English IS A Second Language

The English language has become infested with a plethora of trite expressions and cliches. So ingrained are they, that even those of us who were once schooled in grammar and who presumably once possessed a vocabulary, have become nauseously ensnared to their insidious usage.

Please, allow me to offer some alternatives to just some of the hackneyed drivel to which I refer?

repeat performance (repetition, encore)

ball-park (approximate)

heaps of (numerous, many, innumerable)

flip-flopped (vacillated, wavered)

in the pipeline (forthcoming, under consideration)

up and running (fully operational)

put on hold (suspend, postpone, delay, place in abeyance)

kicked in (became effective)

a no show (an absentee, failed to appear, absconded)

cracked (surpassed, reached, exceeded)

a level playing field (equality, fairness, justness)

as of right now (presently, henceforth)

went for (selected, chose, preferred)

give it a red-hot crack (apply oneself to the utmost degree, try one’s hardest, do one’s best, produce an unmitigated effort)

call out (identify, accuse, rebuke)

back on the rise (increasing, ascending in number)

blow your mind (astonish, astound, amaze, exhilarate)

24/7 (continuously)

singing from the same hymn sheet/reading from the same page (in complete agreement)

a big ask (asking much, extremely daunting or challenging)

break new ground (revolutionise, significantly advance)

bring up to speed (inform, explain, describe, refresh)

an uneven playing field (unfairness, bias, inequitable, unjust)

screwed over (duped, unfairly dealt with, taken advantage of, cheated, discriminated against)

a must-make (imperative, essential)

not always pretty (is somehow functional/effective)

made public (publicised, informed)

doesn’t hold water/stack up (is ineffectual/invalid)

a no-brainer (obvious, commonsense)

downtown (a lengthy distance)

save big (save substantially/considerably/ bountifully/plentifully)

think outside (of) the square (be imaginative/highly constructive/inventive)

didn’t look too crash-hot (appeared unwell/unhealthy, was inferior/of a substandard nature)

off the back of (subsequently, consequently, after)

it wasn’t much chop (was unacceptable/unsatisfactory, proved to be unreliable or of an inferior quality)

it was right in the mix (in contention, viable, competitive)

the go-to person (best or highly qualified, most suitable, preferred)

on board with (in agreement, concur)

on the line (in jeopardy/peril, at risk, open to scrutiny, uncertain)

heap of changes (an array/a swathe/a significant amount)

written all over (prominent, easily detectable, obvious)

epic fail(ure) (spectacularly unsuccessful, disastrous)

blows over (passes, recovers)

a plus (advantageous, beneficial)

on the back burner (postponed, delayed, suspended, adjourned)

running hot (extremely popular, highly desirable, performing extremely well)

a knock-on effect (consequential, resultant)

bring up to speed (elucidate, inform, brief, update)

bombshell (controversial, damning, entirely unexpected, unheralded)

pulls out all (of) the stops (performs magnificently well/without restraints, impresses immensely, exhilarates, enraptures)

all over the shop (in total disarray, wildly wayward)

did their heads in (bewildered, confused, bemused, captivated, enthralled)

landmark decision (historic, unprecedented)

a must-watch (imperative/essential/ captivating/enthralling viewing

keeping it together (remaining stoic/steadfast/composed)

a game-changer (revolutionary)

touch base (contact, familiarise)

a lead-up to (precursor, introduction)

a drop-in visit (impromptu, unannounced, introductory)

not sold on (unconvinced, doubtful, dubious, wary)

back-to-back/straight (successive, consecutively)

made for (produced, provided)

check out (observe, appraise, investigate)

hold off on (suspend, postpone, delay)

ran with (supported, chose, selected, decided upon)

coming from (suggesting, intimating)

not travelling well (performing, progressing)

goes in to bat for (supports, sides with, favours)

a quick run around (survey, summation)

a forward leaning position (progressive attitude, outlook or plan)

pear-shaped (disastrously wrong, not as intended)

knocked on the head (terminated, halted)

a kick in the shins (detrimental, disadvantageous)

on the gallop (hastily, unthinkingly)

take a hit (lessen, decrease, weaken, suffer damage)

fess up/come clean (confess, admit, accept accountability)

not an easy sell (difficult, demanding, challenging)

Day 1 (the first day, commencement or beginning)

dodged a bullet (avoided dread, artfully escaped, fortuitously survived)

a meet-up (meeting, assemblage, an assignation)

a roadmap (plan of action, strategy)

over the top (outrageous, grossly exaggerated)

hit the ground running (be eagerly prepared to act, possess foresight and motivation, demonstrate vigour and purpose, display acumen and insight)

pull it off (accomplish, succeed)

hit the wall (fatigue suddenly or unexpectedly, reach an impasse)

see where we’re at (ascertain our progress, realise our situation, evaluate our success)

going gangbusters (performing or selling exceptionally well)

full-on (intense)

track record (performance, reputation)

Plan B (alternative strategy)

pulled the pin (aborted, terminated)

is swinging in the wind (in abeyance/indeterminable/undecided)

doing their thing (behaving predictably/with normality)

the way to go (appropriate action to take)

gone downhill (lapsed, deteriorated, worsened)

a win-win situation (one met with universal approval/that which is highly beneficial to all involved)

up-front (open, frank, straightforward)

ripped-off (cheated, defrauded)

suck it up (tolerate, accept)

not out of the woods (without encumbrance/impedance/hardship)

come to the party (provide support/financial assistance)

yet to play out (be resolved/concluded, eventuate)

go down a different path (deviate from, rebel against)

spend up big/blow the budget (splurge)

ticks all (of) the boxes (is ideal, suits the purpose perfectly, maximises results, performs to the utmost degree/superbly well)

holed up (in a known or secretive location, ensconced)

a tiny window (a brief moment in time, a minuscule opportunity)

made a/the call (decision)

the light at the end of the tunnel (belief that fruition/conclusion/an achievement is near)

a wake-up call (salient warning/reminder)

can’t put a finger on it (determine/detect/fathom/understand/discern/comprehend)

jump on the virus (act with expediency against)

Australian educators continue to bemoan the fact that our children’s level of literacy remains at a woefully low level when compared to that of other Western countries. It’s not rocket science (patently obvious), at least to me, that we have to return the teaching of English to that of fifty or sixty years ago.

That’s if the horse hasn’t already bolted (we can still find enough sufficiently skilled teachers to accomplish this)!

Improving Sentences

Can you improve the following sentences by replacing the underlined text?

Citizens of the town knew that Phillip was really doing it tough!

The treasurer implied that the economy was heading south.

New Zealand’s team has to win big in order to avoid a meeting with the reigning champion in the next round.

Monica led Susan from the get-go.

Ralph did not know which toy to pick.

The highway connected a bunch of different locations.

Temperatures are on the rise.

The player picked up an injury to an ankle.

Patricia was adamant that she could pull off such a feat.

They were not on board with Malcolm’s proposal.


The suggested improvements are located at the end of ‘The Top 40 Fantasies: No.8’.


Articulate English: ‘Off’ Is The Opposite Of ‘On’

The word ‘on’ can mean “above and touching”. When this is applicable the word ‘off’ should be used as its opposite.

Example: Susan placed the book on the table. Later, she took it off the table.

However, when someone is in possession of something, such as money or keys, we do not take or accept it off that person, but rather from them, as the object that is being removed or accepted is not “above and touching” their person.

Similarly, for example, a victorious team does not win a title off another team, but rather from it.

Tom did not take the football off Barry, but rather from him.

An athlete does not wrest the lead off a fellow competitor, but rather from that person.

Articulate English: Apostrophe Of Possession

Sadly, many children have no idea when it comes to using the apostrophe of possession correctly. They will be writing when, suddenly, they presumably think to themselves that they haven’t used one of those ‘commas in the air’ and proceed to use one in a word that bears no connection to ownership.

Even worse, from what I have witnessed on television, quite a few adults do not place such an apostrophe in the correct position, either!

I trust that the following is of help to those who are unsure.

I find that if one inverts the relevant part of a sentence, where to place the apostrophe of possession becomes more obvious.

Example: the babys bottle becomes “the bottle of the baby”

In this instance the apostrophe is placed after the last word in the inversion, which, in this case is ‘baby’. All that remains to be done then, is to add the ess: the baby’s bottle.

Example: the babies bottles becomes “the bottles of the babies”

As ‘babies’ is plural, we only add the apostrophe after the last word ‘babies’, hence, the babies’ bottles.

Example: Smithville Girls High School becomes “Smithville High School (for) Girls”.

Again, the same rule applies and the apostrophe is placed after the last word, namely ‘Girls’.

As ‘Girls’ is plural no ess needs to be added: Smithville Girls’ High School.

Example: Mothers Day becomes “a day for mothers”

Applying the same rule, it becomes Mothers’ Day.


Sometimes a second ess should be sounded and, therefore, added.

Examples: Spartacus’ sword (“the sword of Spartacus”) becomes Spartacus’s sword.

Hughes’ boatshed (“the boatshed of the Hugheses”) becomes Hughes’s boatshed.

Amos’ pride (“the pride of Amos”) becomes Amos’s pride.


Inarticulate English: Nouns Should Not Be Used In Place Of Adjectives

Just as our democracy is under stress, so is our language.

All too often we are inundated with nouns being used in place of adjectives:

miracle event, hero act, Denmark gentleman, history failure, Japan yen, crisis meeting, Europe correspondent, architecture company, fake insinuation, muscle spasm, monster garage…

The above should read:

miraculous event, heroic act, Danish gentleman, historic/historical failure, Japanese yen, critical meeting, European correspondent, architectural company, fictitious insinuation, muscular spasm, monstrous garage.