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A figure of Speech: Oxymoron

I Hope This Blog Doesn’t Go Down Like a Lead Balloon

“Oxymorons” have been used since the heyday of Greek poetry, The Greco-Roman Period. 

They are a figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory concepts are smashed together, and a literary device that describes those contradictory bits of life, like a bittersweet moment. 

Even the plays and poetry of Shakespeare are smattered with “oxymorons.” They have also been featured in such well-received works as For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway and political commentary. 

“Oxymorons” truly are a fascinating and poetic literary device. The author, Richard Watson Todd, said, “The true beauty of oxymorons is that, unless we sit back and really think, we happily accept them as normal English.” 

Here are a few examples of commonly used “oxymorons.” 

BittersweetCivil warLead balloonJumbo shrimp
Negative incomePaper towelPlastic silverwareWorking vacation

Unsurprisingly, the word “oxymoron” is oxymoronic, contradictory. “Oxymoron” comes from two ancient Greek words: oxys, meaning “sharp,” and moronos,  “dull.”  

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The Adverb: Why- The right way of using it in sentences with examples.

Know the Adverb: Why

We are talking about “why” as an Adverb. However, “why” may be used as a Conjunction, Interjection, or Noun. 

“Why” is one of our ‘wh’-words and the ‘h‘ is silent. It’s pronounced /waɪ/ if you’re familiar with the phonetic alphabet. 

“Why” is defined thusly: 

For what cause, reason, or purpose did you do it? 

At least for our purpose. As a Noun or Conjunction, the definition slightly varies. 

This is how “why” functions as an Adverb.

Why Do You Listen to Rock ‘n’ Roll? 

You may be asked:

“Why do you like Rock ‘n’ Roll?” 

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Passive Voice in Present Simple sentences-Definition, Examples, and Practice exercise.

Meaning and use of Passive voice in a proper sentence

How do I use Passive Voice in a proper sentence?

There’s a format for converting Simple Present Tense Active Voice sentences into the Passive Voice. It’s: 

Object + is/are + Past Participle

For Example, “The pottery is made by Gilda.”

“The pottery” is the Object. And then we have “is.” “Made.” “Made” is the Past Participle of the verb make. Finally, we throw the Preposition “by” into the mix and our Subject “Gilda.” 

But, this can easily be rewritten in the Active Voice.

“Gilda makes the pottery.” 

Sentences like this focus on the subject and the reader’s thoughts are with Gilda.

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As a writer, I’m often told not to use Passive Voice because it’s used to shift blame. Sentences like:

“Mistakes were made by the fire department,” place the focus on “mistakes” rather than the “fire department.” It’s almost like the fire department wants the reader to be aware of the mistakes but only vaguely associate the fire department with them. To rectify the sentence, in regards to placing blame, not grammar, it might be better to write: 

“The fire department made mistakes.”  

Even style guides suggest using Passive Voice lightly. 

However, Passive Voice can be used to highlight a sentence’s Object. Or, as aptly described by Steven Pinker, “Passive [Voice] allows the writer to direct the reader’s gaze, like a cinematographer choosing the right camera angle (The Sense of Style).” 

For example: 

“The pottery is made by Gilda,” draws attention to “the pottery.” Typically, “the pottery” would be in the sentence’s Object and the sentence would read like this:

“Gilda makes the pottery.” 

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Idiom: Green Thumb-Definition, Meaning, and Origin, with examples

The origin:

The Lady has a Green Thumb

Back in the 1900s, the term “green fingers” was popular in the United Kingdom. It came from the green-stained fingers of farmers. 

Often, plant extracts are used to dye fabric. Many plants secrete a stain. And so, during the harvest, the fingertips of farmers’ would become green with plant dyes. 

The earliest use of “green fingers” came from the novel “The Misses Make-Believe” by Mary Stuart Boyd, a Scottish author. 

She wrote: 

“What old wives call green fingers: those magic digits that appear to ensure the growth of everything they plant.” 

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Later, the phrase “green thumb” came about. It was first used in the Daily Globe, in 1937.

An American journalist wrote: 

“Miss Dvorak has what is known as the green thumb. That’s horticultural slang for being a successful gardener.”

Having a green thumb is a blessing. Those who have a green thumb make the plants grow. And, it’s said that “the lady who has a green thumb never lacks beauty, she is surrounded by flowers, nor goes hungry, food springs from the earth for her.” 

Of course, having a green thumb can be cultivated and many have found their green thumb during the pandemic. 

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Know how to use Past Continuous Passive voice

Structure and Rules of Using Past Continous Passive Voice

There are times you may want to write in both Passive Voice and Past Continuous tense. Simply, the Past Continuous tense can be identified by the past tense form of “be” and Verbs ending in ing

For example, the sentence: 

“Many elephants were being killed by poachers,” suggests that elephants had been killed by poachers, but no longer are. Something stopped the elephants from being killed. 

Passive Voice is deployed to highlight a sentence’s Object. In our case, “elephants.” By writing the above example, we want the reader to focus on the “elephants” rather than the poachers. “For example,” the sentence could be rewritten in an Active Voice like so:

“Poachers were killing elephants.” 

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Psychologically, we are trained to focus on a sentence’s header. A sentence’s subject is much more significant to the reader or listener. 

You may ask, how was this sentence constructed? There’s a simple format to follow. It goes like this: 

Object + was/were + being + Past Participle Simple, right? 

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Idiom: Green-Eyed Monster-Definition and Origin

Origin of the Idiom: Green-Eyed Monster

The idiom, “green-eyed monster,” comes from Shakespeare’s Othello, a play about jealousy. And, jealousy is referred to as the “green-eyed monster,” in this work of fiction. In fact, there’s no actual monster or players with green eyes in Othello, it’s just to represent envy. 

Othello’s Green-Eyed Monster

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In the play, Lago, the antagonist, says “O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mocks the meat it feeds on.” Or simply put, jealousy, the “green-eyed monster,” makes a monster of anyone who lets it into their life, hence, it mocks that which it feasts upon. 

It’s believed that the idiom “green-eyed monster” alludes to the eyes of cats. Their eyes tease their prey before pouncing on them. But, as is the case with all idioms, its origin is unknown, there’s no telling where Shakespeare heard it before he wrote it in Othello. 

Meaning of Green-Eyed in Western Culture

In Western culture, green is associated with 2 things, money, and jealousy. And those who envy are said to have “a green complexion.” So, green is usually associated with greed, envy, jealousy, and money. 

My advice to you, while studying English, is don’t let the green-eyed monster get you. It mocks the meat it feeds on. If someone has better grammar or pronunciation than you, that’s fine, practice until you reach your goals. Anything is better than falling to the green-eyed monster. 

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Euphemism: Au Naturel! Dictionary, meaning with example

Meaning of Euphemism 

A euphemism, by definition, is the substitution of an inoffensive phrase for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. They are figures of speech that can be idioms or milder synonyms. 

Euphemism, with its awkwardly placed diphthong, is pronounced \ˈyü-fəˌmi-zəm\, for those who are familiar with the phonetic alphabet. It’s one of the few English words that begin with eu

Venus is au naturel

Speaking of euphemisms, you may be familiar with Sandro Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus”, and you may call the painting “a nude.” If you did so, you wouldn’t be wrong. 

Yet, it’s important to recall that Western Civilization has roots in Puritanism, a belief that certain subjects are taboo to speak of and that certain phrases may evoke wanton thoughts. With this in mind, you may want to use the euphemism: 

“Botticelli’s Venus is au naturel,” 

When referring to the painting, it’s less provocative than using the words “naked” or “nude” in describing it.

Sandro Botticelli’s Artwork
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Gerunds- Definition, Meaning, and Examples(For Beginners)

Meaning of a Gerund 

The gerund is a noun formed from a verb. Simply put, we create Gerunds by adding ing to the end of a Verb. Some examples of Gerunds are “running, staying,” and “buying.” 

Gerunds are used after certain Verbs, like “enjoy, avoid, finish, suggest,” and “keep.” Below are some examples of the Gerund in action. 

Gerunds may appear alone or with other words to form a Gerund Phrase. Collectively, this phrase behaves like a single noun.

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Interrogative Language: Who

Who is Behind the Mask

Interrogative language is used to ask questions. And, the most common interrogative words, in alphabetical order, are:

WhatWhenWhereWhetherWhich
WhoWhomWhoseWhyHow

These words are sometimes called “wh-words” because most of them begin with wh. “Who,” a wh-word is our interrogative word of the day. 

“Who,” pronounced /ho͞o/, is a Pronoun that means what or which person or people, among other things. 

For example, you may go to a Halloween party and hear a native English speaker ask, “Who is  behind the mask?” This may even be something you’ve wondered about Batman or the anime character Tuxedo Mask. By asking this, the speaker wants to know who is wearing the mask. Sometimes costumes conceal identity. 

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Idiom About Change: Turn over a New Leaf

Kevin Turns Over a New Leaf

Most languages have idioms about change. And, there are many different sayings that express getting a new outlook or starting again. 

One of my favorite idioms of change is an ancient Chinese saying: “Mountains crumble to the sea over time, yet people remain the same.” However, we are here to discuss the idiom “turn over a new leaf.” 

Oddly, this idiom has nothing to do with leaves. It’s about becoming a new person, a better person. Someone who “turns over a new leaf” changes the direction of their life. 

Using the idiom turn over a new leaf

How can I use the idiom – turn over a new leaf?

Kevin was a troublemaker. He never went to class. He never listened to his parents. He would even laugh at the lessons the elders tried to teach him, saying “You don’t know anything old man,” as the family spoke to him of ancient books and traditions. But one day Kevin came to me and said, “I’m tired of causing mischief. I will study and make good marks in school.” To which I said, “You are young and have time to turn over a new leaf.” 

Kevin will begin to do the right thing. He will turn over a new leaf by making good grades in school and listening to his parents.

Idiom - Turn over a leaf
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