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L.Srikumar Pai
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Know Your English:
( S.Upendran, The Hindu )

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What is the difference between ‘flat' and ‘apartment'?

In terms of meaning, there is no difference between the two words. Both refer to a self-contained housing unit that is part of a building. The term ‘flat' is mostly used in British English, while the Americans prefer to use ‘apartment'. According to some people, the word ‘apartment' is sometimes used in British English to refer to an expensive flat located in an upscale neighbourhood. There is nothing in any of the standard dictionaries to support this.

Does one ‘give' or ‘take' a test?

It depends on whether you are an examiner or an examinee. In native varieties of English, the teacher or the examiner ‘gives' a test, and the student or the examinee, ‘takes a test'. In India, the two verbs are used interchangeably. In our country, when a student says she is going to be taking/giving a test tomorrow, she means she is going to be writing the test the following day. She is the examinee.

What is the difference between ‘seasonable' and ‘seasonal'?

‘Seasonable' suggests that something is normal for a particular time of year; it is appropriate for the season. For example, ‘Heavy rains in the month of August is seasonable in Hyderabad'. This suggests that it usually rains heavily in August. The word has an additional meaning as well. It is also frequently used to mean ‘timely'.

*The seasonable advice given by my father helped me turn the company around.

‘Seasonal', on the other hand, means ‘depending on the season'; things that change with the season. In most cold countries, going swimming and going on picnics are seasonal activities; not many people take part in them during winter.

*The rise in the price of vegetables is seasonal.

What is the difference between ‘varsity' and ‘university'?

‘Varsity' is the shortened form of ‘university', and the word is used in both American and British English. In England, New Zealand and South Africa, the word is mostly used in informal contexts to mean ‘university'. In earlier times, it was specifically used to refer to Oxford and Cambridge. Some dictionaries label this use of the word as old fashioned. Nowadays, ‘varsity' is mostly used in the context of sports. It refers to the main team of a university/school/college.

*Their son Atul is on the varsity cricket team.

What is the meaning of ‘modus operandi'?

First, let us deal with the pronunciation of this expression. The first syllable ‘mod' rhymes with the words ‘code', ‘load' and ‘toad'. The ‘op' in ‘operandi' sounds like the ‘op' in ‘cop', ‘hop' and ‘top', while ‘rand' rhymes with ‘band', ‘hand', and ‘sand'. The final ‘i' is like the ‘ee' in ‘deep', ‘deem', and ‘seem'. The vowel in the second syllable of both words is like the ‘a' in 'china'. The word is pronounced ‘mode-es op-e-RAND-ee' with the main stress on the third syllable of ‘operandi'. The literal meaning of this Latin expression is ‘way of operating'. In English, the expression is mostly used to refer to one's usual method of doing something. It is frequently heard on television shows like ‘Law and Order' and ‘CSI'. Whenever the police discover a body, one of the first questions the detective asks is, ‘What is the MO?' ‘MO' is the abbreviated form of ‘modus operandi'.

*The Police Chief was unwilling to discuss the killer's modus operandi.

What is the origin of ‘bikini'?

In 1946, the French designer, Louis Reard, invented the two-piece swimming costume for women. Around that time, the Americans were using some of the islands in the Pacific to test their Atomic and Hydrogen bombs. One of the islands where several tests had been carried out and which was on everyone's lips was ‘Bikini Atoll'. The designer, Reard, decided to call his creation ‘bikini' because like the bombs being exploded on that island, he wanted the swimwear to send shock waves — but of a different kind, of course!

What is the difference between ‘leave behind' and ‘forget'?

When you ‘forget' to take something, you fail to remember to take it along with you when you go somewhere. This act of not remembering is unintentional; you have not deliberately chosen to neglect doing something. Like ‘forget', when you ‘leave something behind', you do not take the object with you. There is, however, a subtle difference in meaning. In this case, you may have deliberately chosen not to take the object with you. You may have decided to leave it behind intentionally. The expression ‘leave behind' can also be used in the sense of ‘forget' — you neglect to do something unintentionally. Books on English usage suggest that it is all right to mention the place with ‘leave behind'. For example, it is okay to say, “I seem to have left my phone behind at home”. It is not okay to say “I've forgotten my phone at home.”

*Although Vyomekesh reminded me several times, I forgot to take the umbrella.

*I have no money. I seem to have left my wallet behind at home.

How do you pronounce the ‘lieu' ‘in lieu of'?

‘Lieu' rhymes with the words ‘dew', ‘few', and ‘cue'. It comes from the Old French ‘lieu' meaning ‘place'. The expression ‘in lieu of' is mostly used in formal contexts to mean ‘instead of something' or ‘in the place of something'. In English, ‘lieu' occurs only in this phrase.

*On the trip, Sudha chose to use her debit card in lieu of cash.

*The family decided to feed the poor in lieu of spending money on rituals.

Refer More:  Know your English

 ( Courtesy: S.Upendran, The Hindu , )


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