Fembots and Maybot


A fembot is the type of female robot made famous in the Austin Powers movies for being sufficiently seductive to lure men and then kill them.  Firing poisonous gas from their boobs was one of their cute tricks.

The other day I was reading about the Maybot.  This is the nickname at least one (John Crace in The Guardian) or more British journalists have given to their Prime Minister Theresa May.  maybot

Apparently she is being very slow to make a move on the plan for Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit) and quick to fall back on old platitudes and vague generalisations.  So much so that she seems like a robot repeating a recorded message. And so the term Maybot is born.

Of course, her surname says exactly the opposite of the determined, sure pair of hands her party claimed when they voted for her to replace David Cameron. She MAY or MAY NOT be that but it is not a name like WILLS or ACTON (Think about it!) which suggest more proactivity.

With Theresa we might end up with a fair amount of dithering and fence-sitting, though to tell the truth her job is not an enviable one.



When push comes to shove


This is an idiom to appeal to those kinaesthetic readers who like to feel and do.  It basically refers to the moment when a situation becomes serious, after the play or the circling around the topic, one party decides to take action. This action could be tough or hard and received as aggressive or it could simply mean that things are becoming serious and you need to respond.  It corresponds to the first part of “When the going gets tough…”

Sometimes used as “If push comes to shove”. A shove is a more aggressive push and is usually used metaphorically here.

There are many theories related to the origin of the expression including references to rugby and giving birth with none seeming definitive.

If push comes to shove, she won’t kick her daughter out of the house. 

He always backs down, when push comes to shove. You can’t rely on him to do what he promises.



Alternative words for power cuts or failures, when the electricity goes off and you can’t use any of your appliances. I guess they stopped using cut as a word because it sounds so final and all the power companies want to do in these cases is avoid such a sense of finality.

Outage sounds sort of gradual like seepage. It can also refer to computers or systems when they don’t function. This seems to be referring to the computer crashing or the network going down.

Brownout, popular in the US. also seems less dramatic than a blackout, which has connotations of war and the result of deliberate action. A blackout is when there is complete loss of power and a brownout is when the electricity utility reduces the voltage and therefore quality of the power being transmitted through the system.

Outage and brownout have definitely become more popular in recent years in different English speaking countries.

Power outages have been reported in different parts of the city due to the bad weather conditions we have been experiencing.

The Electricity company has reported a complete blackout in the Northern area after a fire in a substation yesterday.



I always associated socialise with the idea of mingling socially at a party, of mixing with others, of making new friends and acquaintances.

“I’m bored with sitting down here alone. There seems to be more activity outside around the barbecue. I’m going to go out there and socialise.

She should get out and socialise more if she wants to find new friends.

I also knew of the use of socialising children by sending them to school and other socio-anthropological uses of the term.  Another less common meaning would be to socialise certain industries as in the government taking over private industries and putting them under the management of the state.  Which is what a socialist or communist government might do.

What has surprised me recently is to find the Spanish version ‘socializar’ used transitively to disseminate information. It would be like saying “Let’s socialize the decision of the committee among the members.

I understand that this socialization would include an element of discussion and analysis which might extend it beyond the English term of dissemination.

For now, I can’t see this usage taking on in English even if it has apparently been used in the English language at some point.  You can probably imagine taking information to a cocktail or some event where it gets to rub shoulders with many different people.  A rather bizarre idea. “Mary, meet my new roster for cleaning the bathroom.  Bathroom roster meet Mary.  Would you two like a drink?



Fidel Castro has finally exited stage right, after an extraordinarily long stint influencing the destiny of his country, Cuba. I was never the greatest fan, despite the good press he received for developing health and education in the country. My visit there in 2002 confirmed that however good your living standards are (which of course they were not for most people), nothing has the same value without at least the majority of freedoms. His rule definitely became an ego-trip and a cling to power in recent decades. Sad.

I don’t expect that in English speaking countries these days there are many children being named Fidel, though maybe there were one or two during the cold war. And the word fidel does not exist as a noun or adjective.

But we do have infidel. I see that this is labelled as offensive in several dictionaries and refers to an insult traded between Christians and Muslims. Didn’t realise it was still so strong!

And we have fidelity and infidelity which relate to marriage and relationships; a more formal way of saying whether you are faithful or not.

There is one further use of the term which relates to an exact copy of something. Like a copy of a work of art or a document. That leads us in turn to hi-fi which stands for high-fidelity and describes sound systems and the like which reproduce the original music, etc to a very precise degree or high level of quality.

So, not many Fidels in English but there is Fido, a popular name for dogs and name of dog food in some places. I bet you couldn’t buy that in Cuba.


Ditty bags and doggy bags


Ditty bag – A rather old fashioned term for a small bag used to carry small useful things around in, not as big or as purposeful as a rucksack, daypack, handbag, etc.

“I’ll just have a look in my ditty bag and see if I’ve got a pen.”

“Put those papers in your ditty bag or they’ll get lost.”


Doggy bag – very specifically the bag of leftover food you ask for in a restaurant when you can’t finish your meal. Rather than let it go to waste, you ask to take the remains home, implicitly to serve it up to your dog.  Of course, you may well be planning to have it for tomorrow evening’s meal.  So, the waiter takes the plate out to the kitchen and has it wrapped up for you to discreetly carry with you when you leave. A popular practice if you are on a tight budget.

“We’ll never get through this mountain of food! Let’s ask the waiter to prepare a doggy bag!”



I once wrote a poem about a person who had a story regarding his back. Nowadays many have tales tattooed onto their backs. But what about the usage of this word – backstory?

Well, it is appearing more and more frequently and basically means the story behind an item of news or something that appears in the media.

With the backstory, you may get the details of how a writer got to publish his work, how a photographer overcame many difficulties to take a photograph or the poor childhood background of someone who is dripping with money today.  They are often human interest stories: overcoming illness, a chance meeting, the real reasons behind some action.

“There’s a great backstory to the robbery of that painting from the mayoral residence.  It turns out that his mother organised the heist to get revenge for being locked up during his campaign for mayoralty. You would never have guessed it from the smiling faces.  It just goes to show what goes on behind the scenes.”




I am of the belief that the universe sends us messages through names and what seems amusing or coincidental may have other readings.  That’s why we can get top sportsmen called Champion. Or De Gaulle as the President of France, formerly known as Gaul.  

So, the name on everyone’s lips is the winner of the US election this year: Donald Trump. Did you know the word trump is not just a surname but a word used in card games?

In an English deck of cards we have four suits, hearts and diamonds (the red ones) and clubs and spades (the black).  In many games, we have to choose one of these suits to be the leading suit. We then say that this suit is trumps.  In this round or until the rules of the game bring about a change, this suit has more power. Players who have cards in these suits can use them to beat higher cards of another suit. For example,  if diamonds are the trump cards, even if my opponents play kings and queens of other suits, my 4 of diamonds, let’s say, will defeat those cards.

I have tried to keep it simple, believe me!

What does this make me think of in relation to Donald Trump?

Well, firstly, he is like a trump card.  Maybe without the same political history of other candidates, he is coming in and winning because he is the card of the moment.   People want a change in the game and he is advocating that.  Such cards are very powerful and can alter the whole pattern of play.  Donald Trump (DT) is doing that.

There is a connection to the term wild card as well.  These can be like the joker and are substitute cards which can sometimes have a much bigger effect on the game than their real value. Again, DT is shaking up the traditional parties and policies a lot!

Trump cards also play out with luck and DT has undoubtedly been very lucky in his campaign.  With virtually no political background, he stormed to the Republican nomination with great ease, a combination of luck and knowing how to tell people what they want to hear.  And then he won the election against many predictions.

My final observation is the choice of his running mate, Mike Pence.  Not a common surname and as you will know pence is the plural of pennies.  The English once had two pence or tuppence, six pennies or sixpence and so on.  Words that we seldom here these days.

The combination Trump and Pence has a very Dickensian ring to it, it sounds like a law firm, with Trump being the noise (abbreviation of trumpet) and Pence looking after the money.  Let’s see if these aspects come out once they are inaugurated!


From the train this morning I saw some cloches in the Faculty of
Agriculture’s market garden.
So what are cloches?  They are made of plastic or glass, often shaped
like a bell, a dome or one half of a tube and they are used to protect
seedlings and small plants from frost, wind and other elements that
might damage them.

The word is from the French word for bell but they have become more
varied in shape over the years. Their portability allows you to move
them around the garden.

In New Zealand the pronunciation used was the `o´of `close` and an `sh`
to finish cloash.





Watching an interview with Miami mayor Tomas Regalado, and thinking

it was an unusual surname if translated into English (given away, given

as a present), I remembered that we have the word regale in English.

She regaled us with stories of her years as a rebel teen at boarding


This use is the most common in my opinion. To entertain with stories,

tales, jokes.

There is another meaning which is to entertain lavishly.

The kitchen regales diners with 5 star Cordon Bleu cuisine 6 nights a


Apparently the word regale entered the English language from the

French around 1656 and has its origins in Middle French.