Thursday, 19 March 2009
Rap: to knock sharply or perform a rhythmic speech with a musical backing. It's also a legal charge -- a murder rap (probably only for headlines in punchier papers). You can also take the rap for somebody else's crimes -- meaning you take their punishment for them.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Wreck: to destroy or smash up, as in a shipwreck, or if you are American, a car wreck. It can also refer to something that has already been broken up. 'It's an old wreck.' It can also refer to items brought ashore after a shipwreck.
Wreak: cause a lot of damage. Pronounced 'reek'. 'Page planning have wreaked havoc on page three.' 'The damage wreaked by that woman ruined my wedding'. NOTE: Every time you write 'wrecked havoc', your chief sub kills a kitten.
Rack: this is a framework for supporting things, as in a luggage rack. You can rack up points in a game -- or rack up trade deals or successes. It is also an instrument of torture -- so someone who is on the rack is probably being dragged over the coals as they receive a bollocking.
Wrack: Seaweed; or thin high cloud.
Here's where it gets complicated. A rack for holding things is never spelled 'wrack'; The seaweed is never spelled 'rack'; however, you can rack, or wrack, your brains when thinking hard; and be racked, or wracked, with guilt. Something falling into disrepair can go to 'rack and ruin' or 'wrack and ruin'. And a diaphanous wrack, or rack, of cloud can cover the gibbous moon.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
We had a story here about a youth band that received poison pen letters from an anti-fan; but they were simply loud and tuneless (if the letters were to be believed), rather than deliberately evil.
I think the evil Scout group activities would include:
- stealing unripe fruit from people's gardens -- but they'd do it in quite an obvious way, probably leaving a few caps and woggles behind to show it was them
- chalking words like 'bum' and 'fart' on the pavement outside the Post Office
- running sticks along newly painted railings
- leaning over a fence to shout 'yah' at passers-by
- making posies for their mums using flowers stolen from municipal flower beds
- something unmentionable (involving marbles) to the toilets in the church hall
Thursday, 5 March 2009
To ring something is to either make a circle round it; or to make it chime like a bell.
To wring something is to twist it -- either to squeeze water out of it by twisting (hence, a wringer as another word for a mangle; and also 'wringing wet'); or to kill something by twisting its neck.
Handwringing describes a gesture of powerless distress where the hands are clasped and twisted.
Wring someone's heart: hurt them emotionally.
Ring down (or up) the curtain on: To begin or end an enterprise (don't let those mean old subs make you change it to 'bring down (or up)').
Ring fence: This is a fence surrounding and sealing in a piece of land; but it is used in talk about funding and finance: "About £10m has been ring-fenced for research into HIV."
Ring the changes: This creeps into stories about... well change of any sort really. A writer who does this is wearing down the real meaning. To 'ring the changes' means to ring bells in a specific sequence which changes with every repetition. Be amazed -- check the Wikipedia article.
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Discreet: an adjective meaning something or someone that avoids social embarrassment or distress by secretiveness.
Discrete: this adjective means distinct in form or concept. If the sentence involves data, this is probably the word.
Discrete data has values that are not infinitesimally close. So the number of Asbos given out in a patch in a year might be 2008: 4; 2009: 6; 2010; 3. These data are discrete, because you can't have 3.43245 Asbos. But if you have a list of heights of wrong-doers, that data set would read: 187.445cm; 134.567cm; 140.356cm; 189.001cm; 181.222cm. This is continuous data (and police are hunting high and low).
In the wild
He vomited discreetly into the wastepaper basket; wiped his mouth on a silk handkerchief, which he threw likewise into the same receptacle; and continued the interview.
Each volunteer group has a discrete budget for their own projects.
I am going to remember this because the avoiding social humiliation variety of discreet has double letters in it, just like embarrassment.