What springs to your mind when you hear the word freelance? The usual suspects are likely to be ‘work’ and ‘self-employed’. Quite rightly so, as to freelance means being your own boss when it comes to choosing who to work for and for how long. In other words, unlike others who stick to their jobs for years and years, freelancers move from employer to employer selling their expertise to those who offer the best pay.
Category: Word Stories Page 1 of 2
No doubt, bullying is shameful and bullies are nasty. However, they haven’t always been so. When the word bully made its first appearance in English in the 1530s it meant ‘sweetheart’, ‘lover’.
Then, at some point it took on an additional meaning of ‘protector of a prostitute’ and its fate was decided. Over time, the original meaning was forgotten leaving us with the current ‘harasser of the weak’.
It’s amazing how much meaning can be carried in just one short word. Take schmooze. Deriving from the Yiddish word for ‘to chat’, in English it’s got an extra layer of meaning. Schmoozing often implies not just a friendly chat but one that’s done to gain some advantage for the person who does it and is common at networking events.
An aspiring actress, she spent the entire evening schmoozing with TV producers and film directors.
Someone who’s good at this sort of chatting and practises it a lot can be called a schmoozer.
If you want to make it big in show business, you’ve got to be a schmoozer and a real charmer.
If you look up the word enquiry in the online Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, you’ll see no definition but the following remark ‘especially British English another spelling of inquiry‘. To find out what ‘enquiry’ means, you need to click on ‘inquiry’ in bold type.
This is another curious case. Both enquiry and inquiry can mean question, inquest or investigation and be used interchangeably. However, in the UK there’s a slowly growing tendency to use inquiry to refer to the official process to find out about something,
e.g. The villagers are demanding a public inquiry into the fire that destroyed the local school.
whereas the use of enquiry is becoming preferable to mean a question as in
I’d like to make an enquiry about your language courses.
One day enquiry and inquiry are likely to start living their separate lives, but until then you can use whichever you prefer (inquiry is more widely accepted in American English).
Now you know!
Last weekend my husband and I went to the supermarket to do our weekly shopping and witnessed yet another unasked for and very unwelcome performance by a badly-mannered child, whose typical reaction to not getting what he/she wants is to throw tantrums.
You could call a kid that embarrasses his elders a terrible child, or you could use the French expression enfant terrible /ˌɒnfɒn teˈriːblə/ instead.
When the term first arrived in English in the mid-19th century, it was used to refer to unpredictable children who blurted out outrageous remarks that embarrassed their elders. By the 1930s, an enfant terrible could be anyone – regardless of their age – whose unconventional or shocking behaviour scandalised mainstream society.
Since his debut in the 1970s, he’s been the enfant terrible of British pop music.
These days the phrase is also often applied to young, successful newcomers who shock or scare old-timers with their new approaches, easy successes, or disregard for tradition.
Ad lib is one of my favourite borrowings, as it says in just two tiny words what English needs a whole sentence to express.
Ad lib (also ad-lib) derives from the Latin ad libitum, meaning ‘to (one’s) pleasure, as much as one likes’, and was originally used to indicate the points within a piece of sheet music or theatrical script where performers could exercise unrestrained freedom of self-expression.
Now we use this phrase as a synonym of the verb improvise, that is to mean ‘to speak or perform in public without preparation’.
I had to ad-lib as I’d forgotten my lines.
He ad-libbed his way through the entire speech.
Ad lib can also act as
- an adjective: Ann had always been much better at writing than speaking, so when asked to give an ad-lib speech she was completely paralysed with fear.
- an adverb: He spoke ad lib.
- and a noun: I’m sorry to say this but your ad-libs sounded anything but spontaneous.
What do you wear in bed? Do you sleep in your birthday suit (=naked) or do you prefer to have something on like a nightie (informal word for nightdress), a onesie (an all-in-one item of clothing that covers your body, arms and legs) or pyjamas?
The word pyjamas derives from the Persian paijama. The original paijama are loose, lightweight trousers with draw-string waistbands worn in Asia by both men and women. In the UK, pyjamas are made up of two pieces – a pair of trousers and a top – and are worn in bed.
For British children, there are lots of pet abbreviations, among them ‘jamas’, ‘p-jays’, ‘jimmy jams’ and ‘jimmies’. They differ between families and whatever word you’re brought up with is correct and the other terms are weird.
How many English words for the part of your body you sit on do you know?
Well, the choices are plenty – bottom, rear (also rear end), rump, backside, buttocks, cheeks, hindquarters, bum, butt and arse (AmE ass) to name just a few.
However, my favourite is the French derrière.
If you’re proud of your derrière, show it off in these hot pants.
It arrived in the English language at the end of the 18th century as a euphemism for ‘behind’. Basically, the word ‘behind’, which already was in use to refer to the part of the body in question, was translated to derrière. How or why it happened remains unclear. Possibly, the French equivalent was thought to sound less vulgar and even kind of respectful in contrast to ‘arse’, ‘bum’ and ‘buttocks’. And so it does, don’t you think?
My first encounter with this phrase exuding energy as well as the special charm of Latin happened in 2011. Such is the title of one of the episodes of the Canadian TV series Being Erica, in which the protagonist, thanks to the superpower of time travel her therapist Dr Tom possesses, learns to enjoy the present, without worrying about the past or future.
The phrase was coined by Horace in his poem ‘Tu ne quaesieris’, published in 23 BC. The verse is addressed to a lady worrying about her future. Its closing line reads: ‘Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero’, which translates as, ‘Seize the day, trusting tomorrow as little as possible.’
So, carpe diem/ˌkɑːpeɪ ˈdiːɛm/ – you only live today once, so don’t waste it!
It’s hard to believe but until as late as the 17th century the word apple was used to refer to all fruit including nuts! Only berries escaped the apple monopoly. Thus dates were called finger-apples and cucumbers were known as earth-apples.
And the biblical forbidden fruit, which is believed by Christians and Jews to have been an apple, was possibly wheat.
The phrase apple of one’s eye has existed in the language for many centuries. Originally it referred to the pupil of the eye, which was called the apple, presumably because of its resemblance in shape to the fruit.
Sight is precious and until recently impossible to regain if lost. And so are our nearest and dearest. At some point in time someone hit upon the similarity and the phrase took on the figurative sense of the person who someone loves most we still use.
Maria is the apple of her father’s eye, his everything.