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MIND YOUR ENGLISH - Cut it short

By The Assam Tribune
MIND YOUR ENGLISH - Cut it short
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Protim Sharma

“Isn’t ‘storm in a teacup’ an exaggeration of a small matter?”

“Yes, it is exaggerating something out of proportion.”

“I was wondering what could be the origin of this interesting expression…”

“As far as I know, Cicero is credited with first using a similar phrase in the first century BC… The first mention of the English version, ‘storm in a teacup’, however, occurs in Scottish novelist Catherine Sinclair’s Modern Accomplishments in 1838. A variation of this informal idiom is ‘tempest in a teapot’.”

“Okay. Many people exaggerate or over-react to an insignificant matter, especially during the election season!”

“Haha, right. Let’s have a cuppa tea now…”.

“Good idea. And, discuss the upcoming election! By the way, is ‘a cuppa tea’ same as ‘a cup of tea’?”

“Yes. ‘Cuppa’ is short for ‘cup of’, used in informal contexts only.”

“I see.”

“Such omission of one element from the end of a word or phrase is known as ‘apocope’.”

“Apocope?”

“Yes. This elision of a sound or syllable from the end of a word is done for economy of expression. The common words info, cinema, photo, para, etc., are examples of apocope.”

“These are shortened forms of information, cinematograph, photograph and paragraph, right?”

“Yes. And they are mostly used in informal contexts. Like ‘apocope’ there is also something called ‘apheresis’ where we remove an element from the beginning of a word.”

“So, this ‘apheresis’ is loss of a syllable or sound from the beginning of a word?”

“Yes. You have common words such as bus, phone, plane, quake, drawing room, etc., which are examples of ‘apheresis’.”

“Haven’t they come from omnibus, telephone, aeroplane, earthquake, etc.?”

“Right!”

“And what about ‘drawing room’?”

“Well, ‘drawing room’ has come from ‘withdrawing room’, the origin of which can be traced to the 16th century.”

“I see.”

“The words ‘apocope’ and ‘apheresis’ can also be termed as ‘clipping’ as we ‘clip’ an element from the words. But, these are different from ‘back-formation’ where we remove an element from a word to create a new word with new meaning and sometimes different part of speech.”

“Hmm… I think now it’s a better idea to discuss the election over a hot cuppa tea in your drawing room.”

“I’ll be right back with a hot cup of tea for you, but you know, politics is not my cuppa tea!”

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