9.11. Vocabulary. What’s the difference between the following?

1.My sister is a mermaid/My sister is a barmaid. ‘A mermaid’, if you remember from the introduction, is a mythical siren from the sea, half woman (the top half) and half fish (the bottom). ‘A barmaid’ works in a bar, and is all woman.

2.Oh no! She’s passed out! /Oh no! She’s passed away! In the first one the unfortunate lady has temporarily lost consciousness. She’s probably sick, or has experienced something extremely disturbing. The second is much more tragic. She’s died.

3. ‘Janet’s pregnant!’ ‘Get away!’/‘Janet’s pregnant!’ ‘Go away!’ ‘Get away!’ is a standard expression of surprise, similar to ‘Oh, really!’ or ‘You’re joking!’. ‘Go away!’ is self-evident. It is an imperative to tell a person to leave.

4.To pick up a friend from a party./To pick up a friend at a party. The first example means ‘to arrive in a car to take someone home’. The second implies a romantic conquest.

5.To kiss your friend’s mother./To French kiss your friend’s mother. This is a stupid example! Let’s just say that the second one involves using your tongue, and wouldn’t be appropriate… unless we are talking about Brian Jenkins’ mother who is an extremely attractive divorcee that lives above the corner shop…

6.To stone someone./To get stoned. If you are familiar with the Bible, you will recognise this way of executing someone by throwing large stones at them until they are dead. Not recommended really. The second example is a much more pleasurable way to die. This is similar to ‘to get drunk’ but probably involves marijuana instead of alcohol.

7.To chat to the prime minister./To chat up the prime minister. In the first you are around at 10 Downing Street talking about the weather and such pleasantries. In the second, you are trying to seduce, or ‘pick up’ the prime minister. You are obviously getting really desperate.

8.To call./To call on. ‘To telephone’ and ‘to visit in person’. Totally different.

9. The vet picked the cat up. / The vet put the cat down. The veterinary surgeon (the animal doctor) took the cat in his hands. In the second example the cat was probably very sick and had to be given a lethal injection. This is a euphemism for ‘to kill’, which is far too serious a word in such situations. It can only be used for animals.

10. Ali is married with eight girls. /Ali is married to eight girls. ‘Married with children,’ means you are married and you have sons and daughters. In the second we are talking about polygamy, that is, being married to more that one person. (Bigamy is being illegally married to more than one person.’