Thursday November 10, 2011
A case of misused metaphor
Your Questions Answered by FADZILAH AMIN
IN this passage from an item on Yahoo! News, what does the sentence in bold mean?
The Obama “administration is interested in sending a message to the Iranians that we have lots of things we can do that are tougher, ... [that it] can ratchet up the pressure on Iran,” suggested Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an interview with The Envoy [on] Monday. “The administration may be lifting its skirt a little bit to show some ankle.” – sm
Patrick Clawson seems to have chosen the wrong metaphor to convey the idea of a mild threat that he thinks the US administration may be making against Iran. When a girl lifts her long skirt “a little bit to show some ankle”, she’s not being threatening at all. In fact, she’s trying to be mildly seductive. Also, the image of the Obama administration as such a girl is somewhat insulting to the government of a super power. An image like: “The administration may be rolling up its sleeve a little bit to show some muscle.” would be more suitable, I think.
Queue and line
1. In what country do people use “queue” and where do they use “line”?
2. Which is correct: 10 more minutes, or 10 minutes more? – Ilyani
1. Both words are used in Britain and the US to mean a line of people waiting for something, but “queue” is more often used in Britain and “line” in the US. Below are two headings of articles, one from the online version of Los Angeles Times in the US, and the other from the online version of The Guardian in Britain to illustrate the more frequent usage in each country:
“Buyers Stand in Line for Bargain Lots” (LA Times, Aug 5, 1990)
“Why you don’t have to stand in a queue to see the best of Monet” (The Guardian, Jan 25, 1999)
2. Both are correct. In “10 more minutes”, “more” is a determiner (modified by the number 10) before the noun “minutes”.
In “10 minutes more”, “more” is an adverb. To see how it functions as an adverb, we have to see the sentence in which “10 minutes more” occurs. Let’s take the sentence we hear often in an examination hall: “You have 10 minutes more.” There, “more” is an adverb modifying the verb “have”.
In both phrases, “more” is used not as a comparative adjective or adverb, but to denote an extra number or the remaining number of minutes.
First floor or second level?
I refer to the article, “Giant crane falls on pre-war house” (The Star, Oct 5). The house in question is a double-storey house. The article reports that a man “who was sleeping on the second floor of the house” was killed in the accident.
Since it is a double-storey house, shouldn’t it be the first floor or second level and not the second floor? – Ow Wan Yi
In British English, the floor of a building that is at ground level is called the “ground floor” and the level above that is called the “first floor”. Since The Star uses British English, I agree with you that the writers of this article should have used “first floor” instead of “second floor” in writing about the upper floor of a two-storey house.
In American English, however, the ground floor is called the “first floor”, and the floor above that is called the “second floor”. This might be a cause of confusion to Malaysians, since we are exposed to both varieties of English.
Unsure about tenses
I have some doubts regarding tenses. Here is an example of an email I have sent my friend:
Can you please help to advise.
User’s status is/was showing as completed. User has completed the necessary training but it is/was showing as unsuccessful.
User is/was delegated by her peer to complete the training.
Below are steps that user has taken:
1. User click/clicked on the the training tab.
2. User receive/received the error message.
In the email, I am explaining to my friend about the issue that the user is/was having. Although the issue has happened, since I am explaining in simple/present manner, can I use is instead of was? I was told that I can use either. Can you please explain the difference?
I would also like to know if there are any good books I can buy to brush up my grammar/tenses. – Andrew
It would be better and clearer to use “was”, since you are describing past actions. Also, you should use “shown” rather than “showing” in your first two sentences.
If you want to brush up your grammar, I would recommend Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty S. Azar. It should be available in the big bookshops.