Monday, September 03, 2012

Shoot the Puppy

Even if you have a particular language as your mother tongue, there are always words and phrases that you do not know. I am an American-English-speaking person but I live in England and it sometimes happens that my partner, friends or students use British English words and phrases that I cannot understand. It can certainly feel a little weird sometimes that I don’t know common English words, even though it’s my native language. And if I translate into British English, which I do often, I must know those. For those who translate from English, it’s also key to understand such expressions.

But I’ve got a book that can help us. A friend gave it to me for my birthday in 2010; sadly, she got ill and passed away soon after that, which is probably why I’ve taken so long to write about it. The book is called Shoot the Puppy and it’s by Tony Thorne, who works at King's College London and writes about slang, among other things. He is described as a slang detective, who does research on and explains many interesting English phrases.

Many people know the word moonlighting, which means you have another job at night (i.e. when the moon is shining), for example, but how many understand the word sunlighting? Well, it means you have another job one day a week. If you moonlight or sunlight, you can do so by sitting next to Nellie; that means to learn on the job by watching what others do. We have to knife-and-fork it. What? We’ll use a knife and fork to what? That means we have to deal with a problem one piece at a time. Aye, aye, Shepherd’s pie! Yes, I'll do what you want and thereby knife-and-fork situation.

You may have prochtoheliosis, a problem we can try to knife-and-fork. What is it that you have? Helios is the Greek word for sun and proktos means rectum, so someone who has prochtoheliosis thinks the sun shines from his or her rectum, and that he or she is the most important person in the world. Such a person may also be luxorexic, which means that he or she enjoys the finer things in life and always wants to pamper him- or herself. Thorne’s book contains many words and phrases and gives examples of how to use them.

He also includes information on how the term came to be and on similar phrases. There is a glossary as well. The book is funny and interesting but also useful. Come on, shoot the puppy – dare to do the unthinkable – and buy Tony Thorne’s book.

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