Archive for the ‘the English language’ Category


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 ?


What will you be doing this time next week? – the future in English part 2

July 2, 2014

by Kate Woodford
Last week we looked at the most basic tenses and structures that are used for talking about the future. This week, we’re considering some more future tenses and structures and thinking about exactly how they are used.

Let’s start with the present simple. Like the present continuous, this tense can be used for talking about future events that are planned, or ‘in the diary’:

We leave for France next Tuesday.

Term starts next week.

Her plane gets in at three in the morning.

Notice that two of the above examples relate to events that are not only planned, but planned by someone else, as part of an official diary or timetable. This is a typical use of the present simple for future events.

We should mention another important use of the present tense for relating the future, and one that students sometimes get wrong. A present tense – often the present simple – is used for talking about future events in phrases that contain words relating to time, such as when, after and until. Read the rest of this entry ?


What are you doing tonight? – the future in English

June 25, 2014

by Kate Woodford

The future in English is complicated. The problem is that there are so many different ways of talking about it, and the differences between those various ways are sometimes quite slight. This week and next, we’re looking at the range of tenses and structures that we use to talk about the period of time that is to come.

We’ll start with a really useful tense – the present continuous (be + v-ing), (Notice, by the way, that we’re not starting with ‘will’ – more of that later…):

We are having dinner with friends tonight.

I’m seeing the dentist tomorrow.

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m starting my course next month.

We use this tense for talking about the planned future – things that we have already arranged to do. We use it both in statements and questions, and we use it a lot. It may be useful to think of the present continuous as the ‘diary’ tense – the tense that you use to talk about meetings, appointments, etc.  that need arranging – the sort of future events that you might write in your diary. Read the rest of this entry ?


The language of mobile phones

June 18, 2014

by Liz Walter
mobile_phone1According to a United Nations report, more people now have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet. Phones are an important tool for most of us, but the kind of everyday vocabulary we use to talk about them is rarely learned in an English class. So here are some of the most important words you need.

When you buy your phone (called a mobile phone in British English and a cell phone in American English), you will need to decide whether you want a contract that will give you a certain number of texts, calls, etc. per month, or whether you prefer a pay-as-you-go arrangement (where you pay for services as you use them). A contract often lets you upgrade your phone for a better one after a period of time.

Most people prefer to have a smartphone which gives you internet access (allows you to go on the internet). Nowadays, we use our phones as cameras, diaries, alarm clocks, satnavs, and many other things, and you can download apps for almost anything, from improving your English to (apparently) finding ghosts! Read the rest of this entry ?


Brazilian words in English

June 11, 2014

by Liz Walter
With the football World Cup in Brazil about to kick off, this blog looks at Portuguese, the language of Brazil, and its influence on English.

The Portuguese loanwords we have in English tend to be for fairly rare items. Probably because the Portuguese were such great explorers, they include several names of living creatures, for example piranha, cobra, flamingo, macaw and plants such as jacaranda (a tropical tree with large, blue flowers) and manioc (a plant grown for its edible roots).

Other English words of Portuguese origin include albino (a person with white skin and hair and pink eyes), sargasso (a large mass of floating plants in the sea), molasses (a dark syrup) and tapioca (a grain used to make a milk dessert remembered with horror by most British people over the age of fifty). Another surprising addition to this list is the word fetish, which originally came from a Portuguese word meaning ‘false’.

Interestingly, there is also a small group of words which have come into English as a result of Portuguese influence in India. Examples are amah (a female servant), ayah (a children’s nursemaid) and mandarin (now used mainly as a critical term for a government official). Read the rest of this entry ?


New words – 9 June 2014

June 9, 2014


vanity height noun extra height added on to a skyscraper merely to look impressive, having no useful purpose

Let’s take a look at a few of the skyscrapers that have the highest vanity heights.

[ 31 October 2013]







swacket noun a sweater-like jacket

‘I put on a swacket.’ ‘A swacket. What’s a swacket?’ ‘It’s a sweater jacket.’ ‘Oh wow. Is that what all the kids are doing now?’ ‘Yes. That is how I was told to dress, yes. I am wise, I listen to my girlfriend.’

[Colbert Report (US comedy and satire) 15 November 2013]

Tabata noun a form of exercise which alternates short periods of high-intensity exercise with short rests

Get fit with only 4 minutes of exercise four times a week. Yes please! Tabata is comprised of [sic] an aerobic and anaerobic workout, meaning it will give you both a cardio and a muscle workout.

[Grazia (UK celebrity magazine) 02 December 2013]


Hairdryers and squeaky bums: the colourful world of football words

June 4, 2014

by Dom Glennon

hairdryer_gunIn previous posts, we’ve looked at some of the more common words and expressions used in football (as well as the 100 words that Fabio Capello needed), but with the World Cup imminent, we thought it would be interesting to focus on some of the more colourful phrases that have entered our football vocabulary.

A small number of players and other figures involved in the sport have become immortalized in the English language, although it is not always the best or most memorable players. The Cruyff turn may be named after one of the trademark moves of one of the best footballers to have ever played, but a far less famous player has arguably had more of an impact on the game: the Bosman ruling, allowing players to move freely to another club when their contract has expired, is named after Jean-Marc Bosman, the Belgian lower-league player who has enjoyed little of the power and wealth that his breakthrough gave to modern players. Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has no move named after him, while the only linguistic legacy of a rival for that title, Maradona, is the infamous Hand of God. Antonin Panenka, a talented Czech player but hardly one of the all-time greats, has however been immortalised thanks to a delicately chipped penalty kick that won the 1976 European Championship, forever after simply to be referred to as the Panenka penalty. Read the rest of this entry ?


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