Words in the News


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

The outfits worn by superstars Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran when they sang together at the Global Citizen festival in South Africa last weekend drew much comment. As Hadley Freeman, writing in the Guardian, put it:

She [Beyoncé] was wearing an extraordinary couture dress by the Lebanese label Ashi Studio that was really more ruffle than gown, on which the low-key part was the multi-layered extra-long train behind her. [Sheeran] … looked like he had just about managed to brush his teeth.

A ruffle is a fold that decorates a piece of clothing,  and anyone who has seen a photo of the performers will agree that Beyoncé’s dress was indeed ‘more ruffle than gown’. The noun is more recent than the verb to ruffle, which has a number of meanings relating to moving something so that it is no longer smooth or even, or to something moving in this way. So you can ruffle a piece of cloth so that it is no longer smooth, and the wind can ruffle the surface of water. You can also ruffle someone’s hair (though they may not like it) and a bird can ruffle its feathers, meaning that it raises them and moves them around.

To ruffle someone is to make them feel upset, and it could be said that the photo of the two performers in their wildly contrasting outfits ruffled some feathers. It is likely that Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran remained unruffled by the media kerfuffle though, because when you are two of the best paid and best loved singers in the world you can afford to dress exactly how you want to and ignore any comments that may arise.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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