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Let's put it another way

Find out what 'pushing up daisies' means in this quiz.

Let's put it another way

Let's put it another way tests you on euphemisms.

Just like anyone else, English-speakers are born, die, have children etc. ~ but there are a whole range of less direct ways of speaking about these experiences. We usually call these 'euphemisms' and we can be fairly confident that your own language has similar, politer expressions, which may work the same way as ours or use different images again.

Of course, it's very important that you are aware of these things so that you don't miss a 'clue' (e.g. about someone's medical problems) and find yourself creating unnecessary embarrassment.

Let's see, then, how English 'puts things another way'. We apologise in advance for raising these matters, but they are all part of life ... and, therefore, of language!

1.
'Good evening; Mrs Hugh? I'm Inspector Dominick from Whitchurch Police. I'm so sorry to disturb you, but may we come in for a moment please? Perhaps there's somewhere we could sit down ... '
What is the most likely implication of this developing conversation?
It is a purely social visit.
The police have arrived to arrest Mrs Hugh.
They have come to tell her bad news, involving a close member of her family in a road accident.
They want to give her a standard 'talk' about home security.
If you have ever watched detective fiction on the television, this scene (or others like it) will probably prepare you (and 'Mrs Hugh') for the worst.
2.
You ask a friend about her parents and what they do in life. She tells you, 'My father's been pushing up daisies for the past five years'. What is she trying to tell you?
She is ashamed of the fact that her father is a professional gardener.
Her father died, and was buried in a cemetery, a few years ago.
Her father is very ill in a care home (where the bed-linen and decor are styled with flowers, to try and help people think calmly and positively about their life).
Her father walked out of her life and she has lost contact with him.
The reference is to what happens when a body decays and 'new life' (in this case, pretty little everyday flowers) is the next stage in the great biological cycle.
3.
'Hello, is that Gemma? This is Susie. Listen, I don't want to be a nuisance, but I've got a terrible headache this morning and I don't think I'm going to be able to drive into work. Can I call you again at lunchtime and let you know if I'm up to it for this afternoon?'
Which is the LEAST likely explanation for such a phone call?
Susie had too much to drink last night and has a major hangover.
Susie is having a painful time of it with her menstrual period this month.
Susie has a genuine headache, or perhaps had a minor migraine or epileptic episode during the night.
Susie has some other important engagement this morning, such as a visit to a medical clinic about a private matter that she does not (at least, yet) want 'work' to know about.
Susie's call may, of course, be entirely genuine; but the 'headache' is (for right or wrong) a very standard way of dodging any or all of these other issues.
4.
'Where's Andy this morning?'
'Dunno; but he came back plastered after midnight, so I doubt he'll be moving before lunchtime at the soonest.'
What's been happening to Andy, then?
He had too much to drink and needs to sleep it off.
He was involved in an accident, and was brought home from hospital late in the night with one of his limbs in plaster.
There was a fight at a nightclub in which he was injured and needed first aid.
He was working in the open air until very late and came back covered in mud.
'Plastered' is one of innumerable English expressions meaning 'drunk'. The other suggestions are each colourful and variously plausible, but the much most likely scenario is Answer 1.
5.
You are about to be introduced to another friend-of-a-friend: this time, a lively-mannered man who is clearly full of interest and experience ('the life and soul of the party'). Your friend tells you quietly, just beforehand, ' ... But do be a little careful; sometimes he can't keep his hands to himself'.
What are you supposed to be careful of, as you go to meet him?
He tends to steal things (picking pockets, etc.) when the chance presents itself.
He is sexually predatory, and will try and touch (probably, young and/or female) people in uncomfortable ways and places under the pretence of being friendly.
He will be likely to move too close to you for comfort, 'invading your personal space', fingering your clothing / jewellery etc., which you may well find disconcerting.
He has a very strong, firm (and perhaps, long) handshake ... don't let that take you by surprise!
Answers 3 (and, to a lesser extent, 1) are understandable assumptions, but the real warning is in Answer 2.
A truly responsible friend would probably not take you near any such person in the first place, but it is still worth 'knowing the code'.
Among young 'society girls' in the past, there was a whole such code where they shared experiences about young men they had met. If the initials 'NST' were mentioned, this apparently meant that such-and-such a young man was 'not safe in taxis'; i.e., that he had been known to take advantage of the semi-private environment to 'make a pass' at a girl.
6.
You are re-visiting old friends and ask about their neighbour, whom you remember as 'a bit of a character'. Your friends pause a moment, look at each other slightly mysteriously, then one of them tells you: 'Ah yes, Mr Snodgrass: well, let's just say he's gone away for a while.'
What do they probably mean?
Mr Snodgrass has let out his house and gone to live somewhere else, for good reasons of his own.
Mr Snodgrass was taken away by the police and is now serving a jail sentence.
Mr Snodgrass had a longstanding argument with your friends, which they effectively 'won', and Mr Snodgrass has moved away elsewhere for good.
Mr Snodgrass is dead.
Answer 2 may well be the most likely: he is serving time 'at Her Majesty's pleasure' (i.e. according to the punishment laid down by the Law of the Land, as signed into effect by the monarch). There are, of course, numerous other expressions for this experience.
7.
You are shortly going to meet a friend-of-a-friend, whom you have discovered to have a hobby in common with you. The mutual friend 'in the middle' ~ who has made the connection / introduction ~ offers you a word of warning before you go in to meet his other friend: 'He knows his stuff all right, but it's only fair to tell you that he's no oil painting'.
What are you supposed to understand by this?
This person is obsessed with your mutual hobby, but his home is a complete mess: don't expect tidy furniture or pictures on the wall.
The person is nice, kindly, knowledgeable, genuine etc.; but there is something immediately 'wrong' with him, possibly a deformity or just that he is noticeably ugly, and you are being warned so that you don't react with initial revulsion and set your meeting off on an embarrassing start.
His house is cold and the walls are unpainted, so don't be surprised by the conditions.
The person knows a great deal about art, but never produces any 'pieces' himself.
'No oil-painting' is a somewhat oblique, and rather cruel, way of saying that in an age before photography, nobody would have spent time and effort painting a portrait of this person because he looks so peculiar.
8.
You have tried some particular British food that was new to you, and it has upset your digestion. The following day you are aware that you might need to go to the bathroom/toilet at fairly short notice and at any moment, so it won't be practical to go off on an outing with your friends. How do you best explain this to them?
I'm afraid my stomach's not too good today, so I ought probably to stay indoors.
I've got frightful diarrhoea this morning, so no thanks.
Today's not on, I'm afraid; I've got the runs after that supper last night.
It looks as though I'm going to be tied to the bathroom for these next few hours.
Answer 1 is clear enough and polite; Answer 2 may be medically true but is somewhat indelicate, and 3 is both informal and rather rude. Answer 4 is more or less possible but it would (with all due respect) probably sound rather silly coming from a non-native speaker.
If such circumstances did arise, you would not be the first person to have such a reaction to 'foreign' food; so it would be no bad thing to know what to say in order to keep the situation from becoming even more awkward!
9.
There are plenty of conversational clues about a woman being pregnant (presumably in the more delicate earlier stages, where you would not be able to tell by looking quietly at the shape of her).
ONE of these is NOT relevant or appropriate here; which one?
By this time next year there should be the patter of tiny feet.
She ought to be careful about strenuous exercise, and watch what she eats and drinks, in her condition.
The stork is on its way.
Oh yes, she has a bun in the oven all right; four months gone, so she tells me.
The old pretence that babies arrive in a cloth and are delivered by a stork (a long-legged bird) is very old-fashioned on all sorts of counts; you would be most unlikely to come across it now.
Answer 1 is occasionally used, though the feet of a baby less than one year old ('this time next year') are unlikely to be 'pattering' ~ as it takes longer than that for a baby to learn to stand, walk and then run; but the sense is reasonably clear.
Answer 2 is rather solemn but does make sound medical sense; Answer 4 is very casual!
10.
'Bob will be along in a moment; he's just nipped out for some fresh air, as he wasn't feeling very well.'
This may well be a polite understatement: what's actually going on? Pick what you believe may be the truth.
Bob felt ill during his journey here, was physically sick (i.e., he vomited) when he arrived, and he is now 'sorting himself out' (clothing, hair etc.) and generally sitting down and breathing steadily before he comes on in to meet you.
Bob has already been on the drink, and he probably won't be capable of making coherent conversation until much later on, if at all.
Bob has a recurrent health problem; coming out to meet you has brought on a bad bout of his 'condition' and there is, sadly, now every chance that he won't be joining you later after all.
Bob has had to take an urgent phone call in connection with a distressing private matter (pending an ugly divorce, or the imminent death of one of his parents from a long disease), so he has gone out into the garden for a bit of fresh air and privacy.
Any of the others is possible, but Answer 2 would be a classic case for this level of 'white lie'.
Author:  Ian Miles

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