Friday, 28 April 2006

English is no piece of cake

Anybody learning the English language has my sympathy. Let’s think about the word “piece” which means a portion or part. Except “A piece of cake” might mean either a section of a cake, or trivial, facile. “A piece of piss” only means trivial, never a quantity of urine. “A piece of me” seems to means an argument or fight with me, while “a piece of my mind” means a tirade or scalding. “A piece of furniture” doesn’t mean a portion or part, but a complete item of furniture. “A piece of the action” means a share of the profit and associated risk. “A piece of shit” has nothing to do with faeces and everything to do with inferior quality. The situation is no simpler when we talk about a “piece” by itself, it means a gun, except when it means a sculpture or a painting.