A bit up and down – describing emotion with metaphors of height

September 17, 2014

by Liz Walter
Metaphor is when we use the word for one thing to describe the characteristics of another. For example, if we say ‘This city is a jungle’, we mean that the city is a wild and dangerous place.

That is a clear and obvious example of metaphor, but there are metaphorical ideas that are so common in our language that we hardly notice them. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson wrote about this in their famous book Metaphors We Live By. They say that these ideas are so much a part of our language that they actually affect the way we think and behave.

In this blog I want to look at one example – using words connected with height to describe happiness and depth to describe sadness. Lakoff and Johnson call this an orientational metaphor, meaning that it describes position in space. Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 15 September 2014

September 15, 2014


cryptocurrency noun a generic term for bitcoin-type e-currencies

Why are cryptocurrencies valuable? In the case of Bitcoin, because it was the first and is by far the largest, receiving the majority of monetary and media attention, with the one harmoniously building the other.


[http://techcrunch.com 15 February 2014]

life-tracking adjective describes wearable gadgets which record daily activities, such as exercise and sleep, and also keep a record of things done during the day, for example the number of photos the wearer takes

Sony Mobile president and CEO Kuni Suzuki took the stage at the tail end of Sony’s CES press conference to show off what he called ‘the tiniest gadget Sony has ever made’ — the life-tracking Sony Core.

[http://techcrunch.com 07 January 2014]

doxxing noun the activity of publicly revealing someone’s identity and other personal information online

This kind of outing, known as ‘doxxing’, involves scouring the Internet for personal data [...] and then publicly linking that information to the perpetrator’s transgression.

[New York Times Magazine (US news magazine) 19 January 2014]

About new words


The Language of Losing

September 10, 2014

by Kate Woodford
Recently on this blog we looked at the idioms and collocations that we use to describe winning. Sadly, for every winner, there is a loser so this week, we’re looking at a set of less happy phrases – those that we use to describe losing.

Starting with the verb ‘lose’ itself, note that one person or side loses to another person or side: They lost to Liverpool on Saturday.

Moving on to the much used word ‘defeat’, a person or team that loses may be said to suffer defeat: England suffered defeat in their World Cup opener. If they lose by many goals or points, the result may be described as a crushing defeat, a humiliating defeat or even a resounding defeat: Van Gaal’s side suffered a humiliating defeat in the second round of the League Cup on Tuesday./This was a crushing defeat for the reigning champion. When, on the other hand, a person or team loses by very few goals or points, the result is sometimes described as a narrow defeat: United experienced a narrow defeat to Lucena in their opening game in Marbella. The phrase be narrowly defeated is also often used: The reserve side were narrowly defeated on Saturday in a pre-season run out against City. Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 8 September 2014

September 8, 2014


couplie noun informal a self-shot of a couple

The selfie is over! Oh good, we hear you cry. But no, it’s just been replaced by the ‘couplie’.

[Grazia (UK celebrity magazine) 17 February 2014]


digital surgery noun post production techniques used to make actors appear taller and slimmer, and less wrinkled

Stretching the truth: Hollywood film makers now using ‘digital surgery’ to alter female stars to make them look taller and thinner.

[www.dailymail.co.uk 09 February 2014]

eco-thriller noun a thriller with an ecological subject matter

‘The Cove’ director hints his next eco-thriller may be out this year

[www.treehugger.com 16 January 2014]

About new words


You must read this! (‘Have to’ or ‘must’?)

September 3, 2014

by Kate Woodford
In these blogs we make a point of looking at areas that often cause difficulties for learners of English. This week we are considering how we talk about obligation – the fact that we must do something, either because of a rule or some other need. We will start with the differences between ‘have to/need to’ and ‘must’, and when we use one and not the other.

Have to/Need to

The first thing to say is that if we want to talk about something that it is necessary to do, ‘have to’ and ‘need to’, (followed by the infinitive of the main verb), generally sound correct and natural:

You have to/need to be there for eight o’clock.

I have to/need to get some money out.

You have to/need to get a form from the office. Read the rest of this entry »


New words – 1 September 2014

September 1, 2014


raingarden noun a planted sunken area of garden that absorbs rainwater runoff from roofs, drives, etc.

Financial incentives drove up numbers of green roofs in Germany 19-fold in just 12 years. In Melbourne, Australia, a five-year scheme is establishing 10,000 “raingardens” — flower and vegetable beds underlain with sandy soil to help water filter away.

[www.telegraph.co.uk 03 January 2014]

greenhouse noun the part of a car that includes the roof and windows

While the production version carries over many cues from the concept [version of the car], the higher-set greenhouse from the Impreza reveals the truth: There’s no new platform beneath that flared bodywork.

[Car and Driver (US automotive magazine) Jan 2014]

frost-quake noun an earthquake-like phenomenon brought on by extreme cold. It is caused by the expansion of moisture in the ground as it freezes, leading to the sudden release of energy and an accompanying loud boom.

In fact, they are merely hearing the after-effects of the frost quakes – or cryoseism – which are more commonly found on a glacier in the polar regions.

[www.dailymail.co.uk 05 January 2014]

About new words


Victory! (Winning words)

August 27, 2014

by Kate Woodford
With the 2014 Commonwealth Games recently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, our thoughts have turned to sporting success and we’re looking at the idioms and collocations (=word combinations) that are used to describe victory.

When a person or team succeeds in winning a game or competition, they may be said to gain a victory over their opponent(s): The Welsh side gained a victory over their rivals. Another way of saying this is that the game ends in triumph for one side: The game ended in triumph for Argentina. If they win with ease, they are sometimes said to cruise to victory: Juventus were never really in trouble as they cruised to victory over their Spanish rivals. An individual or side that cruises to victory may also be said to run rings around their opponents or (informal) wipe the floor with them: United rang rings around/wiped the floor with City. A victory in which the winning person or team is very much better than their opponent may be called a convincing win/victory or a comfortable win/victory: United began their tour with a convincing victory over LA Galaxy./Murray warmed up for Wimbledon with a comfortable victory over his opponent. Read the rest of this entry »


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