Knife and fork, wrong and right, peace and quiet – these are examples of binomials, phrases which consists of two words joined together by a conjunction like ‘and‘ or ‘or‘.
English is full of them. You can find binomials in everyday conversation, in written English, and also by reading and interacting through various social media. Twitter, for example, is a rich source of language, and Tweets are often composed to sound just like spoken English.
Here’s an example of a binomial written on Twitter:
Was planning on fish and chips tonight for dinner, but have had the sort of day that’s resulted in me just having chips…. (and chocolate!)
— Debbish (@RockafellaSkank) November 22, 2012
The meaning of binomials can sometimes be clear from the two separate words. For example, I would like some fish and chips means just that – I would like some fish and some chips.
In other cases, the meaning is more idiomatic or figurative.
I’ve now selected 10 Tweets written this week, which I found using the ‘search’ button on Twitter. Try to fill in the ones below with the missing word, then decide what you think the meaning is:
Pair of boots and a sack of clothes, free and …………….. down the road I go – Dierks Bentley
— Manuel Rubio (@ManuelRubioHRH)
And the same one with a different meaning:
Get a lot of unwanted mail? Sign-up on Catalog Choice and help your mailbox go green too! It’s FREE and ……………… catalogchoice.org
— The BGA (@BroadwayGreen)
Saturday I came down w/a deadly hangover-it was touch and …………….. for a while. I survived, but be warned! Im sure I caught it from twitter.
— Gotham’s Lovely (@WowYoureFunny)
So happy we won that rally fair and ……………..!! #SENIORS — Jesse Santosuosso (@jessejaesoso)
Landed safe and ……………… back in LA.. Had such a wonderful trip in New York:) — Lea Michele (@msleamichele)
Waxed the living room floor. Is the living room spic and ……………… now? Well, to some extent,yes 😛
— chelsea (@chel_gallagorha)
The life of Hutchence, 15 years on: THE life and ……………… of late, great INXS frontman Michael Hutchence will be ma… bit.ly/10sCv1O
— Sydney Confidential (@SydConfidential)
Love is a roller coaster, it has its ups and ………………, but the ride is what you make of it.
— Notebook of Love (@Notebook)
Don’t let the hustle and ……………… of the busy holiday season keep you from creating wonderful holiday memories with… fb.me/114wZowSk
— Dutch Wonderland (@FUNatDW)
@akfadzilah Plenty of things to do and ……………… in Singapore 🙂
— Jannah Raffali (@jannahtesl)
Customer site is closing early. Latest Article submitted to editor. Some Odds and ……………… to wrap up… Ready for a 4 day weekend!
— Christopher Neto CTS (@chris_neto)
How’d you go? Check your answers below:
1. Free and easy
You can see above that free and easy can be used to say something is cool, relaxed, that there’s no problem. The second Tweet refers more to something being of no cost and easy or convenient to do.
2. Touch and go
Something that is serious before usually getting better.
For example: after the accident things were touch and go for a while.
The person’s condition was very serious. We use it usually after we know things are now getting better.
3. Fair and square
Often it’s used with ‘win’:
He won the match fair and square.
ie he played by the rules and clearly won with no cheating, and so no one can complain about the result.
4. Safe and sound
Perhaps you were worried about someone but now you’re pleased or relieved that they are ok and nothing bad has happened to them:
I heard there’s a transport strike on today. Well, I’m glad that the kids are at home safe and sound.
5. Spick and span
This means very clean and tidy (which is another binomial).
Interestingly, ‘spick’ is not used on its own, and some dictionaries only mention it as part of this phrase.
6. The life and times
Often used when there’s a book about someone’s life story.
7. Ups and downs
As you can imagine, life has its highs and lows, we experience the good and the bad.
8. Hustle and bustle
This refers to the energy of a place, how busy and vibrant it is.
9. Do and see
When talking about visiting a city or what you want to do at the weekend, you can say there’s plenty of things/many things to do and see.
It can even be extended to this phrase: things to do and see in..(Paris)
10. Odds and ends
Some Brits say bits and bobs.
These are the small things or tasks we have to deal with:
I’ll be with you in a sec – just got to finish off some bits and pieces.