Hold on, we’re off
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