Category English Language

What is the meaning, origin and usage of word ‘Brusque’?

Meaning: An adjective, brusque refers to being curt, blunt or using very few words and sounding rude.

Origin: The term was borrowed from French brusque meaning “lively, fierce” which in turn came from Italian brusco meaning “sour, sharp or rough”. The Italian word was derived from bruscus, the Latin name for a plant called butcher’s broom, whose prickly twigs have long been used for making brooms. The term has been in use in English since the mid-17th Century.

Usage: He gave a brusque “No argument!” and walked off.

Picture Credit : Google 

What are the unusual word groups?


We know that the English language has parts of speech-like nouns verbs, adjectives and so on. You’ve probably learnt about them in grammar class.

But there are other fun groups too that words are classified into, in the language Have you heard of these?

Dolch and Fry Words

In 1936, linguist Edwart William Dolch created a list of 95 nouns that were commonly used in writing. He said that students should memorise these Sight words as whole words and not break them down. For example: “Answer” not aun-ser”.

Dolch also has a 220-word list without nouns. The theory was that if children could easily recognise these common words and read them, they could achieve reading fluency.

Based on this sight theory, in 1957, Edward Fry took words from “American Heritage Word Frequency Book” and created another group of high-frequency words. He ranked them according to how many times they occur in textbooks in classes 3-9. This list has all the parts of speech, and was revised in 1980.

These two lists are used in primary schools and help children become fluent speakers. Many of us have learnt English by simply memorising whole words! We read well, but our pronunciation may have been rather shaky because we memorised the words without worrying about their sounds. Today, you have audio to help you with pronunciation. Just practise!

Portmanteau words

Portmanteaus (or portmanteaux) are words that combine the sounds and meanings of two words. You know “brunch” is a combo of breakfast and lunch. right? And “motel” combines motor and hotel.

“Portmanteau” is a French word meaning “a large leather travelling bag” that opens into two equal parts – a special compartment for hanging clothing (suits) and a normal one for folded clothes and other stuff Makes sense to use it for a word that blends the sounds and meanings of two words! “Podcast” is a portmanteau (or blend), a made-up word from iPod and broadcast.

The word portmanteau has Latin origins, from portare, meaning a cloak. Over time, the word changed to include both suitcase and a language blend.

Surprisingly, it first appeared in a children’s book “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and was introduced by a talking egg!

In the story, Alice asks Humpty Dumpty to explain the nonsensical Jabberwocky poem. What do the words slithy’ and ‘mimsy’ mean, she asks. Humpty Dumpty replies: “Well, “slithy” means “lithe and slimy” You see it’s like a portmanteau there are two meanings packed up into one word.” “Mimsy” is flimsy and miserable”

So, if a friend tell you: “Let’s go glamping!”, do agree! Glamping is glamorous+camping, and was coined by fashion magazine Vogue in October 2011.

Today, there are numerous portmanteaus in English. Smoke + fog – smog. Jeans + leggings = jeggings, breath + analyser – breathalyzer, Obama + healthcare -Obamacare.

Try creating portmanteaus, and hold a class competition for original ones!

Crazy words

Shakespeare is supposed to have created “crazy words. “Hurry” and “zany” are common words today, but were thought of as odd in his time! People make up CTRZY sounding words all the time! Try this: Do you bloviate and carry a bumbershoot with you while your lollygag? Got you!

More weird words:

Bumfuzle or dumfoozle: To confuse, perplex

Cattywampus: in disarray, not directly across from something.

Bumbershoot: Umbrella

Lollygag: Surfaced around 1868. A “lollygag” is someone who is messing around wasting time

Bloviate: This refers to people who talk for a long period of time, who inflate their story to make themselves sound better.

Flibbertigibbet: Someone silly, doesn’t do anything serious. Maria, in the film Sound of Music was called this!

Unique words:

Syzygy: The only English word with three Ys. Refers to the alignment of three celestial bodies in a straight line.

Dreamt: The only verb to end with-mt.

Hydroxyzine: Only one word in all of English that has an X Y, and z in order.


Picture Credit : Google


How computer will help you in improving language skills?


Most of the physical dictionaries such as Oxford, Cambridge and Macmillan have online sites. To develop your vocabulary, you can refer to these sites. An easier way to find the meaning of a word is through Google Search. You can just type the word followed by ‘meaning’ in the search bar and you will get the answer instantly.


Developing a rich vocabulary is important to gain mastery over a language. While the dictionary can help you learn new words, there are several translators online that let you identify the equivalent of a word in the language you wish to communicate. The easiest translator to use is Google Translate. It is in-built with Google search. All you need to do is key in the word and the language to which you would like it translated. For example – Type “Translate happy to hindi” and see what happens.


Writing and reading are the best ways to improve language skills. There are several blogging sites that let you blog and consume content for free. Blogging lets you voice your opinion and improve your skills by way of feedback from your readers. You can also read blogs written by others to understand how they communicate and learn the best practices. There are several blogging sites that can be used for free such as Blogger and WordPress.

Online courses

Several websites offer free and certified courses in language. You can watch and learn at your own pace and get advice from certified instructors and peers. These courses also help you build an online network and connect with people from all over the world, thereby helping you learn the language faster.

Spelling checks

Spelling errors can be common in the initial phase of learning a language. Sometimes, spellings can also go wrong when typing. To avoid these mistakes, and to identify the correct spelling, spell checkers in text editors are useful. Spell checkers underline a word in red if the spelling is wrong and offer you suggestions for the right spelling.

Grammar checkers

Grammar is considered the foundation of any language. It is essential for effective communication. Grammar checkers in text editors and software, which you can install, can be helpful in improving grammar skills. In text editors, a grammar mistake is usually underlined in green. There are also websites such as Grammarly that help you correct your grammar mistakes instantly while typing out a mail or posting content on social media.

Audiobooks and Ebooks

It is said that listening and reading are great ways to master languages, especially pronunciation. There are plenty of free audiobooks and ebooks available online. Just choose your favourite story and start listening to it as an audio file or reading it on your laptop. It’s a fun way to improve your listening, reading and language skills.


Picture Credit : Google

What does the word meat mean?

Have you watched the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? The movie is themed around a clash between two cultures. A young Greek woman from a conservative family wants to marry a man from an upper-middle-class American family. The woman, Toula, brings her fiancé lan, home for dinner and the entire family gathers to meet him.

At one point, Toula introduces him to her aunt, telling her he is vegetarian. The aunt asks what that means, and when lan says he doesn’t eat meat, she says in shock, “What do you mean you don’t eat no meat?” She stares at him for a few seconds and then she smiles, pats him on the shoulder, and says, “That’s OK, that’s OK, I make lamb.” Obviously, for the aunt, lamb is vegetarian. It eats grass, right?

The movie was released in 2002. Today, the Greek aunt would have other choices for “meat” that are vegetarian. And lan would be happy eating those dishes.

We now have meatless chicken nuggets, tofu hot dogs, and burgers that have fake “bleeding” with beetroot juice. It is the same with milk: food store shelves now stock coconut milk, cotton-seed milk, badam milk and milk from many other nuts. Products like these raise a question: what do we call these new breed of “meatless” meat items?

Can we call food items “meat” or “milk” if they don’t come from animals?

What does the word ‘meat actually mean?

In Old English, meat meant food in general. The word has roots in ancient German, and originally, meat wasn’t about animal vs. vegetable, but solid food vs. drink.

 By 1300, meat began to take on a narrower meaning. It was understood as “the flesh of animals used for food” or “the edible part of anything, as a fruit or nut”, as in “the meat in coconut.”

Legal definition

Legally, meat has a much more specific meaning. In 1946, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defined meat in the Agricultural Marketing Act.

This said: “… the edible part of the muscle of an animal which is skeletal or which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the oesophagus, and which is intended for human food, with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of bone skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the muscle tissue and which are not separated from it in the process of dressing.”

Phew! That definition was updated in 1994 to include meat products “derived from advanced meat/bone separation machinery, which is comparable in appearance, texture, and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand.”

What about milk and fish?

So, the word “meat” should refer to flesh prepared from live animals.” Fine. But what about fish and other animals from the sea? We don’t call them “meat”, do we?

And what about milk? In 2017, a group of dairy farmers went to court saying the term “almond milk” was misleading and that almond extract should not be called milk.

Milk, after all, they said, means “an opaque white or bluish liquid secreted by the mammary glands of a female mammal, serving for the nourishment of their young.” Like meat, milk is a word recorded in Old English and passed down from an ancient Germanic root.

Ah, but the dairy farmers lost the case. They appealed to a higher court. The US Court of Appeals ruled that calling almond milk “milk” is not cheating. Come on, they said, “no reasonable consumer could be misled by unambiguous labelling or factually accurate nutrition statements.”

So now we have plenty of plant-based milks: oat milk and hemp milk are on supermarket shelves.

 In European Courts there is agreement that consumers might be confused when plant-based foods are called “meat” or “milk.” In 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that plant-based foods cannot carry the names butter, milk, or cheese. In 2018, France passed legislation in Parliament prohibiting specific labels, such as steak, from being applied to plant-based foods (for instance, “soy steak”). “Such names can be misleading,” said the MPs.

Rise of veganism

From around the 2000s, there has been a rise in the number of people turning to vegetarianism and veganism. Plant – based “meat” products became popular. Now, we have all kinds of fake meat products that have no meat. There is also laboratory-grown meat or “clean” meat.

“Don’t call it meat if it is not from animals!” say those who raise animals for meat. “If it is not from animals, it is not meat. The use the word “meat” to describe burgers and sausages that are made from plant-based ingredients or are grown in labs is illegal,” they say.

In 2018, Missouri in the United States became the first state to pass a law banning the use of the word meat on any plant- or lab-based meat alternatives.

Misleading or not?

Would you think that “soy steak” or “chick-pea burger” are foods derived from animals? Most people wouldn’t. Will the new, meat-free meat products get new names? Not likely. The whole point of selling these food items is to say that they look and taste the same, but have no meat in them. And buyers want them because they are looking for such products.


Picture Credit : Google

How to use synonyms in expressing ourselves?

One of the things that help you write better is to know and use a lot of words. Take verbs for example. We don’t just use the word “walk” for all the different ways of walking, right?

You can amble, stroll, saunter, perambulate or stride. And I am sure that there are even more words that mean “walk”. So we use different words for different situations, though the action is always walking.

One exercise we routinely did in our classroom was to allot an area on one side of the blackboard to write synonyms for a chosen word that day. A popular word for this exercise was the noun “song.” Do you know other words for “song”? Ditty, lay, tune, number, ballad are some of them. Today, we will do this exercise with the word “happiness.” The dictionary defines the word “happiness” as “pleasure derived from attaining what you consider to be good.” The word has its roots in the Old Norse “happ”, which means “chance” or “good luck.” That makes sense – maybe happiness is a matter of luck?

“Happiness” as a noun entered the English language in the 16th century, but the adjective “happy” had been around for around 200 years before that

So what are the synonyms for “happiness”?


Exultation is “lively or triumphant joy, generally over success or victory.” It comes from the Latin “exultationem” and has been used in English since the 1400s. Exultation is what we felt when India recently beat Australia in the fourth and final Test in Brisbane.


Jubilation is “a feeling or loud expression of joy, or a festive celebration.” This term entered English in the late 1300s from the Latin meaning “shouting for joy.” Cliff Richard has used this word very well in his popular song “Congratulations.”

Congratulations and celebrations When I tell everyone that you’re in

love with me

Congratulations and jubilations I want the world to know I’m happy as can be

The word has also been immortalised in Simon and Garfunkel’s song Cecilia: “Jubilation!

She loves me again; I fall on the floor and I’m laughing.”


Rapture is “ecstatic delight or joyful ecstasy.” It comes from the Latin “raptura” meaning “abduction,” “carrying away”. But these are not situations to be happy about!

Over the years, the meaning changed and people took it to mean “carrying of a person to another sphere of existence”. In Christian theology, the Rapture’ will happen when Christ returns to earth.


Bliss is “supreme happiness, often associated with the joy of heaven.” It comes from the Old English “blis” and is related to the terms bless and blithe. These lines from Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils” bring out the meaning beautifully:

For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils


Elation is “a feeling of great joy or pride, or of exultant gladness.” In Middle English “elat” meant “proud.” The rd travelled from Latin, and reached English through old French.

Elation is what you feel when Kohli hits a century and India wins an ODI cricket match against Australia in the last over.


Glee is “open delight or pleasure.” This term, strangely, has musical associations. At one time, the noun glee was allowed to be used to refer to entertainment of the harmonious variety. In the 17th century, people began to use the word “delight” in the place of “glee”.

The word “glee” became obsolete or was used to mean “comic and this was published in dictionaries by editors. Then miraculously, “glee“ re-emerged in common usage in the late 18th century. Equally strangely, glee is now associated with taking pleasure at someone’s discomfort. For example: “He gleefully admitted that he had complained about his neighbour.”


Joviality, according to the dictionary, is a state of hearty, joyous humour celebrating the spirit of good fellowship. The word comes from the Latin “lovints”, meaning “of or pertaining to Jupiter,” the Roman god of the sky. Was Jupiter a happy guy? Maybe!


Since 1727, it has been a physician’s term for “condition of feeling healthy and comfortable (especially when sick),” It is a Latin medical term from the Greek “euphoria” meaning “power of enduring easily,” which is from “euphoros”. meaning “bearing well” from “eu”, meaning “well” + “pherein” meaning “to carry”.

Some medicines create a sense of euphoria. This term has existed in English since the late 1600s. Of course, all of us can be euphoric when we are extremely happy about something.


Felicity is “the state of being happy, especially in a high degree.” It’s taken from the Latin root, “felix”, meaning “happy, fortunate, fruitful, fertile.”

It is associated with the Roman sentiment that “what produces more crops produces more happiness.”

Let me add here: Both men and cats are given the name Felix.


Gaiety is “a state of being vivacious and cheerful.” It is from the old French “gai”, meaning “joyful, agreeably charming, forward, pert.” Gaiety is what you see when a group of people are enjoying themselves at a party, a festival or a family function. For instance: Diwali was celebrated with a lot of fervour and gaiety.


Picture Credit : Google

What are the ways of labeling the passage?

One of the questions we answer all our school classes is “Read the passage below and answer questions that follow.” This passage is often described as “unseen”.

That is not correct since sensor probably your teacher-has seen it right A more accurate way of describing it is familiar. Can you think of other more appropriate ways of labelling the passage?

Examining the unknown

Answering questions on a passage that you have not read before is an interesting activity

In the tense examination hall, reading a passage gives you a breather. It helps you concentrate, and if you are a regular reader, it gives you a few moments of enjoyment. And if the passage is well-chosen, say, it is a story or about a fun subject it can help you de-stress and make the writing task lighter. Do you enjoy reading these unfamiliar passages?

But then, there is the end task of writing the answers. This is no big Heal since you have the text in front of you!

Still sometimes the questions can be tricky or finding the answer may take time.

First, read

Some students prefer to read the questions before reading the passage. Fine. But a better method would be to read the passage quickly first. This is for a “global” understanding of the passage.

What is it about? Is it just about facts (for example, the description of a city) or about opinions? (for instance, ‘digital technology has made us happy people’). What is the main argument in the passage?

Then, read again

Read it a second time. This is called “local” reading. This time absorb the facts and arguments. Where do you find them – in the first, – second or the third paragraph? What are the main points made by the author?

Which are the “yes” statements and which say “no”? (Yes: When the country develops we need more electricity to run our businesses and industries. No: We cannot build power plants endlessly without endangering lives and damaging the environment. Instead we should reduce our power needs and save power for essential services.)

Peruse the questions

Read the questions at the end of the passage carefully. What is asked? Often the options in multiple-choice answers resemble one another. Read carefully, sometimes just a word can make a difference in the answer.

Stay aware!

Watch out for questions like, “Which of the following is opposite to the ideas presented by the author?” OR “Which of these will make climate change worse?” [a] A [b] B & C] [c] All of the above [d] None of the above. Here, the answer will be [a], [b], [C] or [d]. Not A, B, C, D. To find the right answer, read the passage quickly to absorb what is said.

Understanding is key

Sometimes vocabulary questions ask you to find the meaning of the word as used in the passage. Make sure you understand how the word is used in the passage. For example, The company pushed its goods through aggressive marketing. “Pushed” here means “promoted.”

Stick to facts

Remember, the questions should be answered with the information in the passage. Your opinion does not count. So stick to what the author says.


Picture Credit : Google

Suggested Posts