Can the word ‘ward’ be used to refer to one’s children?

In India, many people do refer to their children as their wards. Native speakers of English, however, wouldn’t do this. They would consider ‘ward’ to be a legal term; a word that is normally used to refer to a person, especially a child, who is under the legal protection of a guardian or a court of law.

The Collins Cobuild English Dictionary defines a ward as a child who is placed under the care of a guardian because his ‘parents are dead’ or because he is ‘believed to be in need of protection’. Teachers in India sometimes refer to their students as their wards. This would be considered to be rather old fashioned by native speakers.

 Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – September 25, 2007


Pronunciation: The ‘a’ in the first and second syllable are pronounced like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’, ‘bat’, and ‘fat’. The ‘g’ and the final ‘e’ are silent, and the ‘i’ sounds like the ‘y’ in ‘yes’, ‘yellow’, and ‘young’. The word is pronounced ‘lan-yap’ with the stress on the second syllable.

‘lagniappe’ comes from the Spanish ‘la napa’ meaning ‘the gift’. The word was originally used to refer to a gift or something extra that a friendly shopkeeper added to a customer’s purchase. As time went on, the word acquired a broader meaning. It began to be used to refer to any unexpected gift or benefit. Lagniappe is not included in many dictionaries, and its use is mostly confined to what are known as the ‘Gulf states’ in the United States — Mississippi, Louisiana, etc. The well-known author Mark Twain wrote about this word in his book ‘Life on the Mississippi’

Since we had bought so many items, the shopkeeper included a DVD player as lagniappe.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – September 11, 2007  



When you displace something, you usually take its place. Most of the time this replacement is done forcibly. For example, a growing number of employees in the old factory have been displaced by computers.

According to this report, moderates are likely to be displaced by extremists. * “We need some change, I guess. There’s no way that technology will displace teachers in schools and colleges.”

Displace has another meaning as well. When a group of people are displaced, they are forced to move from the place where they are living.

The proposed dam will displace thousands of villagers. * “I am joining an organisation that helps people who have been displaced.”

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – September 04, 2007



Pronunciation:  The first syllable is pronounced like the word ‘in’. The ‘o’ and the ‘e’ that follow sound like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The stress is on the first syllable.

Indolent means some one who is unwilling to work. It is a formal word for ‘lazy’.

Example: The indolent husband refused to help his wife clear the dishes.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – August 27, 2007 

How is the word ‘nuptial’ pronounced?

The ‘u’ in the first syllable sounds like the ‘u’ in ‘cup’, ‘pup’, and ‘cub’; the ‘t’ is pronounced like the ‘sh’ in ‘sheep’, ‘ship’ and ‘show’. The ‘ia’ that follows sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’, and the stress is on the first syllable. The word sounds like ‘nupshell’. It is considered rather old fashioned, and is mainly used jocularly to refer to things related to a person’s wedding ceremony.

Example: I had to laugh when the old woman referred to her bedroom as her nuptial chamber.

 Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – August 13, 2007  

Meaning and origin of ‘blurb’

When we pick up any book, the first thing we normally look at is the back cover. It usually contains the publisher’s/reviewers’ short, but raving description of the book. This description, which is always full of praise for both the author and the book, is called a ‘blurb’.

Example: According to the blurb, this is the best novel written by the author.

Although the idea of a blurb had been in existence for a long time, the word itself was coined only in the 20th century. I understand that it was the brainchild of Gelett Burgess, the well-known author of ‘The Purple Cow’. When his new book, ‘Are You Bromide?’ was launched, Burgess persuaded his publishers to do away with the usual sugary write-up. Instead, he made them paste the picture of a girl whom he named Miss. Belinda Blurb. The back cover said, ‘YES, this is a BLURB’; it contained quotes from Ms. Blurb. As a result, anything that was printed on the back cover began to be called a blurb. Nowadays, we have blurbs on DVD and VCD covers as well.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – August 06, 2007