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Know Your English

"HI! COME on in. Are you interested in watching a movie with me?"

"A movie! Didn't you say you were going to be busy this week?"

"I most certainly did. Luckily for us, our boss decided to farm out some of the work."

"How can anyone farm work? I don't understand."

"When you `farm out' work to someone, what you are doing is getting the person to do it."

"So if I have too much work, I can farm some of it out to a colleague!"

"Or to an outsider. "

"The new company that my dad works for farms out a lot of work to consultants."

"It is also possible to farm out people."

"When you do this, you are sending someone to work for somebody else. Is that it?"

"Exactly! "

"When I become the boss, I am going to farm out all my work."

"I don't think you can get away with that."

"You are probably right. So did you watch Ronald Dumsfeld apologising to the people of... "

"... .it's not Ronald Dumsfeld, but Donald Rumsfeld."

"I know that. But why should I say his name correctly? After all, he doesn't take the trouble of pronouncing any of the Iraqi names properly. In fact, none of the American politicians do."

"You have a point there.The photographs of the Iraqis being tortured raised my hackles."

"Raised your hackles? What does it mean? What are hackles, anyway?"

"Hairs on the neck of a dog are called hackles. Similarly, the feathers on the neck of a domestic cock are called hackles."

"But how can the feathers or hair on the neck be raised?"

"I believe when a dog becomes angry or agitated, the hair on its neck stands up. And... ."

"... .when a cock gets agitated, the feathers on the back of its neck stand up."

"Exactly! So when you say that someone's hackles are raised, what you mean is that the person is very angry. "

"I could see my chemistry teacher's hackles rising as she heard the principal outline his plan."

"The kids expected the article to raise a few hackles. But nothing happened."

"Now that you have farmed out your work, what have you been doing with yourself?"

"Oh, nothing much. I jogged two miles this morning. Then I guzzled two bottles of water."

"You what?"

"G... u... z... z... l... e... d. It rhymes with `"puzzled'". Do you know what guzzled means?"

"No, I don't. Why don't you tell me?"

"When you guzzle something what you are doing is eating or drinking it very quickly. You greedily gulp it down. Mehta guzzled gin and tonic all evening."

"Yes, I can believe that. Mehta drinks like a fish. Anyway, how about this example? The kids guzzled down all the gulab jamuns in about five minutes."

"Sounds good. Sujatha guzzled coffee all night long in order to complete the project."

"That's the way Sujatha works. She puts in an all-nighter, and then the next day she slouches about doing absolutely nothing."

"Slouch about? Doesn't `slouch' mean to walk about with one's shoulders and head bent?"

"Yes, that's right. Slouch refers to one's posture."

"The young programmer was slouched over the computer."

"That's a good example. Last night Sujatha slouched past me with her hands in her kurta."

"That's the thing about Sujatha. She slouches even when she is sitting down."

"That's true. But she is no slouch at tennis, I can tell you that."

"No slouch at tennis? Don't think I have heard that expression before."

"When you say that someone is `no slouch' at something, what you mean is that the individual is very good at it. It's an expression mostly used in informal contexts. "

"My neighbour is no slouch at painting."

"My tennis partner is a pretty huge guy. But he is no slouch at the net."

"But some of your shots I am sure raise his hackles."

"I don't know about that. But your comments are sure raising mine. Take your slouching figure out of here before I decide to farm you out to someone."

***** ***** *****

"Love is a perky elf dancing a merry little jig and then suddenly he turns on you with a miniature machine gun." Matt Groening


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