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.



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.