Published: 22nd August 2020
Filthy rich or stinking rich: What do these phrases and others like 'to come of the blue' mean?
Albert P' Rayan responds to the questions that various readers posed. He talks about the usage of phrases like 'filthy rich', 'to come out of the blue' and many more
In this week’s column, I respond to readers’ queries on usage, grammar and the nuances of the English language.
“One of my friends used the term ‘filthy rich' while referring to some people who are rich. I argued that “filthy rich” is an offensive term but he says that it is a reference to say how rich a person is. Please explain whether it is offensive.” (Deepak Karthik)
The phrase ‘filthy rich’ has a negative connotation. It means that someone has become rich by unethical means. Another phrase that is synonymous with this is ‘stinking rich’. We use these expressions to disapprove of those who have become rich by corrupt means. The word ‘filthy’ has these negative meanings: very dirty, foul, corrupt…
Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal That Undid Him, and All the Justice That Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein is a 2017 book by James Patterson. The thriller clearly explains how Jeffery Epstein became rich and used his money power to indulge in crimes.
The verbs that collocate with ‘filthy’ include be, become, feel, look, smell, get, leave something, make something. Examples:
- The room smells filthy.
- Some businesspeople in India are going to become filthy rich over the next few years
What is the meaning of the phrase “to come out of the blue”? (Shirley Thomas)
If something happens unexpectedly, we say it comes out of the blue. The original idiomatic expression is ‘out of the blue’ and it means ‘unexpectedly’. Here are examples of how the idiom is used in sentences:
- MS Dhoni’s retirement came out of the blue.
- My aunt visited us out of the blue.
A phrase with a similar meaning is ‘a bolt from the blue’. It is easy to guess the meaning of the expression in which ‘a bolt’ refers to ‘a bolt of lighting’ and ‘the blue’ refers to ‘a clear blue sky’. A bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky comes as a surprise. The meaning of the phrase is ‘a total surprise’.
“Recently, while reading a news report, I came across the phrase “bay for blood”. What is the meaning of the expression? What is the past tense form of ‘bay’?” (Krishna Kumar)
The phrase ‘to bay for blood’ means to angrily demand punishment for someone for their action. The word ‘bay’, as a verb, means to shout loudly demanding an action. The past tense of ‘bay’ is ‘bayed’.
- Whenever some cricketers fail to play well and lose a match against their opponents, fans bay for blood.
Is ‘couple’ singular or plural? (Alex Thomas)
‘Couple’ can be treated as singular or plural depending on the context. Look at the sentences below:
- The couple was shocked to hear that their son met with an accident.
- The couple were married in 2018.
In the first sentence, ‘couple’ refers to a single entity and so it is construed as singular and is followed by a singular verb. In the second sentence, ‘couple’ refers to two individuals and it is construed as plural and is followed by a plural verb.