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.


Ratchet up

Ratchet is not a word I recall having in my vocabulary a few years ago.  I probably knew that a ratchet was a sort of wheel with teeth or tool that was used to tighten slowly or increase pressure.


Now ratchet up seems to be very much in vogue.

After the Manchester bombing police are ratcheting up security.

It means to increase bit by bit by small regular amounts. Sounds a bit like torture!

The opposition is ratcheting up the pressure on the President over the loans scandal.

Of course, it reminds us of Nurse Ratched, in the acclaimed film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, who was the stereotype of a mean wicked psychiatric nurse.


Have you been ratcheting up your spending on goodies this year?




A list of duties in an organisation, school, club, flatshare, etc.

Have you got the roster for this month? Who’s responsible for cleaning the kitchen? They look like they haven’t been touched.

Or the schedule for different posts in an organisation like a hospital.  We can see it used as a verb here.

I’m rostered on for nights next week but then I have four days off straight so I guess that’s something.

According to the roster, I am on front desk until 11 when Stuart comes to relieve me.

In American English schedule or rota may replace this word.

What is interesting is that roster comes to English from Dutch and is derived from the word roast.


Apparently someone made a connection between the straight lines of the grid or grill and a list of duties. Or maybe they thought that being rostered on to something was like having a hot iron applied. Go figure!


Another lovely English word that foreigners seem reluctant to use. Iffy is a more informal way of saying doubtful or uncertain. But in fewer letters it encapsulates the meaning beautifully.


Marketa was thinking of an outdoor wedding but it will have to be before September because the weather is pretty iffy in that month.


The plan to open branches in the interior of the country is an iffy one. First, it will involve a huge investment and second, we have no client base there.



Yes, it can refer to nutmeg or cinnamon or other such exotic flavours that add an extra something to our cooking. Yes, to spice something up can mean to add more taste and sharpness to whatever we are doing, be it writing a story or creating a fashion image.

But…the big new meaning for spice is that of an alternative drug to marijuana. Apparently it is a mixture of herbs and spices and synthetic compounds called cannabinoids, which have the same psychoactive effect as marijuana. Sometimes called herbal incense, it is apparently quite easy to get hold of in the market and is causing concern for the effects on consumer’s health.


So, another word acquires a less than innocent meaning. Gives a whole new complexion to the Spice Girls and to the saying “sugar and spice and all things nice …”


A rather colourful nautical term that means to throw something overboard from a plane or ship.

jettison fuel

The emergency with the seriously ill patient meant an emergency landing was called for. To do so, the plane circled over the sea jettisoning its excess fuel.

But we use it a lot to discard plans or belongings we know longer need.

Betty and Benny jettisoned the idea of a transatlantic wedding when the costs of plane fares and accommodation became prohibitive.

jettison suite

Mark jettisoned his old lounge suite and chairs and replaced them with a futon and a low coffee table.

I like jettison as it brings a little colour to the language and especially to a word which may have negative connotations.

To Nail it

nail it1

An idiom (and phrasal verb) that is in widespread use in English. It means to get something exactly right or to produce the correct solution/answer/response to a need.


Lorraine needed to make a perfect souffle to win the cooking contest and even though it was her first attempt at one, she nailed it and was awarded first prize.

Denis needed a 9.4 to win the diving competition and he nailed it with a triple somersault rated 9.6 by the judges.

It has a positive meaning. The implication is that some skill or effort is required so you wouldn’t use it to describe successfully doing daily chores or routine tasks.



This is another word I am fond of, but I’m not entirely sure why.

The root word here is ‘heave’ which means to lift or pull something heavy and implies considerable effort. So, the movement may be upwards or simply at the same level.

The workmen heaved the last of the beams up to the second floor.

But we also use it to make a sound in conjunction with our breathing.

Ellie heaved a sigh of relief when she saw her cat was safe and sound.

For the scatologically minded heave up means to vomit.

heave up

Juan started heaving up overboard once the yacht struck rolling seas.

Heave in geology means a sideways movement or shift in the earth.  So, not surprisingly, upheaval (the verb form upheave doesn’t exist) can refer to the shifting up of land in an earthquake.


The quake caused noticeable upheavals in marshlands creating small new islands.

The most common use though is to describe a disturbance, change or disruption to something in society.

There has been a major upheaval in the airline industry with the merger of the top two airlines and the declared bankruptcy of the third.

The US underwent a number of social upheavals in the 60s and 70s with the Civil Rights movement and the hippies.