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 »


New words – 28 July 2014

July 28, 2014


standing desk noun a desk at which a person stands rather than sits

Kevin Partner reveals a £50 method to make a standing desk

[www.pcpro.co.uk 03 March 2014]







reshoring noun moving jobs that had previously been done in other countries back to the country where the company is based

Mr Cameron will say that reshoring is a growing trend.

[BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 25 January 2013]

step-in adjective refers to a company that provides a temporary service when another supplier has pulled out

As a stopgap to the new procurements NHS England has drafted in ‘step-in’ service providers to run NHS Direct contracts on a temporary basis until 2015.

[BMJ (UK medical journal) 04 January 2014]

About new words


New words connected with families and relationships

July 23, 2014

by Liz Walter
Changes in social attitudes, new laws on same-sex relationships, and advances in medical procedures connected with conception and surrogacy have all led to new family structures and relationships, and this blog looks at some terms that have come into the language in order to describe them.

The jigsaw family, for instance, is becoming ever more common. Also known as the blended family, it consists of a couple and their children, living with children from their previous relationships.

The rainbow family, with members of different races, is most famously exemplified by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who currently have 6 children, three of whom are adopted (from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam). Children with parents from different racial and cultural backgrounds are now increasingly described as dual-heritage, a term which has a more positive spin than the still more common ‘mixed-race‘.
Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 21 July 2014

July 21, 2014


crep noun slang (teenage slang for) a shoe

I’m going to get some fresh creps.

[Heard in conversation 04 January 2014]



de-shopping noun the practice of buying something, usually a garment, and then returning it to the shop after one use only

‘Showrooming’ and ‘de-shopping’ are nothing to be proud of – or laugh about. High-street shops of all sizes are fragile. We will miss them if they go.

[www.telegraph.co.uk 07 January 2014]

size inflation noun the increase in the size of clothing sizes

Larger mannequins are being introduced into clothes shops and ‘size inflation’ means that clothes with the same size label have become larger in recent decades.

[www.bbc.co.uk 27 March 2014]

About new words


Choose a better verb!

July 16, 2014

by Liz Walter
It’s easy to use very basic verbs such as get, start, have or make, but a great way of improving your English is to learn more interesting verbs that go with particular nouns. For example, while it’s fine to say get attention or do research, your English will sound much better if you can say attract attention or carry out research.

Sometimes it’s worth learning the verb and noun combination as a phrase because it is so common that it would sound strange to use a different verb. For instance, we commit a crime (never ‘do’), tell lies or jokes (never ‘say’), and pluck up courage (not ‘get’). And while it’s possible to ‘give’ attention, details or compliments, it’s much more common and natural to pay attention, go into details and pay someone a compliment. Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 14 July 2014

July 14, 2014


tech neck noun informal wrinkles in the neck area caused by looking down at phones, tablets, etc.

Word of the week: tech neck. [Grazia (UK celebrity magazine) 03 March 2014]

Experts in non-surgical facelifts say tilting your head down to use phones, iPads and computers can leave wrinkles on your throat and neck, a condition being called ‘tech neck.’

[www.kshb.com 27 February 2014]

buffalo hump noun a fatty build-up at the back of the neck, usually caused by weight gain, but exacerbated by poor posture

A spokesperson for WhatClinic.com, who carried out the research, said: ‘Buffalo humps can be an unusual side effect of certain medications, but more often they appear over time, through obesity. Poor posture doesn’t help either, making it more noticeable.

[www.dailymail.co.uk 08 January 2014]

sitting disease noun health problems caused by too much sitting

Sitting too much, sometimes called sitting disease, may increase the risk of disability in people over age 60, a new study suggests.

[www.usatoday.com 19 February 2014]

About new words


Boffins and love-rats: the language of tabloids

July 9, 2014

by Kate Woodford
Miracle tot cheats death as 12ft wall collapses

If you read this headline in a British tabloid newspaper, would you have any idea what it meant? If you are British and have grown up with tabloid newspapers, you will, of course, immediately understand that somewhere in Britain, a young child (a ‘tot’) recently managed not to die (‘cheated death’) when a high wall fell on or near them. You would understand from the phrase ‘miracle tot’ that the small child was extremely lucky indeed.

If, however, you are a learner of English, you might struggle to understand headlines such as these, as the words and expressions that are used in them are rarely heard or seen in normal English. With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at some of those ‘tabloid English’ words and phrases and see how they are used. Read the rest of this entry »


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