Thursday, February 11, 2021

Blowing Hot And Cold (MY Eng #4)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room' and 'practising what you preach'.

This one's a favourite among lawyers, especially in Malaysia. Not a day passes without the phrase being uttered in a courtroom or two. It's a strong play on emotions. It's a way to demonise the other side as the 'bad guy'. It's an ace up one's sleeves when the deck stacked is against you.

When played right, it's a killer winning argument. A game-ending knockout punch. Just as long you time it well of course.

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Calling someone out as 'blowing hot and cold' is to accuse them of being inconsistent. Going back on their word. Contradicting their earlier position.

A simple example is when a seller promises to deliver something that you urgently need by next week and after paying for it, the seller says that the delivery can only made in a month's time. Or your boss verbally agreeing to let you off for an entire week from Christmas to New year, only to reject your leave application on the system. How rude!

Of course, sometimes people have good reasons to go back on their word. A change of circumstances. Force majeure. Assumptions that both parties once shared no longer holding true.

That's why the idiom can come across as rather over-used and tedious. It's a strong allegation that should be sparingly invoked when absolutely called for. Wrongly accusing others of lying is as bad -if not worse - as lying.

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So is 'blowing hot and cold' just a fancier way of desribing a 'lie'? Sort of. Not a bald-face lie perhaps, but more of a misleading misrepresentation.

Why do people blow hot and cold on a daily basis? Sometimes they're just merely being fickle. Or not careful with their choice of words. Or just being plain forgetful.

To avoid flip-flopping, be sure to think before you speak. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Have a clear mind.

Above all, only blow where you can flow!

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