I was playing hide and seek with the kids in the local park yesterday and I got talking to one of the other parents. Hearing that I worked with English, he asked me if I knew which words were the only completely interchangeable synonyms in English. It was something he’d learnt in school and never forgotten.
Of course I didn’t.
The answer was gorse, furze and whin. They are interchangeable words for ulex europaeus: a common shrub.
Are there really no other synonyms of this kind in English?
I was a littlesuspicious so I googled just to be sure. On a blog, one wag had come up with these suggestions:
Nil and zero, twelve and dozen and selfish and Republican!
There are many synonyms in English and it’s so important to choose the right word.
My son was telling me about a classmate who had an elderly and very ill hamster: “In the end they just had to have him executed.”
That gave me a bizarre mental image of a brave little rodent having a final cig before walking out to face the firing squad.
Executed is just not the right word there. So what is?
Put down? Not bad but a bit too brutal. More appropriate for livestock.
Exterminated? It was a beloved family pet, not vermin.
Terminated? Not unless Arnie pulled the trigger.
Liquidated, eliminated or neutralized? Rather macho and most likely to be used in a spy film. “Mr Bond, the hamster must be neutralised.”
Bumped off or wacked? Not unless the furry fellow was in the Mafia or the kingpin of a crime syndicate.
The right answer is of course, put to sleep. It’s gentle and respectful
We’ve all seen Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch. Several hundred times. That must be such a pig to translate subtitles for. It uses so many synonyms for dead. That’s the whole joke.
The hamster has popped his clogs/ is pushing up daisies/ has gone to the great gig in the sky etc etc. All wonderful expressions but not advisable when talking to a child who has just lost their dear little friend.
There we’d recommend: Hammy has passed away or the (rather cheesy) Hammy is with the angels now.
Hmmm! Hundreds of little hamsters with wings running round a gigantic silver training wheel. No maybe not!