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Not much between the ears: how to say that someone is stupid

April 16, 2014

by Liz Walter
stupid
There are many different ways of saying that someone is stupid, depending on factors such as who you are talking to, whether or not you care about offending someone, or how serious you are being.

We can describe someone who has trouble understanding things as slow or dim, but note that we almost always put words like a bit or rather in front of these words: Her husband’s a bit dim. My pupils were rather slow. A kinder way of describing a student who isn’t doing well is to use the verb struggle: My daughter struggles with maths. She’s struggling at school.

At a more advanced level, someone with a vacuous expression has little sign of intelligence in their face, while an inane remark is silly and has no real meaning.

In English, it is common to express critical ideas by using positive words in negative sentences. We say things such as: He’s not that bright. She’s not the sharpest pupil I’ve ever taught. They are the less intelligent ones. Read the rest of this entry »

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New words – 14 April 2014

April 14, 2014

deadcathole

dead-cat hole noun informal the space between the top of a car tyre and the body of the car

US models will have larger dead-cat holes than European ones. Cat lovers can gripe to the EPA,

[Car & Driver (US automotive magazine) Oct. 2013]

banking desert noun a neighbourhood or other area where there are no banks

From our member station WYSO, Lewis Wallace reports on a recent branch closure in Dayton, Ohio, that creates a banking desert nearly five miles wide.

[NPR: Morning Edition (US news and public affairs) 13 November 2013]

concierge medicine noun a sector of medical practice where extra attention is given to wealthy patients able to pay a high price

Members of the affluent classes routinely question the merits of doctors who do take insurance. [...] This psychology, along with cost-cutting strategies pursued by insurance companies [...] have driven the field of concierge medicine.

[New York Times (US broadsheet) 08 December 2013]

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Present perfect or past simple?

April 9, 2014

present_perfectby Kate Woodford
Present perfect or past simple?

This is a tricky area of the English language for low-level learners, so let’s look again at the rules.

When we start studying English, we learn that to talk about an action that started and finished in the past, we use the past simple tense, (for regular verbs, the base verb + -ed):

 

I finished the course a month ago.

cooked dinner.

We saw Jamie yesterday.

Notice that we naturally use time expressions with the past simple – yesterday, a month ago, 2005, etc. Remember that when we use one of these words or phrases, we do not use the present perfect tense:

I’ve been to the USA in 2008.

I went to the USA in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

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New words – 7 April 2014

April 7, 2014

unplugged_wedding

unplugged wedding noun a wedding at which no one is allowed to bring phones so that there will be no photos posted to facebook or instagramming

Unplugged weddings are becoming very popular here in the UK and have great advantages for all involved in the wedding. An unplugged wedding simply means that you’ve politely asked your guests not to use phones, cameras or other devices during your wedding or at least during the wedding service or ceremony.

[www.blog.kathrynandrewsphotography.com 03 October 2013]

dark sky park noun a nature reserve that is protected from light pollution by night

International dark sky parks are areas where the night sky is protected and lighting controls are in place to prevent light pollution.

[www.bbc.co.uk 06 December 2013]

quietway noun a backstreet, cycle-dedicated road which cars are not allowed on

Mayor Boris Johnson’s Vision for Cycling document also proposes the introduction of so-called Quietways on ‘low-traffic back streets’ for cyclists to use

[www.bbc.co.uk 14 November 2013]

About new words

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The Top 5 Ungrammatical Song Lyrics

April 3, 2014

by Kate Woodford and Dom Glennon
rock_warning
Are you annoyed by song lyrics that do not obey the rules of grammar? Do you correct them as you sing along? To mark the inclusion of English Grammar Today on Cambridge Dictionaries Online, we thought we’d count down some of the worst offences against the rules of grammar committed by songwriters, either deliberately, or without knowing.

5. The standard non-standard

Rock’n’roll has always been drawn to the rebellious side of life, so it’s little surprise that a large number of songs feature non-standard or slang grammar in their lyrics: double negatives such as ‘We Don’t Need No Education’ (‘Another Brick In The Wall’ by Pink Floyd) and ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ (‘Satisfaction‘ by The Rolling Stones). Some musicians go even further, adding in the equally non-standard ‘ain’t’, as in ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers, and ‘You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog’ (‘Hound Dog‘ by Elvis Presley).

Perhaps the best example of deliberate breaking of the rules is in Louis Jordan’s ‘Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’, guaranteed to send your Word grammar-checker haywire. The non-standard seems almost standard in rock music. Read the rest of this entry »

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Phrases from Shakespeare, Part 2

April 1, 2014

by Kate Woodford
oyster
This week we’re looking at a few more of the phrases from the plays of William Shakespeare, (1564 – 1616), that are part of ordinary ‘everyday’ English. Again, some of these phrases were coined (= invented) by Shakespeare. Others, which were already in use when he was writing, were simply made popular by him.

In modern English, It’s all Greek to me is a way of saying that you do not understand something said or written. In Shakespeare’s history play, Julius Caesar, the character of Casca is asked what Cicero said and replies: ‘But, for mine own part, it was Greek to me’. (Cicero had been speaking Greek and Casca didn’t understand Greek.) In modern English, we have simply added the word ‘all’ to the phrase.

Today, something that beggars description is so very good or so very bad that you find it difficult to describe. (A ‘beggar’ is a poor person who asks other people for money and so ‘to beggar’ here means ‘to make someone or something very poor’.) In Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, Mark Antony’s friend says of Cleopatra’s appearance, For her own person, It beggar’d all description, meaning that Cleopatra’s appearance (‘her own person’) was so beautiful, it made words seem poor and useless.

Read the rest of this entry »

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New words – 31 March 2014

March 31, 2014

digital_dementia

digital dementia noun impairment of brain function as a result of overuse of screens, leading, for example, to inability to recall phone numbers/dates of birth/PINs, etc.

So that means that many of us, including kids who grew up with technology and those of us who adopted it in our later lives as part of living in the modern world, may not be destined to digital dementia indefinitely after.

[www.alzheimers.net 12 November 2013]

digital water cooler idiom informal a social network on which people talk about something such as a TV show or sports event

In recent months [Facebook and Twitter] have engaged in an escalating battle [...] to claim the title of the nation’s digital water cooler as they woo networks and advertisers.

[New York Times (US broadsheet) 02 October 2013]

About new words

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