This word seems to have more shades of meaning than most. So what do you regard as a kiosk?  For the British, it is a small open-sided shop selling newspapers, sweets or cigarettes.

In the park there is a kiosk selling ice-creams and refreshments.

kiosk 3

In Turkey and the Middle East it was the name of an open summer house or outdoor structure like a pavilion, again for serving refreshments. Some became bandstands.

kiosk 2

Now, it is being used to describe the booth or cabin in a bank where you can do transactions on a computer. Apparently, the interactive computer screens in malls where you can hunt for types of shops, etc are also known as kiosks.  This usage presumably derives from that of an information kiosk or booth.

In Argentina, the word has been extended to describe something like the sweet kiosk but probably offering a wider range of food and drink and also anything you might need urgently like condoms, lighters and batteries. Not quite a drug store, a corner store or a dairy (in NZ English) but going that way. In some, you can reload your travel card and even pay bills. Some describe themselves as maxikiosks and open 24 hours a day.

The word is of Turkish origin.


Snarl up

A strange verb often found when describing traffic jams or bottlenecks.

snarl up

There is a snarl up on the expressway north of the city.  Traffic is banked up for 3 kilometres.

The idea behind it is that of something being twisted up and not flowing freely.

The fishing lines tend to get snarled up on the rocks if you don’t cast out far enough.

Snarl by itself is perhaps more commonly used for the growling sound an angry dog uses.


As the stranger approached, my dog started snarling warning me that something was not right about this person.


Kippers and Ukippers


A kipper is a very British term. A fish, usually a herring, preserved in salt and then smoked. Kippers seemed to be a popular breakfast dish at one point and presumably were very practical and long lasting. I don’t really remember them growing up in New Zealand, as we don’t have herrings for a start and fish smoked to a leathery quality was not so common. So, I suspect, kipper is a word that is not well known to much of the English speaking world.


Now there is a reminder of them in the term Ukipper which you see in articles about British politics.  It refers to a member of the UK Independence Party which was one of the leading protagonists in Brexit or the idea of getting Britain out of Europe. Ukippers are regarded as having very particular views that often cause mirth or exasperation  in others.

Did you know that Gaz is a Ukipper? Saw him being interviewed at a meeting on television the other night!

The photo is of their most famous leader Nigel Farage.



This blended or portmanteau word seems to be gaining ground fast if online news and websites are any indication.  Obviously it is a mix of sheep and people and describes the masses that are easily led, relatively unthinking and undiscerning. Conformists and obedient.

Let’s put the mistake the army made with the bomb down to terrorism and the sheeple will believe it.

Taylor Swift started wearing lederhosen and, like sheeple, all the teenage girls and boys have gone out to buy a pair.

There is an older term “lemmings” which was in fairly common use.

Whatever the head of the club said, the fans went and did it like a bunch of lemmings.


Apart from the fact that most people have a very vague idea of a lemming (it is a rodent, similar to a vole), the characteristic of being a lemming was rushing blindly into destructive behaviour like throwing yourself off a cliff.  So I guess being likened to a sheep is a little more benign.


The Sandman


Let’s look this time not at sandboys but at the sandman. Traditionally, the sandman is a figure that comes to sprinkle dust into children’s eyes to bring on sleep and dreams. He appears in various folklores and was used by Hans Christian Andersen in his tales. More recently there has been a very successful comic book by Neil Gaiman with the usual spin-offs.

I don’t know if people still refer to him to persuade children to sleep. I can’t say I was ever convinced.

Children, lights out and eyes closed or the Sandman will get you!

Songs include Enter Sandman by Metallica and the catchy Mr Sandman sung by various artists including Bette Midler and Emmylou Harris.


A movie based on the comic books has been in development for some years and seems to be plagued with delays and problems.

As happy as a sandboy


I was reminded of this as I bobbed around in the sea in Brazil the other weekend. I do love swimming in the ocean and I thought that if I could describe the feeling it would be as happy as a sandboy.

So, where does it come from? I had no idea. Internet sources say that the phrase actually originated in Bristol, not a place I ever associated with much sand. However, apparently in the 19th century there were some caves there that were the source of sand and that perhaps the phrase refers to the workers who carried the sand out of there. After a long day’s work, they couldn’t be happier than when they got a beer.  The phrase “As jolly as a sandboy” appeared in Dickens, but apart from that this expression seems to have been passed down by people in their own families.

As happy as a sandboy actually means to be in a state of blissful contentment and the North Americans have a version,  as happy as a clam.  More sand. Interestingly, the full idiom is “As happy as a clam in high water”.  This is because in high water was less likely to be harvested than at low tide.


I can’t say I identify much with clams so I’ll take the sandboy version!




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.