Hold on, we’re off

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INSIGHT - Co-or­di­nated by JANE F. RA­GA­VAN english@thes­tar.com.my By LU­CILLE DASS By S.H. LOKE By OH TEIK THEAM

Want to be a dab hand at english? Learn some of these handy ex­pres­sions.

Shak­ing hands – I bet we en­gaged in a lot of that re­cently, es­pe­cially when do­ing our Christ­mas rounds à la Malaysian, greet­ing friends and fam­ily dur­ing the Christ­mas and hol­i­day sea­son. And with the New Year, as if of its own free will, our hand sim­ply gets thrust for­ward in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a good hand­shake while we gush “Happy New Year” to al­most any­one we meet.

Oh yes, hand-kiss­ing and bring­ing our hands to­gether at chest level in our cul­ture also count as ges­tures that in­di­cate cour­tesy, hos­pi­tal­ity, re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion. In­deed, the spirit of our fes­tive cel­e­bra­tions, of fel­low­ship and ca­ma­raderie, it can be said, rests in our good hands!

Shak­ing hands is a rit­ual we so of­ten par­take in to mark a va­ri­ety of oc­ca­sions, both joy­ous and solemn. Joy­ful oc­ca­sions in­clude times of rev­elry and fes­tiv­ity; in­ci­dents that mark the be­gin­ning of pro­fes­sional or per­sonal ac­quain­tance­ship or friend­ship; events to seal and se­cure busi­ness deals or ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Sad or solemn oc­ca­sions for the ob­ser­vance of this hand­shak­ing for­mal­ity in­clude oc­ca­sions of per­sonal loss and be­reave­ment; even acts of re­pen­tance or for­give­ness can in­volve a hand­shake.

Like other body lan­guage, shak­ing hands is known to have an eti­quette of its own. Sim­i­larly, all other trans­ac­tions that in­volve the use of hands come with their own dos, don’ts and dares. This sim­ply shows how im­por­tant hands are in the scheme of life and things.

Not sur­pris­ingly then, the hand is also an ex­cep­tion­ally handy lin­guis­tic tool to pos­sess in more ways than one. If this sounds fa­mil­iar it may be be­cause I de­liv­ered into your hands more than a fist­ful of ex­pres­sions in an ear­lier take (Oct 13, 2010) on this body part. Bear

CREEPY crawlies make our hair stand on end. We feel squea­mish so we squawk with fear or squirm in dis­gust. Although they are re­pul­sive, they have crept into our English lan­guage to en­rich our de­scrip­tions with vivid de­tails. 1. Mite a. A small child you feel sorry for.

The poor mites beg­ging by the road­side were a pa­thetic sight. b. To a small ex­tent or de­gree.

I can­not help feel­ing a mite ner­vous when I go on stage. 2. Bug a. A tiny hid­den mi­cro­phone which trans­mits what peo­ple say.

A bug was planted in his phone by the po­lice. b. You can say some­one has been bit­ten by a par­tic­u­lar bug when she is very en­thu­si­as­tic about some­thing.

She is al­ways globe-trot­ting as she has been bit­ten by the travel bug. c. If some­one or some­thing bugs you, they worry or an­noy you.

My mother is al­ways bug­ging me about tidy­ing my room. 3. Spi­dery If you de­scribe some­thing like hand­writ­ing as spi­dery, you mean it con­sists of thin, dark, pointed lines.

I recog­nise her spi­dery writ­ing eas­ily. 4. Moth-eaten If you de­scribe a place as moth-eaten, you mean it is unattrac­tive or use­less be­cause it is old or worn-out.

Chu­san Ho­tel has be­come a moth-eaten ho­tel which is no longer pop­u­lar. 5. Leech with me, or, I hope I will be quick enough to with­draw my hand in case you de­cide to bite the hand that feeds you more such ex­pres­sions! Many of you are well aware that there is much more to this ap­pendage, lin­guis­ti­cally speak­ing, that is.

While it is of­ten a good handmaid and du­ti­fully does all that it is bid, it also seeks to have a free hand now and then. No, I don’t mean hands-free like how my son gets my goat on pur­pose by tak­ing his hands off the steer­ing wheel while glee­fully yelling, “Look Ma, no hands!” More like the ar­tis­ti­cally in­clined hid­den hand (at the time of writ­ing this) that re­sorts to do a pen­cil sketch of a frog and then leaves it be­hind to be found on the seat of an erst­while Pe­nang Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil­lor at City Hall Pe­nang.

Yes, I am talk­ing about rov­ing hands – when un­leashed, they get into all sorts of mis­chief.

Bernie is a leech who likes to swin­dle rich women. 6. Fly on the wall If you say you would like to be a fly on the wall in a sit­u­a­tion which does not in­volve you, you mean you would like to see or hear what hap­pens in that sit­u­a­tion.

I would like to be a fly on the wall when Nancy finds out she has bought a fake ruby ring from Bei­jing. 7. Worm If you say some­one is worm­ing his way into some­one’s else’s af­fec­tion, he is mak­ing some­one trust him of­ten in or­der to de­ceive them.

He man­aged to worm his way into the con­fi­dence of his neigh­bour. 8. A can of worms If some­one opens a can of worms, he is plan­ning to do some­thing which is more complicated or dif­fi­cult than he re­alises.

When he started his fur­ni­ture busi­ness he opened a can of worms. 9. Bee­tle To go some­where quickly es­pe­cially be­cause you do not want to be no­ticed.

He was beetling down the back lane with a stolen plant. 10. Slug If you slug some­one you hit them hard.

Af­ter a heated ar­gu­ment he slugged his friend. 11. Waspish A waspish re­mark or sense of hu­mour is sharp and crit­i­cal.

His waspish re­marks can of­fend many peo­ple. Is it any won­der that we have hands all over, in a lin­guis­tic sense, of course! Even in a mu­si­cal sense. You have prob­a­bly heard that Hands All Over is also the ti­tle track of an al­bum by the Amer­i­can pop group Ma­roon 5. Now, that would be in a bod­ily sense, of course. Yes, I can hear you say there are other hand-re­lated songs, and rhymes too.

The fact that I am at it again, tak­ing in hand this “amaz­ingly dy­namic body part” (as I re­ferred to it in my ar­ti­cle then) – please don’t dis­miss it as if my left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is do­ing be­cause I am aware of the ground cov­ered in my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle. An­other rea­son for do­ing this again is that with my hands tied I will not get into any mis­chief (yes, even at my age!); it also keeps me off any temp­ta­tion to do some­thing wrong – you know how the devil makes work for idle hands! So be­ware.

On the other hand, you are mis­taken if you think I had to force my hand to do this. I rarely am one to throw up my hands in de­spair when un­der­tak­ing fun writ­ing tasks of this na­ture since any en­ter­prise of this kind goes hand in hand with my own in­cli­na­tion (as you may have no­ticed over the years now).

The truth is we are all skil­ful in dif­fer­ent ways. It is a mat­ter of recog­nis­ing what we are handy with and whether the hand­i­craft – lit­er­ary or arte­fact – shows up one’s hand. That is to say, shows one to be open and hon­est about it.

To use a tra­di­tional nau­ti­cal ex­pres­sion, all hands on deck this MOE page usu­ally take it in hand to write in a par­tic­u­lar vein or in a dif­fer­ent hand, if you like, to cater to a wide read­er­ship in terms of in­ter­est and level. As writ­ers we try not to come across as heavy-handed in our bid to talk about the ver­sa­til­ity and even the com­plex­i­ties that con­sti­tute this crazy but beau­ti­ful lan­guage that both in­spires and frus­trates us.

We also try not to hand you stuff that might prove too heavy go­ing for your di­ges­tive sys­tem. Se­ri­ously, many of us need a help­ing hand with any­thing that is heavy go­ing or con­fus­ing.

Thank­fully, there is “Fadzi­lah on Thurs­days”, who does not mind wait­ing on us hand and foot week af­ter week. While this eru­dite chief deck­hand ful­fils most re­quests for help, nay, she will not hes­i­tate to crack “the no-non­sense whip” (as I men­tioned in my ear­lier ar­ti­cle) lest things get out of hand. And, no, how can I for­get the page co-or­di­na­tor to whom we have to hand ev­ery­thing up? She is al­ways on hand to help us all strike a happy bal­ance. I be­lieve these may be among some rea­sons the MOE page has a ded­i­cated fol­low­ing.

By the way, and even if I no longer make money hand over fist (very rapidly), as soon as I get this ar­ti­cle off my hands I am treat­ing my­self to a new hand­bag, and a match­ing pair of shoes that will come hand-made ... with some hand­picked beads on them. Pe­nang’s boast, as you know. FILL in the blanks to com­plete the proverbs be­low: An­swers:

1. (b) still. A per­son learns more if he does not talk much but lis­tens to other peo­ple. 1. A _____ tongue makes a wise head. (a) thick (b) still (c) forked 2. Some are wise and some are _____. (a) slow (b) fool­ish (c) oth­er­wise 3. A bad _____ makes a bad end­ing. (a) plan (b) be­gin­ning (c) plot 4. All roads lead to _____. (a) Rome (b) Paris (c) London 5. Cast not the first _____. (a) mar­ble (b) peb­ble (c) stone 6. Even a _____ will turn. (a) worm (b) cater­pil­lar (c) grub 7. A _____ purse makes a light heart. (a) leather (b) heavy (c) lean 8. Learn to walk be­fore you _____. (a) dance (b) jump (c) run 9. _____ have ears. (a) Walls (b) Floors (c) Win­dows 10. The sun is never the worse for shin­ing on a _____. (a) rub­bish heap (b) dump (c) dunghill 11. You can­not make a crab walk _____. (a) side­ways (b) straight (c) back­wards 12. Don’t cry stink­ing _____. (a) meat (b) rich (c) fish 13. _____ men find the most time. (a) Lazi­est (b) Busiest (c) Wise 14. The _____ path is the safest. (a) beaten (b) widest (c) lighted 15. You can­not make _____ with­out break­ing eggs. (a) a pan­cake (b) noo­dles (c) an omelette

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