Teachers' blog


【Shirking and Skiving】

(Contributed by Ben)
Last time, I gave you some phrases about ‘passing the buck’, and avoiding blame or responsibility. Here are a few more phrases on those subjects:
1. Shirking and Skiving
Shirking is the opposite of working (and they are similar-sounding words: ‘SHURK’ and ‘WURK’). You can shirk your work, by staying at home instead. You can shirk while you’re at work by doing almost nothing, and letting other people do the work. You can accuse people of ‘shirking their responsibilities.’
‘Skiving’ is a similar word, usually used at schools. If a student doesn’t go to a lesson, they’re ‘skiving’ (pronounced ‘SKAI-ving’) or ‘skiving off’. You can also ‘skive work’ but it’s not so common.
2. Shrugging something off
To ‘shrug’ is to raise your shoulders (an action that means ‘I don’t know’). You can ‘shrug your coat off’ by shrugging your shoulders and letting the coat fall on the floor. It’s quite a lazy action. If you shrug off a responsibility, you find an easy, lazy way to avoid it. Sometimes you can ‘shrug off’ things people say about you – for example ‘the prime minister shrugged off criticisms of her policy’, meaning that you dismiss them easily, without making a lot of effort.
3. Abnegating responsibilities, and scape-goating
First of all, ‘abnegating’ is a very fancy word and I’ve never heard anyone use it in casual conversation. But if you need a very formal phrase meaning ‘saying it’s not your responsibility’, this could be a useful term. If a company causes an accident, but they say it isn’t their responsibility, they are ‘abnegating the responsibility’ (or, more commonly, ‘denying responsibility’).
If a company causes an accident, and they blame one employee (even if it isn’t that employee’s fault), the employee is a ‘scapegoat’ – a person who is blamed, so that other people can escape punishment. The company would be ‘scapegoating’ the employee.

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