What is the difference between ‘spat’ and ‘argument’? (B Mallika, Secunderabad)
In both cases, there is a disagreement about something between two individuals or two groups of individuals. ‘Spat’ is mostly used in informal contexts to refer to a quarrel about something trivial. The word, which can be used both as a noun and a verb, also carries with it the sense that the fight or quarrel did not last too long. In a spat, people usually lose their temper. This is not necessarily true in case of an ‘argument’; it is possible for two people to have an argument without any shouting. The duration of an argument can vary — it can be long or short. Also, in an argument, people may choose to convince the other individual by appealing to logic. A ‘spat’ is usually an emotional outburst.
Neeraja had a spat with her teenage daughter in the hotel lobby.
Ramu used to spat with his sister almost every day.
The students got into an argument with the police.
How is the word ‘desperado’ pronounced? (T Jagdish, Erode)
The ‘es’ in the first syllable sounds like the ‘es’ in ‘less’, ‘yes’ and ‘mess’; the vowel in the second, sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The ‘a’ in the third syllable sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘bath’, ‘path’ and ‘task’, and the final syllable rhymes with ‘no’, ‘so’ and ‘go’. The word is pronounced ‘des-pe-RAA-doe’ with the stress on the third syllable. There are many theories about the origin of this word. According to some scholars, it comes from the Spanish ‘desperado’ meaning a desperate or reckless individual; a criminal who is prone to violence and who is not unduly worried about the consequences of his action. Others believe it comes from the English ‘desperate’; a word which was once used both as a noun and an adjective.
Desperados frequented the seedy bar in the small town.
A couple of desperados robbed the priest.
What is the meaning of ‘pittance’? (S. Shalini, Nellore)
This rather informal word rhymes with ‘kittens’ and ‘mittens’. When you say that your salary or allowance is ‘pittance’, what you are suggesting is that it is not much; it is a meagre amount. You do not make enough to make ends meet. In your opinion, and perhaps in the opinion of others, you deserve to be paid a lot more.
Das needed cash; he ended up selling the house for a pittance.
For the amount of work Geetha does, she’s getting paid pittance.
The word was originally used to refer to the generous sum of money that rich people left for priests and monasteries. In return, on the occasion of the death anniversary, the priests/monks prayed for the departed soul of the patron. The pittance was used to buy food and wine. With the passage of time, the word took on a negative meaning because the amount of money willed to the religious institutions became smaller and smaller — they became paltry.
Which is correct? ‘Let’s go to the cinema’ or ‘Lets go to the movie’? (J Praveen, Tiruchi)
If what you want to suggest is ‘Let’s go to the cinema hall and watch a film’, then ‘Let’s go the cinema’ is correct. It is mostly used in British English. Americans, on the other hand, say ‘Let’s go to the movies’ and not ‘movie’.
Shyam and Vidya are going to the cinema/movies this weekend.
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Rule # 1 during arguments: if you are losing, start correcting their grammar
The author teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. [email protected]
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