Friday, September 18, 2015

"I've Got Your Back!"

The first time somebody said to me, "I've got your back," I have to admit, I didn't know what he was talking about!

My eyes were looking ahead of me at the person I was talking to while my mind was visualizing somebody standing behind me. NO, there was no threat from behind me. My mind went back to what I could see. I had an inkling what this phrase refered to but if I were being threatened by somebody, in front of me would be the place I'd want somebody to be standing if they were trying to protect me!

I understand this phrase assumes that a threat will come from behind, which isn't always the case. I can tell you. The stranger who was holding a very large knife to me in my own apartment was, one morning, standing quite in front of me, not behind me. All I had to do was to open my eyes.

Be that as it may, this phrase "I've got your back" has now taken off. I hear it on TV, on action programs and movies, in book titles. Huffington Post did a piece on this in 2014. but the post seems to be making exactly my point: That the people we are most afraid of, and where people often feel the greatest threat, is from those we know, those who are standing right in front of us! Maybe even those we live with!

(The people who I know, whom I most trust, would never say that, by the way.)

To keep this post short, let's just say that the phrase "I've got your back" means "I'll protect you."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

(to) Hold Back

Here's a headline from today's New York Times:

In Targeting ISIS, U.S. Holds Back to Shield Civilians

Today's two-word verb is "(to) hold back."

Do you think it means:
  1. (to) hurry up
  2. (to) protect
  3. (to) refrain from?

Which sentence tells you what this means?
  1. American and allied warplanes are equipped with the most precise aerial arsenal ever fielded.
  2. But American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians. 
  3. Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup and alienate both the local Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants, and Sunni Arab countries that are part of the American-led coalition.
The answers are (c) and (2).


Here's another current headline:

Clinton’s Staff Held Back Emails Requested Under FOIA

By this meaning, would you say that Mrs. Clinton showed the emails requested under the Freedom of Information Act, or not?

The verb (to) hold back can also mean to not progress at a normal rate. We see it used this way referring to education. Here is an example:

What holds you back? #AForEffort: Held back by the education system

This is a question for all of us: What holds us back from doing the things we need to do?

You are invited to comment below.


Friday, March 13, 2015

(to) follow through

The big news these days is ISIS and here we see this headline?

The U.S. and Canada may have a tougher time defending North America if Russia follows through on a plan to step up its military activity, according to the commander of NORAD.

Does this phrase, FOLLOW THROUGH, have anything to do with the verb follow?

Sort of, but don't rely on that to explain the meaning of follow through.

Follow through means to complete that task or assignment which you have begun with the intention of completing. In the above example, if Russia follows through on a plan to step up its military activity. . . .

See the following blog post:

Set a goal but didn't follow through? Tips to resetting habits

Here are a few additional examples from the news:

RNC chairman expects to follow through with NBC, CNN debate boycott

If the goal is not a good one, maybe it's good if you don't follow through. Can you think of some plans of yours in which it's a good thing that you followed through? Can you think of some plans of yours in which it's a good thing that you didn't follow through?

Monday, February 2, 2015

(to) Come Down With...

A recent article had this to say:

The disease outbreak became apparent when visitors reported coming down with measles after visiting the park from December 15 to December 20. 

This is a common two-word verb that is used in the news when reporting on newsworthy epidemics. It is very common in conversation.

Here's another example from a website:

Each year from October to May, millions of people all across the United States come down with the flu. Kids get the flu most often. But people in every age group — including teens — can catch it.

We use this verb to describe when a person shows symptoms of a disease.

The ebola outbreak resulted in this verb being used frequently:

US health officials are seeking 132 people who flew on a plane with a Texas nurse on the day before she came down with symptoms of Ebola.

Here's to wishing everybody good health!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

(to) speak out

Two common two-word verbs using "speak" as the main verb are speak up and speak out. What's the difference between them?

As I see it, the difference is in the number of people who are listening to you.  In a private situation where one person is shy or quiet and others cannot hear him or hear him well, he might be asked to "speak up".  Often it is used to refer to not being afraid to express your opinion.

Speak out has a more sociological reference: A person will "speak out" in favor of one project, or "speak out" against another. 

Let's see a few situations where the verb "speak out" is used on the world wide web.

We begin with the title of a book:

Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy

Can you explain why the verb "speak out" and not just the word "speak" is used here? What social forces would be upon her to keep her from expressing her viewpoints?

Here's another headline:

The website continues: Medal of Honor Recipients Speak Out About PTS. Why are they using the verb "speak out" and not just "speak up"? Who does the organization want to listen to what the Medal of Honor recipients are saying? What changes does the organization want to be made? Why?

It doesn't have to be a national or international issue for somebody to speak out. Here is a local issue:

Tiverton residents speak out on bridge tolls

Have you ever spoken out on an important social issue? If so, how? To whom?  Are there any issues that you would like to speak out about, but haven't found the time, the proper means, or "your voice"?


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

it doesn't add up

We all know that when we add one to one, we get two.  We call this mathematical process addition.  But the verb "(to) add up" has an informal meaning: it signifies that the result makes sense.

We will often hear it doesn't add up", meaning that the results don'tmake sense. This can be used when referring to numbers or when referring to facts.

Let's begin with this: Many people are puzzled or irate as to why General Petraeus was forced to resign.  They say that the facts don't add up to such a great American general being forced to resign. It doesn't make sense that the general would be forced to resign.  They wonder what's the story behind the story. Read, for example, this news story:

From Kelley to Petraeus, It Doesn't Add Up

When you read that article, Here we look at a news story that uses the term add up with reference to numbers.


Curbing tax breaks: Does the math add up?

Notice that the issue makes the news more often when the numbers don't add up. Why do you think that is?

House Democratic women's numbers don't yet add up to power


Here we switch to the use of the term both arithmetically and also emotionally and socially:


Now for your own analysis:  What facts would you add up in an effort to compute the real cost of drug abuse? What is the real cost of drug abuse? 


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

a look back

We are writing this post on election day, November 6, 2012.  People are at the polls. Nobody knows the outcome of this election. But the campaigning is over and thus we see internet articles such as this one:

Pretty soon it will be the end of 2012 and we will see headlines, "A LOOK BACK AT 2012".  We will find this just like at the end of 2011 we found this:

and at the end of 2010, before that,

and in December of 2009 we found -

The interesting thing about this is that it is being used as a noun in all these headlines, a look back, and derives from the verb, (to) look back.
So now in the last months of 2012, when you look back at this year, what stands out? What stands out in the area of politics? Science? Art? Your life?

Take a look back and tell us (or write for your own use) what you see!