Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In an entertainment context, "buzz" means the amount of popular discussion about a subject. This discussion is not by movie critics, but by people at large. Therefore, those measuring it cannot point to specific reviews or specific words; they measure "buzz," which is a representation of background noise.

Example: "There is a misconception that buzz will always transfer into sales," says Matt Smith, co-founder of the digital media and marketing company The Viral Factory, responsible for the viral campaign to launch the 2008 film Cloverfield."

Original story re: the next Batman film's viral marketing campaign here. .

Cold Case

A "cold case" is an investigation that has had no new developments for a long period of time. Here, a "case" is a less formal word for "a police investigation".

A cold case is a case that does not have any "hot leads," that is, the case is not getting warmer (which would mean getting closer to a conclusion). A lead is a piece of information that leads the investigator to new facts and evidence.

A cold case that develops a new, but not dramatic, lead may be said to be "warming up." A cold case that develops a new, dramatic lead can be said to be "heating up." A case that has a number of fresh, dramatic leads is "a hot case."

"Cold Case" is the title of a Western television program. The heroine investigates cases that have been "cold" for some time, resolving cases that have gone unresolved for years.

On Ice

When something is figuratively put "on ice," it is preserved and protected, and out of sight.

This combination can be used in good and bad ways.

Example 1: "Having scored its fourth goal, England's victory was on ice." This means victory was preserved.

Example 2: "Once England scored its fourth goal, South Africa was put on ice." This means that the South Africa team was disposed of, and its chances of victory were put out of reach.

Example 3: "The report on police corruption was put on ice by a nervous mayor." This implies that the report in question was permanently placed where the public would not see it.

As you can see, a single idiom can be used in various ways... but the meanings are all similar. It's simply a matter of applying the idiom to the circumstances of the sentence, otherwise known as the context.

Getting Warmer

When someone is playing a guessing game, the person asking the question might say, "You're getting warmer." This means, a guess is getting closer and closer to the answer.

Example: Paul: "Guess how many pennies I'm holding."
Jason: "Uh... five."
Paul: "Wrong."
Jason: "Uhhh, okay. Nine."
Paul: "Getting warmer."
Jason: "Eleven!"
Paul: "Still warm."
Jason: "Ten?"
Paul: "Yes, I'm holding ten pennies."

This type of idiom is used for other kinds of "games" as well.

Conversely, "getting colder" means getting further away from the correct answer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Suffix, -ish

When used as a suffix, the modern colloquial idiom -ish indicates, "approximately".

Example: Dave: "So when should I pick you up to go to the movie?" Melissa: "Eight-ish. It only starts at 8:30."

In this example, the meaning is "sometime around eight o'clock". It can be 8:05, even 8:10; Melissa lives only a few minutes' drive away from the movie theater. Dave does not need to arrive "on the dot" (exactly at 8:00 PM). However, he should still arrive at a time relatively close to 8:00.

This could also be written "8-ish"; it is not likely to ever be accepted in formal written English. It is colloquial, and widely understood by native speakers (at least in North America), and should always be used appropriately to indicate an inexact, approximate quantity.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Coming To A Head

When things are "coming to a head," a confrontation or point of crisis is being reached, usually after a long period of build-up.

Example: "Canada Post's urban workers could go on strike late Thursday night if the Crown corporation declines to accept its latest offer, as seven months of heated negotiations between the two sides appears ready to come to a head."

That is, at the time this story was written, the two sides had not "sealed the deal" (reached an agreement successfully); rather, a strike has been called, and Canada's postal workers were set to go on strike within days.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hitting the Books

To "hit the books" is to devote yourself to study. This is as opposed to hitting the hay (going to sleep).

Example: "We need to study for our Physics test. We'd better hit the books for a while."

Bonus Example: "I'm going to hit the books for an hour; then I'm going to hit the hay."