Meerkat meme

September 3, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
Meerkats are not new to popular culture (they appear in the folk tales of the San people of the Kalahari), but their arrival in the public’s consciousness, at least in the UK and the US, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Meerkats are small, sociable Southern African mammals that live in large family groups and eat insects and small reptiles. Their success with the global public is largely due to the documentary series Meerkat Manor, which was shown on TV between 2005 and 2008 and followed the lives of a group of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. As a result of this exposure, meerkats have topped polls of the public’s favourite animals ever since. Their popularity increased further when a British-based insurance comparison website adopted them for their TV marketing campaigns. These meerkat puppets, with their friendly appearance, cute names, and Russian accents (why?) became so popular for a time that their catchphrase, “Simples!”, was on everyone’s lips. Now that their retirement from the company’s marketing campaign has been reported, the catchphrase thankfully seems likely to disappear, so there is little risk that it will need to be added to the dictionary, but meerkats have now made an appearance in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Read the rest of this entry »


In London but at the station: prepositions for talking about travel

September 2, 2015

by Liz Walter​
Several readers have asked for information on prepositions, so I will start with a blog post that looks at an area where they are really important: travel.

The first thing to remember is that we use to (and not ‘in’) after the verb go:

We are going to London.

I went to the supermarket.

With the verb arrive, it’s a bit more complicated. We arrive in a village, town, city, country or continent, but we arrive at a building or other specific place:

They arrived in Paris this morning.

Call me when you arrive at the airport.

Do not use ‘to’ after ‘arrive’. However, we do use get to with the same meaning as ‘arrive in/at’:

We got to Germany that day.

When you get to the church, turn left. Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 31 August 2015

August 31, 2015


parklet noun a public outdoor space that may be associated with a local business but where anyone can sit

Pop-up cafes in NY are what’s actually called parklets in many other places around the country.

[WNYC: Brian Lehrer Show (US news and current events) 15 April 2015]


desire path noun a worn area of grass where people often walk

People create with their own feet what we call desire paths where they just walk on the lawn because there is no sidewalk.

[WNYC: Brian Lehrer Show (US news and current events) 15 April 2015]

DIY urbanism noun small-scale urban improvements such as the installation of street seating outside a cafe or store, undertaken by small local groups or businesses

Well, DIY urbanism is usually done solely by small groups.

[WNYC: Brian Lehrer Show (US news and current events) 15 April 2015]

About new words


Introducing a new author and a new weekly blog post!

August 27, 2015

by Cambridge Dictionaries Online​

About words

The English language is constantly changing. You know that. But did you know that at Cambridge Dictionaries Online we keep track of the changes?

We continually add new words and new meanings to our online dictionary for learners of English. Some of them are new to English entirely (neologisms), and some are new to our dictionary because they’ve become used much more often – maybe because of political or economic events, social or technological changes, or even a story that has gone viral.

From September 3, a new weekly About Words blog post will reveal how trends and developments in areas as diverse as technology, economics, food, media, fashion, and relationships areas are reflected in the new words and meanings that we have added to the dictionary. Read the rest of this entry »


Do you have what it takes? (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

August 26, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
As part of an occasional series on the subject of common idioms, we recently posted a blog which featured the idioms which we heard in spoken English during the course of a week. This week, we’re taking a different approach, picking out the idioms used in a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. As with the previous post, we have only included the most frequent idioms – in other words, the sort of phrases that you are likely to hear or read nowadays.

One newspaper reports that a politician has criticized doctors as a group, claiming that they do not understand how their patients suffer when they wait a long time to be treated. Doctors, the politician complains, are ‘out of touch’.  To be out of touch is to not have the most recent information about a subject or a situation. On a different page, the same newspaper complains that a large sum of public money (330 thousand pounds) has been spent on equipment that will never be used. ‘£330k down the drain!’ reads the headline. Money down the drain (informal) is money wasted.

Another newspaper reports that a request by many people to stop a building from being destroyed has ‘fallen on deaf ears’. A request or warning that falls on deaf ears is not listened to. On the same page, the newspaper writes that the people of one country have ‘taken to the streets’. When people take to the streets, they show that they are against something by going to a public place and shouting, often while carrying signs. Elsewhere, the newspaper promises that cures for some diseases are ‘on the horizon‘, meaning that they are likely to happen soon.
Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 24 August 2015

August 24, 2015


hyperpalatable adjective describes food with heightened levels of sugar and salt, intended to be extremely appealing

In Brazil, where the prevalence of overweight and obese adults has doubled since 1980, crisps, biscuits, energy bars and sugary drinks formulated to be ‘hyper-palatable’ are much more widely eaten than previously.

[http://www.telegraph.co.uk 11 May 2015]

sirtfood noun a food that is high in sirtuins (a class of protein) and thought to be beneficial to weight loss

So move over low-carb, high-fat cauliflower pizza, it’s the turn of ‘sirtfoods’ to enjoy the nutritional spotlight.

[www.telegraph.co.uk/ 08 May 2015]

Pegan adjective describes a diet that is a vegan variation of the Paleo diet, which is based on foods available to our ancient ancestors,
such as nuts, berries, eggs and meat

Pegan is considered the best of both worlds – offering a plant rich diet that includes protein, good fats and grains, and avoids dairy, gluten and sugar.

[www.dailymail.co.uk/ 18 May 2015]

About new words


A, an, and the: how to use articles in English

August 19, 2015

by Liz Walter​
Many learners of English have problems with articles (the words a, an and the), especially when they don’t exist in their own language. This blog looks at some of the basic rules.

The number one rule is this: if a word is countable (e.g. one book, two books), you must always use an article (or my, his, etc.):


I read a book.

I read book.

This is true even if there are adjectives before the noun:

He drives an old car.

He drives old car. Read the rest of this entry »


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