Knave vs nave

  A knave is someone (usually a man) who has no morals or ethics, is dishonest or deceitful. It is also the name for a Jack in a deck of playing cards. A nave is a hub of a wheel or the part of a church that is long and narrow. Examples And while he's put together a fine cast, it sometimes leans too heavily on guest stars; it's a treat to see James Spader, as in "Lincoln," once again playing a fancy knave, but when Meryl Streep shows up as a minister's wife it feels like a joke … [Read more...]

Said the actress to the bishop


  A British idiom, said the actress to the bishop is a one-line joke, or punchline, which changes whatever has been said before it into an innuendo (i.e., it makes the previous dialogue vulgar or lewd). It is seen as especially funny if the previous dialogue was innocent in character. A variation is as the actress said to the bishop. This variation was used on a popular British television show, The Office. When that show was adapted for American audiences the idiom was changed to that's … [Read more...]


A patsy is a person who takes the blame for something he or she did not do, as in a scapegoat. The term can also be used to describe a person who is easily fooled or gullible. A con man might look for a patsy for a scam. The word can be used in other instances that do not directly match these definitions, but always carry the idea that the person is foolish or incapable in some way. Sometimes patsy is used as an adjective to describe something as too easy or without subsistence. A patsy game … [Read more...]

Finite verb

  A finite verb is a verb which serves as a predicate verb (i.e., it has a subject and has the ability to function as the root of an independent clause). Most of verbs can present in a finite and non-finite form (where the verb does not serve as a predicate and cannot support an independent clause). The subject of a finite verb can be stated or implied. In English the role of a finite verb is subtle, but in other languages, the finite form of a verb can state gender, person (e.g., … [Read more...]

Tabula rasa

  Tabula rasa comes from Latin where it meant blank slate. This is how it is used today as well, though there are nuanced differences in the actual English definition. It can refer to something in an unaltered state, or the mind of a person before it is influence by others. Rasa can be pronounced with an ess sound or a zee sound. The plural of tabula rasa is tabulae rasae which is spelled differently but keeps the Latin -i pronunciation \-ˌlī-ˈrä-ˌzī, -ˌsī\ (tab u lye raz … [Read more...]

Trooper or trouper

If someone is a trouper he or she does what needs to be done without complaining or whining. A trouper is also part of a troupe, or a group of people, usually an acting troupe or theatre troupe. If someone is a trooper he or she is a soldier at entry level or an officer in the police. In British English it is also a ship used to move troops. Both words come from the French troupe, which carries the same meaning as today. Some dictionaries list trooper as a synonym of trouper, however, … [Read more...]


Sangfroid means to keep your cool, or to stay calm under great strain. One can be sangfroid or show great sangfroid. Sometimes dictionaries list a spelling variation as sang-froid with a hyphen. This comes from the original French spelling. However, most of English usage drops the hyphen. In French sang-froid means cold blood. To be cold-blooded in English is a bad thing, meaning to have no emotion in a situation that should elicit great emotion. However, if one's blood is cold instead of … [Read more...]


  An ignoramus is a word for a person without any intelligence, an extremely dumb individual. It is a pejorative term meant to be an insult. The plural is ignoramuses. Some dictionaries list ignorami as a variation of the plural, but this is a backformation by those who suppose since ignoramus comes from Latin that it would have the Latin -i plural. However, in the original Latin, ignoramus was a verb, not a noun, and would still have the -es plural. Originally it was as an … [Read more...]

Factious vs facetious

Factious is an adjective describing something or someone has having to do with factions, or separate groups within a larger body, usually separated by a belief or proclivity. It has derivatives of factiously and factiousness, though these are rarely used. It is pronounced \ˈfak-shəs\ (fact shish). Facetious, on the other hand, is a word to describe something or someone as intentionally funny, though usually failing to attain humor or inappropriate. It also has two derivatives … [Read more...]

At a loose end

at loose end

  To be at a loose end is to have nothing to do. It is primarily used in British English. In the United States, there is a variant phrase to be at loose ends. This also means to have nothing to do, but it carries the connotation of nervousness, as in the situation not being able to do anything about a stressful situation. The British phrase suggests only boredom. The ngram above shows that the global popularity of the two versions has traded places over time, with the current … [Read more...]

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