by Liz Walter
Whilst writing about proverbs (see previous posts), I came across the phrase ‘A leopard doesn’t change its spots’, which means that a bad person never changes their character. That set me thinking about other ways of talking about people or things that don’t change.
Unchanging is a general, slightly formal adjective to describe things that never change. We use the word invariable for things that do not change and cannot be changed. It is quite often used in technical or scientific contexts. The adverb invariably is more common in general language as an alternative to saying ‘always’:
The message from their campaign was clear and unchanging.
We determined the coordinates of the invariable points.
Invariably, they were late.
If we describe rules, laws, or facts as immutable, we mean that they never change and cannot be changed. This is a formal word, but it is often used in a slightly joky or sarcastic way. More informally, we talk about hard-and-fast rules. Both are more often used in negative than positive sentences:
It’s not an immutable law of nature that men should be paid more than women.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about which herbs to use.
We try to be consistent in the way we discipline our children.
This school has consistently been in the top 10 acting schools in the country.
If something (especially a decision or plan) is set in stone, it is difficult or impossible to change. This phrase is often used in negative sentences:
The design for the new town square isn’t set in stone yet, so do give us any ideas you have.
Something that is irreversible cannot be changed back to the way it was before. We often use this adjective to describe damage or decisions:
We are doing irreversible damage to the environment.
Their views on immigration are deeply entrenched.
Her unshakeable conviction that education can change lives has shaped her career.
Over the course of our lives, habits become ingrained.
They were walking at a steady pace.
Store the food at a constant temperature.
I’ll finish with the phrase from the title. Same old same old is an informal way of conveying a feeling of boredom or frustration when things don’t change:
I thought his speech would be radical, but it was just the same old same old.
I hope you find these words useful, and do comment if you can think of other nice ways to describe things that don’t change!