Restive is an adjective used to describe something as restless or fidgety. Politically it is used to describe regions in unrest or without peace. Restive is also used in reference to horses when they refuse to move forward by standing still or sliding backwards. Its derivatives include the adverb restively and the noun restiveness. Restive has seen an absolute reversal in definitions. The original word came from the Old French word restif which meant to remain still. The association with … [Read more...]


A shiv is a knife or sharp instrument used as a weapon in prison made from contraband materials. The plural form is shivs. The original spelling was chiv, a Romani word meaning blade, but this spelling has become obsolete. As a verb shiv becomes shivs, shivving, and shivved. These forms are firmly rooted as slang, and as such do not appear in print publications too often. Though they may be more popular in speech. Shiv is also a common male first name, after the Hindu god Shiva, the … [Read more...]

Prebiotic vs probiotic

A prebiotic is a non-digestible chemical or ingredient which acts as food for good bacteria and flora in the intestinal tract. It is generally used in its plural prebiotics, since it is rare that only one is added to a food. They naturally occur in foods such as garlic, honey, onions, and bananas. A probiotic is the bacteria itself which lives in the intestinal tract. They naturally occur in foods such as yogurt. They are also normally discussed in the plural probiotics. Both words are not … [Read more...]

Youth or youths

Youth is the age range when a human is young, or before the person reaches adulthood. The word youth can also be used to describe a group of young people, regardless of age. It is also a common adjective for things that are created specifically for youth. Something can be in its youth if it is newly created. A youth is also a teenage boy or young man. Only this last definition has a plural form of youths. All other uses of the word are already plural or a mass noun. Sometimes it can be … [Read more...]

Interview with Peter Harvey

Peter Harvey

Please meet Peter Harvey, EFL teacher, author and translator. Please introduce yourself and provide some background information. I am a qualified UK secondary-school teacher specialising in EFL, but I have never taught in the UK. After teaching English in Germany, Zambia and Saudi Arabia I came to live in Barcelona, Spain, in 1984. Now I teach adults on a freelance basis, translate and write books about English. I studied modern languages at Cambridge and I find that having studied … [Read more...]

Long in the tooth


To be long in the tooth is to be old, either in age or simply out of date. This phrase originated with horses, whose teeth continue to grow and be worn down throughout their life, so that by looking at their teeth one can guess at the horses' age. It is commonly used in the financial and technological worlds where items can be dated very quickly. A related phrase is don't look a gift horse in the mouth, which means if someone is giving you a gift, don't complain about it. It began as a … [Read more...]


To be privy to something is to have knowledge of it. Usually it is used with the connotation that the information is secret or not widely known. One can be privy to something or be made privy. It has one derivative of privily. It is found more commonly outside of the United States. It is also the noun for an outdoor toilet. A privity has to do with legal interest or relationships between people who have a legal interest in something. Examples The NSEL Investors' Action Group has … [Read more...]

Impractical vs impracticable

Impractical is an adjective to describe something or someone as unwise or impossible, without common sense, idealistic. Impracticable is a synonym of impractical in the definition of being unfeasible or impossible to use. Impractical has two derivatives, they are the noun impracticality and the adverb impractically. Impracticable has two derivatives, they are noun impracticability and adverb impracticably. Examples A moratorium on genetically modified crops is impractical, incumbent … [Read more...]


Folderol is a noun for idiotic actions, words, or ideas. It can also be spelled falderal. And with the two spellings it can be pronounced two ways, either /ˈfäldəˌräl/ (fall der all) or /ˈfôldəˌrôl/ (fole der ole). It is a mass noun which has no singular form. The o spelling is more commonly found. The term originated as a refrain in songs, literally "fol-de-rol". Folderol previously could be used in terms of a useless or idiotic item, and therefore you could have … [Read more...]

Actualise vs actualize

To actualize something is to accomplish or complete it. It is always used with an object. British English spells it actualise.  The spelling change extends to all forms (e.g., actualises, actualizes, actualised, actualized, actualisation, actualization, actualising, actualizing). A related term is self-actualized (self-actualise) which means to accomplish or complete oneself to your fullest potential. It has all the same forms as actualize and all the same spelling … [Read more...]

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