Byronic, Orwellian and Darwinian: adjectives from names.

by Liz Walter​
byronic
Becoming an adjective is a strange kind of memorial, but it is often a sign of a person having had real influence on the world.

Science is full of examples, from Hippocrates, the Greek medic born around 460 BC, who gave his name to the Hippocratic Oath still used by doctors today, to Robert Brown, the 19th century botanist who discovered Brownian motion.

In cases where most people know something of the life or work of the person in question, their adjective often takes on a broader meaning. Although Darwinian often simply means ‘as described or discovered by Charles Darwin’, it is also used more generally to describe a fierce competitive situation (in business, for example), in which the losers will be eliminated.

Similarly, if we describe something as Freudian (from Sigmund Freud), we are often alluding to something that inadvertently reveals someone’s true thoughts, as in the phrase Freudian slip. Continue reading “Byronic, Orwellian and Darwinian: adjectives from names.”

A nice, relaxing bath (Adjective order)

by Kate Woodford​​​
nicerelaxingbath
When we want to describe something, one adjective sometimes just isn’t enough! There may be two – or even three – things we want to say about something or someone. What order, then, do we put these two or three adjectives in? Consider the following:

He’s such a sweet little boy!

She seemed like a nice, polite girl.

It’s a really lovely, bright shade of blue.

There was a horrible, stale smell in there.

Notice the adjectives that are used first in each of these sentences – sweet, nice, lovely, horrible. They are all subjective descriptions – words that show our feelings or opinions about something. They do not actually tell us any precise facts about the boy, the girl, the shade of blue or the smell. They don’t, for example, tell us how big the children are or anything about the precise qualities of the shade of blue or the smell. These subjective adjectives, then, are the ones that go first. In other words, whatever your first feeling or opinion about something or someone, (Are they nice, nasty, gorgeous, unpleasant, etc.?), say this first! Continue reading “A nice, relaxing bath (Adjective order)”

Body shapes

by Kate Woodford

The English language is full of words that describe the shape of our bodies, some of them positive and some of them less positive. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used words for body shapes.

Probably the most commonly used adjective to describe someone who has too little fat is thin. ‘Thin’ is often used in a negative way: She’s very pretty but she’s too thin.  Skinny, a slightly informal word, means very much the same: I don’t like his looks – he’s too skinny. Even thinner than ‘skinny’ is scrawny (also a slightly informal word). Someone who is scrawny is so thin that their bones stick out: He was a scrawny little kid. Gaunt, meanwhile, is used to describe a very thin face, sometimes a face that is thin because a person is ill: Her face was gaunt and grey. The adjective emaciated describes someone who is dangerously thin, usually through illness or extreme hunger. It describes the whole of the body: Some of the patients were quite emaciated. Continue reading “Body shapes”