V.R. Narayanaswami
An idiom that is interesting both in its literal sense and figurative sense is “squaring the circle”. This is a task in geometry that aims at constructing a square that has the same area as a given circle. Photo: ThinkStock<br />

Words made from geometry

3 min read . 06 May 2013
Lord Justice Brian Leveson with a summary of the Leveson report in central London in November 2012. The closing months of the year 2012 saw the escalating debate about the culture and ethics of journalism, following the report on the Lord Leveson inquiry. Photo: Carl Court/AFP<br /> (Carl Court/AFP)

A rule observed in the breach

3 min read . 22 Apr 2013
The European Union has 23 official working languages. It is a mammoth task to provide translations in all these languages. Photo: AFP<br />

What ails euro English?

3 min read . 08 Apr 2013
The cat on the wall idiom can be a fence-sitter, who does not take sides. Other people have to wait to know which way the cat would jump. Cats on the wall can be priceless commodities at the time of tightly fought elections. Photo: iStock <br />

Furry wisdom: Popular animal idioms

3 min read . 25 Mar 2013
Today, certain expressions have become established as clichés and are used by people who want to cover up their inadequacies or appear more important than they are. Photo: Thinkstock<br />

Words marked for banishment

3 min read . 11 Mar 2013
A file photo of UK Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The sky is the limit,” Cameron said in his first public engagement during his recent visit to India. The phrase he used was a nearly worn-out metaphor, but we do hear it often in daily, informal conversation.  Photo: PIB<br />

Idioms from the sky

3 min read . 25 Feb 2013
Until recently, apostrophes were used to form the plurals of abbreviations (MA’s), dates (1980’s) and words or characters serving as words (if’s and but’s). Today we don’t use an apostrophe with the “s” in these examples.<br />

Aspects of the apostrophe

3 min read . 11 Feb 2013
The word tsunami became part of the core vocabulary of English. Linguists noted that the word has an initial consonant cluster, ts-, which is not native to English. While some speakers dropped the -t- and called it sunami, others retained the ts- combination. Photo: AFP<br />

Yiddish words in English

3 min read . 28 Jan 2013
A still from the movie ‘Cleopatra’. In the Pensées, Blaise Pascal remarks, “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.” This is generally taken to mean that it was Cleopatra’s nose that gave her strength of character and physical beauty to influence and control the most powerful men of her time.<br />

New noses for old

3 min read . 14 Jan 2013
A file photo of Mitt Romney. Oxford University Press’ word of the year “omnishambles” inevitably gave rise to Romneyshambles, alluding to Mitt Romney’s comment on England being not competent to run the Olympics. Photo: AFP<br />

Choosing the 2012 word of the year

3 min read . 17 Dec 2012
A portrait taken in Beijing in 1974 of Chinese prime minister Zhou Enlai. In 1955, Zhou Enlai invited Zhou Youguang to simplify Chinese characters and devise a new alphabet, so that Mandarin could be made the national language of China. Photo: AFP<br />

The father of Pinyin

3 min read . 03 Dec 2012
A file photo of US President Barack Obama delivering his victory speech after being re-elected for a second term in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: AFP<br />

Let your silence speak for you

3 min read . 19 Nov 2012
One of the examples of such usage is the word ‘juggernaut’. It’s a huge temple car drawn in a procession by devotees at an annual festival in Puri in the state of Orissa. Photo: HT<br />

Words formed from place-names

3 min read . 05 Nov 2012
Oprah Winfrey has a unique place among media moghuls. Winfrey’s television presence drew a large number of loyal admirers, and her talk show is the “highest rated programme of its kind in history.” She is the richest African American. Photo: AFP<br /> (AFP)

Of sheiks and leaders

3 min read . 08 Oct 2012
In most towns and cities the day begins with the buzz of activity that brings milk to our doorstep. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint<br />

A milk round of words

3 min read . 24 Sep 2012
StanChart entered into a settlement with the regulator and agreed to pay a penalty of $340 million, admitting that the transactions involved ran up to a total of at least $250 billion. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint<br />

Lessons from an Iranian gazelle

3 min read . 10 Sep 2012
<br />The opening chapter of the style guide deals with spellings and its last section with the use of the hyphen. Photo: AFP<br />

Euro guide to the use of hyphens

2 min read . 14 Aug 2012
The opening chapter of the style guide deals with spellings and its last section with the use of the hyphen. Photo: AFP<br />

Euro guide to the use of hyphens

3 min read . 13 Aug 2012
<br />V.R. Narayanaswami is a former professor of English, and has written several books and articles on the usage of the language. He looks at the peculiarities of business and popular English usage in his<br />

The common sense of libel

2 min read . 26 May 2010
All beauty culled out of it

All beauty culled out of it

4 min read . 16 Apr 2007
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