Mad as a box of frogs? Phrases that suddenly become popular.

August 20, 2014

by Liz Walter
In 2009, the UK was shocked, angered and entertained in almost equal measure when revelations about the expense claims of our MPs appeared in the media. Amidst the accusations of greed, a few examples became iconic, such as the MP who claimed for cleaning the moat around his home or the one who bought a floating duck house for £1,645 and expected the taxpayer to foot the bill.

Of course, this behaviour increased the perception that our MPs are out of touch with the realities of ordinary life, and it seemed for a while as though nobody could speak about the affair without uttering the phraseThey just don’t get it.’ That phrase, more than any other, seemed to sum up the feelings of the nation and was repeated to the point of tedium.

A phrase that is currently enjoying popularity is miss the memo. Someone who is surprised not to know about something may say ‘Oh, did I miss the memo?’ or ‘I seem to have missed the memo’. Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 18 August 2014

August 18, 2014


fly grazing noun the practice of leaving animals to graze on private land without first obtaining permission

New law to tackle fly grazing problem in Wales granted

[www.farmersguardian.com 28 January 2014]






canned hunting noun the hunting of animals which have been bred to be hunted. The animals are kept within a confined space and cannot escape.

‘Canned hunting’ of white lions is despicable – and it must stop
South Africa’s president must put an end to this cold-blooded slaughter, says Ripper Street star Jerome Flynn

[www.theguardian.com 11 March 2014]

lulz-farming noun gathering humorous content to put on a website

Now there are employees of large corporations paid to manage the social accounts of their companies, using official feeds to act like crazy students, having their antics reported on lulz-farming websites, reposted and retweeted by thousands of personal accounts.

[Computer Shopper (UK computer magazine) March 2014]

About new words


Reported speech – how to say what someone told you

August 13, 2014

by Liz Walter
We often need to tell people what someone else has said to us:

He said he wanted to come with us.

She told me she hadn’t seen the document.

This is what the textbooks call ‘reported speech‘, because you are reporting what has been said to you.

To use reported speech correctly, you have to be careful about what tense you use. The basic rule is that you look at the tense the speaker used, then you go back one tense to report it.

So, for instance, if someone says something in the present tense, you report it in the past tense: Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 11 August 2014

August 11, 2014


whip noun slang a car

I don’t know about you guys, but my whip is basically the Millennium Falcon aka hella old and beat up, but it gets the job done.

[http://four-pins.com/ 24 February 2014]

ULEV abbreviation an ultra-low emission vehicle (one that emits less than 75g of CO2 per kilometre)

Learn more about ULEVs [The Guardian (UK broadsheet) 15.03.14]

In January, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg led the formal unveiling of Go Ultra Low, a £2.5m campaign encouraging UK motorists to adopt Ultra Low Emission Vehicles – or ULEVs, for short.

[www.telegraph.co.uk 19 February 2014]

range-extended adjective describes a vehicle that combines an electric motor with a petrol engine that keeps the battery charged

Today, I regularly hear plug-in fans moan, complain and generally be mean about people who make the choice to go with a range-extended EV like the Vauxhall Ampera or a plug-in hybrid like the Toyota Prius Plug-in over electric-only cars like the Nissan LEAF and Renault Zoe

[www.thegreencarwebsite.co.uk 17 January 2014]

About new words


A vibrant shade of green – the language of colour

August 6, 2014

by Kate Woodford
Of course, we have a great number of words for different colours, but in addition, we have a range of words for describing the quality of particular colours – how light or dark they are, for example, and whether they are bright or not.

Let’s start with words that approximately mean pale, (= light and not bright): She was wearing a pale blue sweater. Pastel means pale, but also emphasizes that a colour is soft and gentle: The house was decorated in pastel shades. (Notice that word shade, by the way. We often use ‘shade’ when describing the exact degree or type of a colour: a darker/brighter/lighter shade of blue). Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 4 August 2013

August 4, 2014


dadding noun carrying out the duties of a father

He makes sure to drop his presence on the school run into conversation; he lets it be known that he is hip to the new rules of conscientious dadding.

[The Guardian (UK broadsheet) 22 March 2014]



sigother noun significant other; a person’s romantic partner or spouse

So the sigother orders from this Mediterranean spot down the street. He’s gorging himself on a lasagna and decadent looking pita bread next to me.

[http://www.celiac.com/ 21 January 2013]

maternity tourist noun a pregnant woman who travels to another country specifically in order to take advantage of their maternity services

Airline should take more responsibility for maternity tourists

[www.telegraph.co.uk (headline) 05 January 2014]

About new words


It’s not bad. (Emphasizing with negatives in English)

July 30, 2014

by Kate Woodford
A figure of speech that we often use in English is the understatement. An understatement is a statement that describes something as less important, serious, bad, etc. than it really is. There are two main uses for understatements. The first is to be polite:

The colour looks great on you but I think the jacket’s perhaps a bit tight?

(The speaker here does not want to tell their friend that they are too fat for the suit so ‘softens’ the adjective ‘tight’ with the phrase ‘a bit’.)

The other main use of the understatement is actually to emphasize a point, often in a way that is humorous. Read the rest of this entry »


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