Thursday, January 20, 2011

Needed Like A Hole In The Head

A hole in the head is the expected result of a gunshot to the human head. As most people have better things to do than to be shot and murdered, needing something like a hole in the head means to not need something at all; for something to instead be unwelcome in the extreme.

The expression may be an expression of British sarcasm, but it has long been used in American discourse. It is probably out of date in the United States.

Example: Chris Keates, general secretary of one of the United Kingdom's main teachers union, said to British media:

“Teachers want another curriculum review like a hole in the head. This is a pointless review when ministers have already determined that children should have a 1950s-style curriculum."

This is saying that British teachers do not want a review of the national educational curriculum whatsoever. It is as unwelcome as random murders of teachers by masked gunmen.

One might think that this is a wild exaggeration, but fights between teachers and governments about what teachers should be required to teach in schools, and if they should be required to teach more "hard subjects" with more math, more history, and more language, are extremely fierce nonetheless.

Dumbing Down

To simply something is to make something simpler. To dumb something down (the process known as "dumbing down," the past tense being "dumbed down") is to make something simpler by making it less intelligent.

Example: A frequent theme when discussing education in Western countries is whether the education curriculum has been dumbed down in favor of "trendy" and flashy subjects. It is argued that this leaves students of the current generation less prepared for academic life and employment once out of high school.

To simplify has a positive connotation. Dumbing down always has a negative connotation. "Dumbing down" or "dumbed down" is never intended as a compliment.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Blue Rose

In times past, a blue rose was an expression signifying the impossible, the unattainable, something that exists in fantasy alone, not in nature. 

Perhaps it can still be said that blue roses do not exist in nature. Once, white roses were dyed blue; now, blue roses can be produced thanks to genetic engineering. In spite of this, blue roses continue to hold their old meaning.

As a result of their "main" meaning, blue roses signify romantic feelings, love at first sight, and hope that things that seem unattainable at first (like love with a particular person, or prosperity in the future) are indeed attainable. This is an optimistic spin but remains part of the message that the flower can be used to send.

Of course, a person may use "a blue rose" to describe something extremely rare or normally impossible.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Slashing A Budget

A slash is a swift, violent cut. As a result of being swift and violent, the wound created by a slash is longer and deeper than a shallow surface cut. To slash has therefore come to mean making deep cuts.

It is in this sense that we use it in the expression, slashing a budget. That is, rather than making small cuts, or gradual cuts, slashing a budget means making deep, dramatic cuts, ones that affect the near future greatly.

The noun form would be a budget slash (singular) or budget slashes (plural).

Example: On January 6, 2011, the Internet news portal The Drudge Report characterized this article on Pentagon spending cuts that would result in a reduction of U.S. active duty military troops as "Pentagon Budget Slash: Obama To Cut Troops On Active Duty". As is customary with this tabloid-like news site, the headline is intended to dramatize; after all, instead of "budget cut" we have "budget slash," implying a violent, damaging process.

Whether this characterization is accurate or not, this is how the writer wishes us to read and understand his headline. In that context, this is a good example of how "slashing" is used in a budgetary context.

Budget Cuts

To cut a budget means to eliminate (cut) spending from a budget. The items being eliminated are "cut out" of the budget.

Example: Mary was spending more on food than she should have, so she cut an expensive brand of ice cream out of her budget. By reducing a luxury, she was able to bring her food expenses budget into line.

The noun forms represent the act of cutting a budget. Singular: a budget cut. Plural: budget cuts.