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Happy Red Nose Day!

Last week I left you this clue to solve:

Idiot gets phrase cut short in chat network (7)

Did you get it?

The answer is TWITTER, a word which until recently related to the sound birds make.  It is now defined additionally in the Oxford online dictionary as ‘to make a posting on the social media website Twitter’. Someone making such a posting is said to tweet.

But why is that correct?  What has it to do with an idiot and a phrase getting cut short?

The reason is that one unkind word for an idiot is a twit.  You might hear someone say: ‘you stupid twit!’. And another word for a phrase could be a term (more on this in a moment).  If ‘term’ is ‘cut short’ the final letter is removed giving TER.  The solution (meaning ‘chat network’) is therefore formed by putting together TWIT and TER.

Term can have several meanings (see here) – including a word or phrase used to describe a thing or express a concept. One can speak of a legal term (for example ‘cross examination’ – for a list see here); a mathematical term (for example ‘binomial’ – for a list see here), a term of endearment (such as ‘darling’, ‘angel’, or ‘sweetheart’) and so on.

Sad to say, but perhaps not surprisingly, the English language has many insulting terms to describe people who are, or appear to be, stupid, crazy, or not quite right in the head.  The word ‘twit’, mentioned earlier, is one – and two others are found in the solutions to the following clues.

The first is from Daily Telegraph Puzzle No. 27,738 (2nd March 2015):

Out of sight; out of mind? (5,3,4)

The answer is ROUND THE BEND.  The reason this is correct is that if something is round a bend (in the road for example) you cannot see it (it is out of sight); but in addition round the bend is used to describe someone who is insane (out of his or her mind).  You could hear an eccentric person described as ‘completely round the bend’.  Or, if the telephone is constantly ringing, you could say: ‘that telephone is driving me round the bend’. It is ‘driving me crazy’; ‘driving me insane’; ‘driving me out of my mind’; or ‘driving me bananas’ (see Never a cross word – 20) could also be used.

The second clue is from the Daily Telegraph ‘Toughie’ Puzzle No. 1345 dated 17th February 2015:

Not all there is can deter brat being troublesome (14)

The word ‘troublesome’ provides a clue that one is dealing with an anagram (if the letters in other words are ‘troubled’ they are mixed up).  But the Toughie is not called the Toughie for nothing!  Solving a 14 letter anagram is not a simple matter, especially when it is not immediately obvious what the solution means. One’s first thought is that the anagram comes from the words:

DETER BRAT BEING

which immediately precede ‘troublesome’.

But the hint that the clue involves an anagram could be the words ‘being troublesome’ – in which case the anagram is formed from:

IS CAN DETER BRAT

In fact, the latter possibility is correct and the solution means not all there – another way of saying, in an impolite way, that someone is lacking in mental ability.

The solution (look away now if you want to try it yourself) is:

SCATTERBRAINED

Scatterbrained is a way of describing someone who is disorganised and lacking in concentration, and not all there can sometimes be used to mean much the same thing.

If you really want to read over 200 ways of talking about people who are stupid or crazy you will find a link here. The list has grown in recent years and now includes amusing expressions such as ‘a few sandwiches short of a picnic’, ‘not the sharpest crayon in the box’, and ‘the light’s on but there’s no-one at home’. My favourite is a term used a lot by Americans – ‘out to lunch’!

I will leave you with this clue to solve, from Daily Telegraph Puzzle No. 27,739 dated 3rd March 2015.  This also includes the word ‘term’ but that is a red herring (misleading).

It reads:

In new term, admit particular type, painter (9).

Over to you …

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