Showing posts with label English. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Know your English !! Part.IV

Cloud-cuckoo-land: An idealized fantasy world: this term is a translation of the name for an imaginary city, floating in the air in the play The Birds by Aristophanes.

Cutting the Gordian knot: Solving a problem by taking prompt and extremely bold or unconventional action: The phrase is based on a supposed incident that occurred in ancient history. The Gordian knot was an enormous and intricate knot tied with rope made of bark by King Gordius of Phrygia in the 4th century BC. According to the oracle, whoever could undo the knot was destined to reign over a large empire in Asia Minor. Alexander the Great apparently took up the challenge by simply hacking through the knot with his sword in 334BC.

Curate’s egg: Something that is actually bad although claimed by some-out of sensitivity or some other reason – to have both good and pad parts. The phrase derives from a punch cartoon in which a nervous young curate at a bishop’s table is given what is obviously a bad boiled egg but fearful of giving offence tells his host that ‘parts of it are excellent.
This term is often misused. It correctly refers to something which is in fact completely bad or which cannot be redeemed, and not to something which has both good and bad qualities.

Beyond the pale: totally unacceptable, unreasonable or unbearable: the original pale was an area surrounding Dublin which was under English control in 12th to 16th centuries. People living outside it were considered to be dangerous and civilized.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Know your English !! Part.III

Blue blood: Noble birth, aristocratic descent. The term is a direct translation of the Spanish songre azul:  In Spain, a pale complexion used to be considered a sign of pure breeding—unmixed by Moorish stock from the long Arab occupation of Spain. Such fair skin showed up the bluish veins on the wrist or temple, and so the idea of blue blood developed as a mark of nobility.

Crossing the Rubicon:  Taking a step or making a decision on which there is no going back, and which marks the start of a chain of events:  The Rubicon is the ancient name of a river in northern Italy, believed to be the present day Fiumicino, which Julius Caesar was prohibited from crossing. In 49 BC, however, he forced the river with his army, effectively declaring war in Rome.

Dark horse: unfamiliar competitor or quiet new comer whose abilities remain unknown or untested. The phrase derives from horse racing: the betting public might be ‘in dark’ regarding the speed, stamina, or jumping ability of an unfamiliar runner- a dark horse- and therefore uncertain about the odds.

Devil to pay:  An idiom used to warn that trouble is on the way: the original version shows hot its meaning has changed; the devil to pay and no pitch hot suggests a lack of preparation for some important task – that is, the sailors’ task of sealing with tar the seam (known as ‘the devil’) between the planks of a wooden sailing ship.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Know your English !! Part.II

Weasel Words: Words or phrases with a vague meaning- such as efficiency or not in the public interest- as used in official statements to avoid specific commitments. The idea behind the term is the supposed ability of a weasel to suck out the contents of an egg while leaving the shell intact.

Upper case: Capital letters, the larger and less common form of the letters of the alphabet, as used at the start of sentences or proper names.
The terms ‘Upper Case and Lower Case’ come from the early days of printing when type was stored in a case with capital letters at the top and small letters at the bottom.

Accent: Way in which words are pronounced in a particular region or by a particular social class. It also refers to DIACRITICAL MARKS such as ACUTE ACCENT and GRAVE ACCENT, which adjust the way letters are pronounced in some languages. The word can also refer to the emphasis or stress placed on a particular syllable in a word.
Acronym: Words formed by combining the initial letters or syllables of a name or phrase, and pronouncing it as if it were an ordinary word.
Example:  Radar, Radio Detection And Ranging.

Ante-: Prefix from Latin, meaning ‘before,’ as in anteroom.

Anti-: Prefix, from Greek, meaning ‘against’ or ‘opposed to’, as in anticlockwise

Back-formation: Words created accidentally, on the mistaken assumption that it is an earlier and more basic form of an existing word.
Example: burgle and laze are back formations of burglar and lazy

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. XIV



Far from the Madding Crowd: Novel by Thomas Hardy published in 1874. It tells the story of farmer Batheheba Everdene and her three suitos- the good hearted Gabriel Oak, the dashing Sergeant Troy and the wealthy farmer Boldwood.
 The title came from the lines in Gray’s Elegy which says of those buried in the country churchyard: ‘Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife/ their sober wishes never learned to stray.’

Gray’s Elegy: Popular name for the poem Elegy written in a country church yard by Thomas Gray. The poem begins by considering the lives of those who lie buried in the village churchyard and then turns into a meditation on death. It contains many well known lines, such as ‘full many a flower is born to blush unseen, / and waste its sweetness in the desert air’.

Hamlet: Tragedy by William Shakespeare, written around 1599-1601. Before the play opens, the king of Denmark has been murdered by his brother, Claudius who has taken the throne and married the queen, Gertrude. The ghost of the dead king visits his son, Prince Hamlet, and urges him to avenge the murder. Hamlet tormented by this revelation, appears to be mad and cruelly rejects Ophelia whom he loved. Using a troupe of visiting players to act out his father’s death the prince prompts Claudius to expose his guilt. Hamlet then kills Ophelia’s father Polonius in mistake for Claudius, and Claudius tries but fails to have Hamlet killed. Ophelia drowns herself in grief, and her brother Laertes fights a duel with Hamlet. The play ends with the death by poison of the main characters and the arrival of Fortibras, prince of Norway, who assumes control.
Hamlet’s dilemma is often seen as typical of those whose thoughtful nature prevents quick and decisive action.. Hamlet contains several fine examples of Soliloquy, such as”To be or not to be” and the Hamlet’s earlier speech lamenting his mother’s hasty remarriage and Claudius’ reign which opens ’O! that this too too solid flesh would melt’. Much quoted lines include’ neither a borrower nor a lender be’, Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’, ‘To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the nub’; ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’, and ‘Alas, poor Yorick’.




Friday, October 28, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. XIII

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Children’s book by Lewis Carroll published in 1865 and written for Alice Liddell, the daughter of a friend. Alice enters Wonderland by following the white Rabbit down his hole, and has many strange adventures there. She meets the Mad Hatter and the march Hare, the grinning Cheshire Cat and the Queen of hearts, who shouts, ‘Off with her head!’ when Alice makes a mistake at croquet. The book was highly successful and was followed in 1872 by through the Looking Glass.
The book has been interpreted in many different ways, from being a satire on the court of Queen Victoria or academic pedantry at oxford, to mocking the legal system or exploring the unconscious mind.



William Wordsworth: English poet whose work played a major role in the development of Romanticism in English literature. His writing expresses a mystical view of life in which nature and the unman spirit are closely connected. Wordsworth grew up in Cumbria, and the Lake District country side inspired many of his poems, such as ‘The prelude,’ ‘Intimations of Immortality’ and ‘Resolution and Independence’. He was a close friend of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and in 1798 they published a joint volume, Lyrical Ballads, which included such poems as The Rime of the ancient mariner and Tintern Abbey. He was mad poet laureate in 1843.
Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy and wife, Mary, at Dove Cottage, now a museum, in Grasmere.


Brer Rabbit: Wily animal character from black American folklore used by the 19th century American author Joel Chandler Harris in his ‘Uncle Remus’ tales.
Brer is a dialect version of brother

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. XII

The Charges of the Light Brigade: The poem written by Tennyson in 1854, about a disastrous British cavalry charge in the Crimean War, in which nearly 250 soldiers were killed or wounded. The poem contains the lines:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.



‘Big Brother is watching you’: Slogan appearing on posters throughout the fictional dictatorship in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty four. Big brother is the unseen head of the ruling party. The term ‘big brother’ is used to refer to any ruler or government seen as invading the privacy of individuals.



Brave New World: Futuristic novel by the British author Aldous Huxley published in 1932. It is set in a time when society is governed by science, and solutions have supposedly been found to all human problems. The main character is an intellectual, Bernard Marx, who in his travels encounters ‘Savages’ who still lead lives of unscientific disorder. Marx returns to London accompanied by a Savage, and the book ends with a debate on human freedom versus scientific determinism.
The book’s title comes from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest in which Miranda, brought up alone on an island, catches her first glimpse of a man other than her father. ‘O brave new world,’ she exclaims,’ that has such people in it.’

Anita Brookner: Novelist and former art historian who began writing fiction in middle age. Her heroines are innocent romantics who find to their cost that in life – unlike literature – there are few happy endings. Her novel Hotel du Lac won the 1984 Booker prize.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. XI


Othello: Tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written between 1602 and 1604. Othello, a Moor, has command of the Venetian forces in Cyprus. However, the villain Iago cunningly convinces Othello that Desdemona, his beautiful and faithful wife, has committed adultery with Cassio, a lieutenant. Consumed by jealously Othello murders Desdemona by smothering her in bed. When he realizes his error and Iago’s malice, he kills himself.

Pride and Prejudice: Novel by Jane Austen published in 1813. The story concerns an upper middle class Hertfordshire family consisting of the foolish Mrs. Bennet, her wryly humorous husband and their five daughters. After a complex succession of proposals, refusals, engagements and even an elopement, three of the daughters end up happily married.
                The book’s opening sentence is well known:’ It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’.

The Wind in the Willows: Animal story for children by Kenneth Grahame published in 1908. The book started out as a series of tales told to Grahame’s son, featuring the highly strung, conceited and irresponsible toad and his riverside companions Rattie, Mole and Badger- characters partly based on friends of Grahame’s and partly on the rural gentry.
A musical, Toad of Toad Hall, was adapted from the book by A.A.Milne in 1930.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may’: First line of the 17th century poem urges young people to make the most of life in particular,of love- while they can.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. X

The Jungle Book: Collection of short stories for children by Rudyard Kipling published in 1894 and followed by the second Jungle book. Many of the stories feature Mowgli, a boy who is brought up by wolves and educated in the ways of the jungle by animals such as Ballo, the brown bear, and Bagheera, the Black Panther.
·         Mowgli and his friends are now, perhaps, best known to thousands of youngsters through Walt Disney’s 1967 delightful animated film version of the jungle book.
·         The Jungle Book was the inspiration behind the Wolf Cubs, the junior division of the Boy Scouts, founded in 1916.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Comedy by William Shakespeare, written around 1595. Four lovers spend a night in a wood outside Athens, where the fairy king and Queen, Oberon and Titania, have had an argument. To punish Titania, Oberon gets the sprite Puck to drop the juice of a magic herb on her eyes while she sleeps so that she will fall in love with the first thing she sees when she wakes. This turns out to be the weaver Bottom wearing an ass’s head mask for a play rehearsal, Puck also uses the herb on the human lovers who unfortunately set eyes on the wrong partners first. When Titania and Oberon are reconciled, Oberon releases the human lovers from the spell.
Ø  Well known lines from the play include
Ø  Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania
Ø  Lord, what fools these mortals be!’

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. IX


Emma: Novel by Jane Austen published in 1816 and regarded by many as her best work. The heroine, Emma Woodhouse, is a talented and attractive young woman who is, however, just a little too pleased with herself and a little too keen to meddle in the lives of others. Her action upset many people and nearly causes disaster on several occasions. However, Emma eventually learns her lesson and is rewarded by marriage to the chivalrous Mr.Knightley.
Samuel Johnson: Writer, wit, critic and lexicographer, best known for his Dictionary of the English language, published in 1755. In it, Johnson defines more than 40000 words and includes over 100000 quotations illustrating their usage. The book remained the standard reference work until publication of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1884.
Henry V: Historical play by William Shakespeare, written in 1599. The new king, Henry V, is advised that he has a claim to the French throne and wages war on France. After his rousing and patriotic speech- designed to increase his soldiers comradeship, and which includes the line ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers’- the English win a great victory at Agincourt. The play ends with peace reestablished and Henry courting Katherine of France.
·         Films of Henry V include a 1944 version, starring Laurence Olivier, and a 1989 version directed by Kenneth , Branagh in which he also played the title role

Let us go then, you and I’: First line of the poem The Love song of J.Alfred Prufrock by T.S.Eliot. The title is ironic, and Eliot deliberately uses unromantic images to reflect the nature of modern existence. The poem continues:
         When the evening is spread out against
                       The sky
          Like patient etherised upon a table.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. VIII

A Passage to India: Novel by E.M.Forster published in 1924 and set in India at the time of the British Raj and in which Forster examines the complex interaction of the two cultures. The events revolve around the strange experience of a young English woman, Adela Quested, in the Marabar caves. The experience- never fully explained- leads her to accuse Aziz, an Anglophile Indian, of rape. Eventually she withdraws the charge, but Aziz and many other Indians are left angry and embittered, and the British community is divided.

A Modest Proposal: Satirical pamphlet written by Jonathan Swift in 1729, suggesting the eating of children’s as a way of solving social problems in Ireland. It was written in outrage at government policy towards Ireland and at the appalling conditions in which the Irish peasantry lived.

The lady of Shallot: Poem by Tennyson based on medieval legend. It tells of a lady shut up in a tower on a river island. She is under a curse, and may only look at the world outside in a mirror. One day, hearing Sir Lancelot approach, she rushes to the window- and brings down the curse upon herself. She knows that death is near, leaves the tower and floats downstream in a boat, singing a last lament until her arrives- dead-at Camelot.
Jane Eyre: Romantic novel by Charlotte Bronte published in 1847. It describes how Jane, an orphan, becomes governess at Thornfield hall and eventually marries its intense, brooding master, Mr. Rochester.

Know Your English Literature Part. VII

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Children’s book by Mark Twain, Published in 1876. The hero is a wily, independent boy who engages in a series of anarchic escapades. In one episode, Tom tricks his friends into whitewashing a fence for him by pretending it is a great privilege and making them pay to take over the job.  On another occasion, Tom and his friends disappear for so long that they are presumed dead, finally returning to find their own funeral in progress.

The Tempest: magical romantic play by William Shakespeare, written in about 1611. Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan and a magician, had to bring up his daughter Miranda on an island where they are alone except for the monster slave Caliban and various spirits, such as Ariel. The play opens as Prospero, who is concerned about the young Miranda’s future, creates a tempest which shipwrecks a young man, Ferdinand, together with the false Duke of Milan and his confederates, on the island. Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love and the others are delivered into Prospero’s hands. He forgives them on condition that his dukedom is restored. At the end of the play, Prospero renounces magic and prepares to return to Italy.

Sex and Shopping novels: Popular works of fiction, generally written for and by women, in which glamorous characters indulge in steamy romantic affairs and spend vast sums of money. Typical examples include Judith Krantz’s novel princes Daisy, Shirley Conran’s Lace and Jackie Collins’s Hollywood Wives. An earlier example is Jacqueline Susann’s 1968 novel The Valley of the Dolls, Which sold more than 28 million copies.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. VI


Wuthering Heights: Romantic novel by Emily Bronte published in 1847. It tells the story of the passionate but troubled relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and the brooding Heathcliff, a homeless youth taken in by her family. Heathcliff overhears Catherine say that it would degrade her to marry him, and he leaves the house in a fury. Three years later Heathcliff returns to seeking vengeance.
A series of disasters ensue; most notably, Catherine now married to the feeble Edward Linton – dies in child birth. The story ends with Heathcliff’s death- which he greets as a reunion with his beloved Catherine. Wuthering Heights is the name of the Earnshaws’ home on the Yorkshire moors.

Ulysses: Controversial novel, experimental in form, written by the Irish author James Joyce and published in Paris in 1922, although not in England until 1936 because of obscenity laws. Ulysses deals with the experiences of a small number of Dublin characters as they go about their business on June16th, 1904- ad date now known as Blooms day. In themselves the events are ordinary, everyday occurrences, but Joyce describes them in terms of episodes from Homers Odyssey.
    The main characters are a middle aged Jewish   advertisement salesman Leopold Bloom (representing Homer’s hero Odysseus), a young poet Stephen Dedalus to whom Bloom acts as a father figure and leopold’s wife Molly.
     Ulysses introduce Stream of consciousness into English writing and greatly influence the modern novel.


Wife of Bath: one of the pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. She is robust, colorful character that who has had five husbands –all now dead- and is sometimes seen as an early feminist. The wife of Bath launches a spirited attack on chastity and female submissiveness.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. V


Paradise Lost: Epic poem written by John Milton, between about 1658 and 1663, and consisting of 12 books containing more than 10000 lines. The poem deals with the temptation and disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Fall of Man which follows. It also describes the rebellion and punishment of Satan and his cohorts, and foretells the coming of the Messiah, who will redeem mankind.


The Owl and the Pussy-Cat: Children’s nonsense poem written by Edward Lear in 1867 for the daughter of a friend. I t begins with the lines:
The Owl and the Pussy- Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.

Ring a Ring o ‘Roses: Nursery rhyme sung in a children’s game. The children hold hand and dance around in a ring until reaching the last line, when they pretend to sneeze and fall down. The words are believed by many to date from the Great Plague, with the’ roses’ being the red spots and ‘pocketful of posies’ the herbs which were supposed to ward off the illness. ‘A tishoo! a tishoo! Is said to imitate the cold symptoms which came before ‘we all fall down’ and die. However, there is no evidence to confirm this, and the earliest printed version dates only from 1800s.

Harold Robbins (1916): Best selling American novelist known for books such as Never Love a stranger and The Carpet-baggers, the latter of which sold more than 6 million copies.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. IV



Noddy: Character in a children’s book invented by Enid Blyton in 1949 after she had seen a sketch by the Dutch artist Harmsen van der Beek. Noddy books, featuring such characters as big-ears the Brownie and Mr Pold the Police man, have been best sellers ever since. But they have also been attacked for racism.


Old English: Germanic language with genders and cases, also called Anglo- Saxon, which was spoken and written from 700Ad to 1150. At least four dialects were used Northumbrian, Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon. The best known Old English poetry, including BEOWULF, is contained in four manuscripts from the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The earliest known works is the Hymn of Creation, composed in the late 7th century by Caedmon, an illiterate Northumbrian cowherd.

Peter Pan: Play by the Scottish writer J.M.BARRIE, first performed in 1904. The title character is a little boy who lives in a place called Never Never Land where children never grow up. Peter Pan, accompanied by the fairy Tinker bell, persuades Wendy and her two brothers to leave their parents, the Darlings, and their faithful Canine nurse, Nana, and fly from their Kensington home to Never Never Land. There they have various adventures and finally vanquish the pirates and their leader, evil Captain Hook.

‘To be or not to be’: opening line of one of the most celebrated speeches in English literature. It comes from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, and occurs in a Soliloquy in which the prince considers suicide as a way out of his dilemma. Ultimately, he rejects it because of fears about ‘what dreams may come’- that is, the possibility of damnation and eternal torment- and concludes, ‘Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all’

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Know Your English Literature Part. III



Limerick: Humorous nonsense jingle, usually consisting of two long rhyming lines followed by two short rhyming lines and a longer final line that rhymes with the first two or, more strictly, ends on the same word as the first line. Limericks often begin, ‘There was a …’, as in this one by Edward Lear:

There was a Old Man with a beard,

Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!-

Two owls and a hen,

Four larks and a wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!


The Lord of the Rings: Fantasy novel by J.R.R.Tolkein, published in three volumes between 1954 and 1955. It is a sequel to his earlier novel The Hobbit, published in 1937. Four Hobbits, Frodo, Sam Merry and Pippin, set out on a dangerous mission to prevent the evil Sauron from obtaining a golden ring which will give him power to control the world. The hobbits’ mission is aided by the Elves and by the good wizard Gandalf, but on several occasions they almost lose their lives in doing battle with the fearsome Orcs, Ring wraiths and other agents of Sauron. Eventually the ring is destroyed, Sauron falls and benevolent human ruler established in his place.



Middle English: Form of English written and spoken from 1150 to 1500. Its basis was the Germanic language Old English- also called Anglo-Saxon- with the addition after the Norman Conquest of 1066 of a large number of Norman French words. It had no standard system of spelling and there were five dialects in Middle English: East Midland, West Midland, Southeastern, South Western and Northern. Much literature of the time was written in the two Midlands dialects, and it was a London version of East Midlands that developed into Modern English.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Know Your World Literature Part. I

Comedy: Type of literature which treats its subject matter humorously and which usually has a happy ending. The plot is often unbelievable and the characters are usually ordinary people rather than the kings and heroes of Tragedy. Western comedy grew out of ancient Greek Fertility rituals in which certain well known people were publicly ridiculed. Later is became unacceptable to mock individuals and instead stock characters or ‘types’ were used. In modern times, Satire, black comedy, Farce and Theatre of the Absurd have tended to dominate the comic form.

Black Comedy: Type of cynical humor developed in the 20th century, particularly in the Theatre of the Absurd. It represents a view of life in which human striving is futile, beliefs and values are arbitrary, and events are governed by chance. Samuel Beckett’s waiting for Godot and Joe, Orton’s Loot are black comedies.

Catharsis: Term used by Aristotle to describe the purifying effect of releasing the emotions of pity and terror which he believed was the purpose of Tragedy.

Classicism: In literature, any style of writing base on the principles and forms used by Classical Greek and Roman authors, such as those laid down by Aristotle in his Poetics. It is sometimes contrasted with Romanticism, which concentrates on imagination and feeling rather than form and style. Classicism flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries when writers such as Voltaire and Moliere in French, Swift and Dr. Johnson in English, and Goethe and Schiller in German all based their work on Classical models.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Exploring World Religions -1


Part. I Exploring World Religions


Apocalyse: Type of Jewish and Christian scriptures which claims to reveal secrets, especially concerning the future, and which generally gives hope to persecuted groups. The best known of these is St. John’s Book of Revelation in the New Testament, which prophesies the end of the world. The world comes from the Greek for “unveiling”.


Figuratively, an apocalypse is any cataclysmic event marked by violence and destruction, as in the title of the Vietnam War filmApocalypse Now.




Symbol of Atheism


Atheism: non belief in, or denial of the existence of a god or gods. Reasons for atheism vary from the view that the world is so full of injustice and suffering that it cannot be governed by a benevolent deity, to scientific arguments that the idea of a creator does not help to explain existence of the Universe. Many Greek philosophers were atheists, although this could be dangerous Socrates was forced to take poison because of his atheistic teachings. The Roman pagans accused the early Christians of Atheism, since they denied the traditional gods. Atheism was long suppressed in Christian Europe and North America but it was not a criminal offence.







Dalai Lama: Traditional ruler and Buddhist spiritual leader in Tibet and Mongolia, believed by his followers to be the reborn Bodhisattva. The current Dalai Lama, forced into exile in India after the Chinese suppression of Tibetan nationalism in 1959, continues to work for the freedom of Tibet.







Dogma: Unproved, often unprovable, theory or doctrine which has to be accepted as true without question. The term is often applied to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, which are pronounced on by the pope and which all Catholics are bound to accept.