!

The bare bones of the story are as follows: boy meets girl, they fall in love, have a baby, boy cheats on girl, they have a bitter separation.

Just give me the bare bones of your problem, I don’t need to know all the ins and outs you have had with the Ministry.


This is the past participle of the word bereave and means lacking or deprived of something.  It may seem a bit of an odd word but it does crop up quite frequently in speech and writing as it does sum up a situation rather well.


Her husband’s early death left Letty bereft of not only a partner but a future as she had dedicated everything to Marcus and his career.


The room was bereft of all comforts, all she could see was a single bed with a thin mattress and a cold metal chair. This was to be her home for the foreseeable future.



Bob is such a sponger. Sleeping at his brother’s, eating at his Mum’s and always borrowing from friends. Doesn’t he ever pay for anything?

To sponge off others is to get things free from people when you would be expected to pay for yourself or at least share costs.

It is a really graphic metaphor as the sponge absorbs water in that complete way mopping up all the moisture around it.


One of the drawbacks of being rich and famous is that there are always people trying to sponge off you.  They think you are a gold mine.


This term from the theatre world describes someone speaking with an expressionless face. It is often used to describe a type of humour, in which the joke is delivered in a flat impassive way, which contrasts with the words or humour.


Photo source: Thomas Ruff who has produced many artistic photos imitating the passport photo

Shelley was brilliant, the way she led you to believe she was the wife of a sheikh, all with that deadpan expression of hers.

He proposed to her in such a deadpan voice that she thought he was talking about an upcoming business meeting, not their dream life together.


Pan is a slang word for face, hence the combination with dead to describe this look which gives nothing away.  It is one of the forms of humour that people find most difficult to pick, understandably.



Another four letter word!

This week has been a long slog workwise!


As you can see it means something hard and difficult to get through.  Usually referred to work but can also describe walking in difficult conditions.


It was quite a slog getting to the point in driving rain and a headwind.

A third meaning relates to hitting and I have seen it used a lot with sports. It implies a bit heavy powerful strike of the ball.

The batsman slogged the ball out of the ground.

Hence slogger.


Jones is better known as a slogger getting a high score in quick time than as a patient batsman with finesse.

Some of you might ask about slug. Yes. It can mean hit as well along with multiple other meanings best left for another day.



There’s no beating a good four-letter word. And rife is just one of those. Not one of the naughty ones, but definitely strong and assertive in a good Saxon one syllable style. Rife, rife, rife!  It just reeks power, doesn’t it?

The meaning is full of, abundant, widespread or any synonym of these words. But, it is usually used negatively as in the following examples:


Corruption is rife in most third world governments making good governance a real challenge.


The bay was rife with mosquitoes which took the fun out of the picnic.

Gossip ran rife that the King was going to abdicate following the scandal with the TV presenter.

 Did you like that new beach resort? Well, not really.  It’s rife with the nouveau riche dripping designer labels and hanging on the arms of their mafia boyfriends.