What is the meaning of the expression `on the fly’?

This is an informal expression that is mostly used in American English. When you do something `on the fly’, you do it very quickly, without spending too much time thinking about it.

This is a serious matter. I don’t think you should be taking decisions on the fly. The expression has another meaning as well. It means the ability to perform a task while you are on the move.

Padma’s new cell phone enables her to check her email on the fly.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

How is the word `etiquette’ pronounced?

The `e’ in the first syllable and the `ue’ in the third are pronounced like the `e’ in `set’, `bet’, and `pet’. The `i’ is like the `i’ in `kit’, `hit’, and `pit’, and the following `q’ is like the `k’ in `king’, `kiss’, and `kill’. The final `e’ is silent; the word is pronounced `etiket’ with the stress on the first syllable. This is one way of pronouncing the word.

Every society has its own rules and conventions which determine polite behaviour in a given social situation. Etiquette refers to the formal rules which govern `socially acceptable behaviour’. These are the rules we observe in our social and professional life.

There was a time when etiquette was considered important in our country

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

This is an expression that has been around for several centuries. When you tell someone that the `proof of the pudding is in the eating’, what you mean is that in order to determine the value of something, one needs to test or try it. You are telling the individual not to pass judgment on something without examining the facts or evidence. You will come to know if the pudding is good or bad, only after tasting it. The expression is often reduced to `the proof of the pudding’, and it has the same meaning as `don’t judge a book by its cover’.

On paper, your suggestions look great. But you know what they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

Difference between `work for someone’ and `work with someone’

When you `work for’ someone, you are his employee; you have been hired by him to do a job. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this individual knows you personally; and chances are you may not be working along with him. Lots of people work for the Prime Minister; it doesn’t mean that Dr. Manmohan Singh knows everyone personally.

How would you like to work for Ambani?

When you `work with’ someone, you work along with the person. He may or may not be your boss. In this case, since the two of you work side by side, you see him on a regular basis and know him personally.

For my PhD, I would like to work with Prof. Nagalakshmi.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

Difference between `alumni’, and `alumnae’

The `alumni’ of a university are the students who have graduated from it; the word is used to refer to both male and female students. `Alumnae’ are the female graduates of a university or college. The final `ae’ in `alumnae’ is pronounced like the `ee’ in `fees’, `bees’, and `trees’.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

How is the word ‘aficionado’ pronounced?

The ‘a’ in the first syllable and the ‘o’ in the third are like the ‘a’ in ‘china’; the ‘i’ in the second syllable sounds like the ‘i’ in ‘sit’, ‘pit’, and ‘hit’. The ‘c’ is like the ‘s’ in ‘sip’, ‘set’, and ‘sat’ and the ‘i’ is pronounced like the ‘y’ in ‘yes’ and ‘yell’. The ‘a’ in the fourth syllable is like the ‘a’ in ‘bath’ and ‘path’, while the final ‘o’ is like the ‘o’ in ‘so’, ‘no’, and ‘go’. The word is pronounced ‘afisyenaado’, with the stress on the fourth syllable ‘na’. This is one way of pronouncing the word.

When you say that someone is an aficionado of something, what you mean is that the person is a great fan of it; he is very interested in a particular subject, and knows a great deal about it.

Example, My boss says that his wife is an aficionado of Thai food.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 19, 2008

What is the response to ‘How do you do?’

It depends on which side of the Atlantic you are from. In British English, the standard response to ‘How do you do?’ is ‘How do you do?’ In India, when someone says ‘namaste’, we respond by saying ‘namaste’. The same is the case with ‘How do you do?’ This is an expression that is normally used when you are introduced to someone; once you have been introduced, you never use the expression with that individual again. The British make a distinction between ‘How do you do?’ and ‘How are you?’ The Americans, on the other hand, do not always maintain this distinction. It is common for Americans to say, ‘Fine, thank you’ in response to ‘How do you do?’ In India, you will be better off doing what the British do.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 19, 2008