The Year of the Rooster is upon us!

It’s the Lunar New Year, and many traditions mark the new year now rather than January 1st. Each year in the Chinese lunar calendar is represented by an animal and since this year is the year of the Rooster why don’t we look at some bird related language. Previous lunar new year posts: here and here.

Birds of a feather (flock together): This idiom simply means that people with similar tastes and interests often group together even subconsciously. Just look at the first class of any of the first year modules and you can see some of the more visible divides already taking place.

Get (have) your ducks in a row: An idiom with a built in verb phrase. If someone has their ducks in a row they are well organised and ready to move to the next step.

ducks

photo credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks. Ducks In A Row via photopin (license)

Worth (their/his/her) scratch: This idiom is a value judgment on an individual. If somebody is worth their scratch they are good to have around, (even if you don’t like them). This probably comes from chickens scratching for food in farmyards.

Up to scratch: Similar to the above this is a judgement either good enough or not. Something that is up to scratch is good (enough) if not then it needs work. Example: “I used to be fluent but my French isn’t really up to scratch anymore.”

A scratch player: (isn’t really bird related but I doubt I’ll now do a post with scratch in it) is someone who is a reliably good player in almost any condition. This originally comes from golf where a scratch player would be expected to play to par (the rating of the course) on any course, this has been extended into all sorts of activities including video games where you can watch YouTube videos of ‘scratch gamers’ completing levels etc.

Sing like a bird: this comparison means someone sings well, beautifully.

Sing like a canary: this one means that the person tells people (often authority figures) about things they shouldn’t (in the view of the speaker). Example: “We were going to have a surprise party for my Mother’s birthday this weekend but Tommy sang like a canary and now she knows everything.”

canary

photo credit: dominique cappronnier Girl in cage via photopin (license)

Pecking order: this idiom refers to authority and/or seniority. If you are higher up the pecking order you come first or are more important. Example: “Final year students typically come higher up the pecking order because of the importance of NSS results”.

Beak: this is the term for the hard nose/mouth part of most birds but it can be used to talk about someone’s nose. Example: “keep your beak out of my business and we’ll get along fine.” Also used as adjective beaky meaning with a big nose (now rare), Example “you’ll know Tom when you see him, he’s beaky”

On the wing: this is a slightly old fashioned term meaning while flying, “to take a bird on the wing” was used in hunting to talk about killing birds in the air. If something is on the wing it is moving or in process and/or hard to reach.

To wing something: means to do it without much preparation. Example: “Toni was ill yesterday so I had to wing the sales talk for Simon. I think it went fairly well.”

A feather in your cap/hat: This idiom refers to an achievement or attribute that you can be proud of. Example: “Public speaking is often frightening, but being able to give a talk is a feather in your cap to many employers.”

Chicken: When used as an adjective this means that a person is easily scared or frightened. Example: “Don’t be such a chicken; everything will be fine.”

A chicken and egg problem: this idiom refers back to the logic puzzle what comes first the chicken or the egg? If you have a chicken and egg problem you may know that two things are related but you’re not sure which affects the other directly?

chick-egg

photo credit: Evelio Sánchez Hay alguien ahí? via photopin (license)

The Year of the Monkey

The year of the monkey is here.

Capture monkey

This week we’re celebrating the year of the monkey which started on Febuary 8th. Traditionally celebrations last 15 days, but we’re only a few weeks into our second semester so we’re not ready to have a big break yet, so we made do with a half day on Wednesday to celebrate together.

Enjoying the food MandyJ

Guests at the Chinese New Year party enjoying the food. Photo: M. Jones

The monkey is the 9th of 12 astronomical symbols and all the years of the monkey are divisible by 12. People born in the year of the monkey tend to be active often out of doors and generally very healthy. Monkeys (as people born in this year are often called) are seen as clever and often inventive, but also witty, flexible, social, and kind. Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Dickens are two European ‘monkey’s that fit this description well.

Capture Lion J Huang

The Lion Costume/Puppet. Photo J. Huang

It’s sometimes said that your birth year (when you are 12, 24, 36 etc.) is a potentially unlucky year for you so you should be doubly careful about new businesses or relationships in that year.

Monkey_2_svg Wikimedia

Image via wikimedia

While not all predictions are positive (and more specific predictions depend on when (exactly) you were born)  we wish you all a prosperous healthy and happy year of the monkey.

Pancake Day

Today is ‘pancake day’.

Wait a second what does that mean?

Well ecclesiastically we are entering the season of Lent where traditionally in the Christian calendar people fasted or gave up rich foods, such as cream and eggs, or meat  most frequently on a Friday but for some throughout the season.

However, in contemporary Britain you’re more likely to find someone giving up chocolate,  sugar; fizzy drinks; wine or even Facebook or supermarkets.

With that in mind how do you make pancakes?

Well it’s actually very easy but a little practice makes perfect.

pancake -wikimedia

image via wikimedia

For North-American (sweet & fluffy) pancakes you need:

  • 1 cup (284 ml) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup (284 ml) of milk (full fat is nice but if you’re lactose intolerant water will work but you might need a bit more egg to help bind it).
  • 1 egg

Optional Extras:

  • A table spoon of sugar (Soft Brown sugars are especially nice here but anything works this helps the pancake to caramelise slightly).
  • Some Cinnamon and/or Vanilla (Personally I’d only use one or the other here).
  • Baking powder (especially if the flour isn’t self-raising/or isn’t that fresh)-(or you want to make them extra fluffy).
  • Cut fruit banana is a favourite of mine berries are also very nice but I’ve known people use chocolate chips here as well.

To make the batter: mix the egg, flour, milk, sugar, flavouring & baking powder together.

Fry on a medium high heat in lots of butter (the secret ingredient)-(margarine or oil will work here but may produce a slightly greasy pancake that you may wish to place on/pat with a piece of kitchen paper briefly before eating).

Pour about 100 ml or a third of a cup of your batter into the hot pan.

Add the slices of fruit etc.

When the bubbles on top are popping and leaving a little hole in the upper surface flip the pancake over. Unless you have lots of practice use a spatula or fish slice, flipping pancakes with a twitch of the wrist is a skill that requires work to master… and is only really good for showing off.

Serve with maple syrup, (golden syrup or honey work nearly as well) alternately jam and whipped cream.

Syrup_grades_large

image via wikimedia

For British savoury pancakes substitute water for milk and plain flour for self-raising (and don’t add the baking powder). The pancake will also cook more quickly and can be served rolled with a variety of fillings. Ham & leek is a personal favourite and nice both with and without cheese, but experiment as lots of things work very well. You can substitute sour cream for the whipped variety as well. Be careful not to overfill them, especially if you plan to try and eat them like a burrito.

crepe

Flooding in the UK: getting wetter

With over 80 flood warnings (46 of them severe) still in place lets look at some of the language used. This post from 2014 focused on Winchester which isn’t flooding at the moment. Our thoughts and prayers are with those in areas experiencing and at risk of flooding.

Source: Winchester: getting wetter

Tennis language:

In honour of Britain’s Davis Cup  win let’s have a look at some phrases relating to tennis.

The origin of the word tennis itself is thought to be from the French verb “tenner” witch was called when each player struck the ball into each other’s area of the court. The sport was probably imported into England by Henry the 8th or at least owes some of its popularity to his enthusiasm for it.

tennis

Royal Tennis from Hampton Court Palace

 

Tennis is primarily played on 3 surfaces, “grass”, “clay” and “hard court”. It can be played by 2 or 4 people with the team variety known as doubles. “Mixed doubles” is when each side has a man and a woman playing.

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Professional Tennis has a number (8-10) of line judges who “call balls in or out” although they effectively only call out these days.

“to call a ball in” – to say something is good/ok.

“to call a ball out” – to say something is bad/not ok.

Each match of tennis is presided over by an umpire, also called a chair umpire as they sit in an elevated chair on one side of the net. The umpire can overrule the line judges. A tournament is presided over by a referee whose job it is to ensure that everything is within the rules. Occasionally players may complain to the referee if they feel the umpire is treating them unfairly.

Tennis is a sport of many games, to claim victory over your opponent you need to win the match. Each match is made up of 3 or 5 sets, and you need to win six (or more) games to win each set. While you need six games to win the set, you also need a 2 game lead over your opponent(s) so 7-5 is a possible (in fact not infrequent) final score.

wimbledon

“game – set and match” is traditionally the umpire’s phrase when someone wins, as they will have one the game the set and the match.

“match point” is the critical moment when one player may win the whole match.

“to break service” when the point is won by the player(s) who did not start the play of that point then the service has been broken. A “break point” is the point where the receiving player(s) win the game.

“to win the toss” just before play starts the umpire will toss a coin and the player(s) who win the toss can chose whether they serve first or receive service first.

“serve for the match” when a player is serving for the match they are in a strong position and likely to win.

“love” there is no zero or nil in tennis; if you have no points you have love. The serving players points are always given first so 40-love the servers are about to win, love-40 they are about to lose. Each game starts love-love, one point is known as 15, a second moves you to 30, a third moves you to 40, a fourth is game. However, 40-40 is also known as deuce. From deuce a player needs two points consecutively to win the game; the first point known as advantage. If the score is advantage X and Y wins the point then the score goes back to deuce.

val

To be in a deuce, or describe a situation as a deuce means a difficult of tricky situation.

The phrasing Advantage name (or even name’s advantage) is quite common and while it reflects the tennis score it’s used widely outside of tennis circles.

“The ball’s in your court” when you have done what you can about a situation and you require action from someone else then you can say the ball’s in their court.