Posts Tagged ‘English’


New peas in old pods

November 10, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
One of the ways in which language is constantly  changing is by adding new meanings to existing words. Sometimes the new meaning is clearly based on the old meaning, as is the case with a computer mouse, or a dropdown menu, or an ice cream cone, but other times the relationship between the old and new meanings is less clear, or even non-existent. There is no connection, historically speaking, between nan, a British word for grandmother, and nan (also naan), a type of flat bread in South Asian cooking. The same can be said of rock (meaning ‘stone’) and rock music. They simply happen to have the same combination of sounds and letters, with very different origins.

The oldest meaning of pod, for example, is the one that refers to a part of a plant, usually long and thin, that contains the seeds. Some vegetable pods can be eaten, such as those of green beans (also called French beans and string beans); others, such as peas, contain the edible part, and are usually not eaten themselves. This meaning itself comes from an Old English word meaning ‘cloak’, so it is possible to see a connection between the two meanings – they both refer to protective coverings. Read the rest of this entry ?


New words – 9 November 2015

November 9, 2015

nerd power

nerd power noun informal heat generated by computers and used, for example to heat places

All computers produce heat, but computer servers produce a lot of heat – so much that it usually costs a fortune to cool them down. So why isn’t this heat used instead to keep homes or offices warm? Actually, ‘nerd power’ is already being tried out.

[ 21 May 2015]

super cookie noun a cookie that is intended to be stored on a computer and cannot be deleted in the usual way

The program was dubbed a ‘super cookie’ because it is more powerful than a regular Web tracking cookie that users can delete. [ 01 April 2015]

smart desk noun a computerized desk that can be raised for use while standing and can monitor such things as the user’s movements, time spent at the desk sitting or standing, and calories burnt, and prompt the user to move about or stand up, etc.

The reason to buy a smart desk is because you, like most Americans, discover you are sitting your life away.
[/ (tech blog) 02 June 2015]

About new words


Women and biscuits: common pronunciation errors in English

November 4, 2015

by Liz Walter​
There’s no getting away from the fact that pronunciation in English is difficult. Unlike many other languages, the relationship between the letters in a word and its sound is often weak, to say the least.

For this reason, there are pronunciation problems with extremely common words which I notice over and over again in my classes, so this blog post will explain how to avoid some of the them.

I want to start with one really general issue: the –ed ending on past tenses. This causes a lot of problems for learners but there is in fact a simple rule: it is only pronounced as ‘id’ when the verb ends with a ‘d’ or ‘t’ sound, e.g. folded, painted.

For all other verbs, -ed is pronounced as ‘d’.  After some consonants, it will come out sounding more like ‘t’, but you don’t need to worry about that because it will happen naturally. Read the rest of this entry ?


Protest the cuts!

November 3, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
protest the cuts
Thirty years ago this phrase would have been meaningless to most British people. Not that 1980s trendy lefties were shy about expressing their opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to shrink state spending. It’s just that they would have said they were protesting against the cuts, rather than protesting the cuts. The transitive use of protest was reserved for phrases like protest your innocence. Now phrases like this are all over the media, imported from the US thanks to the recent exposure given to movements like Occupy Wall Street protesting (against) corporate greed and shady banking practices. The usage has recently spread to the UK, and has been taken up particularly by commentators in the media, no doubt helped by the fact that it makes sense to have a single, global (and shorter) hashtag on social media.

This fluidity in grammar patterns associated with verbs is not new. British English traditionally used the infinitive with to after help. The Royal British Legion says comfortingly but somewhat staidly:

We can help you to manage your debts… and deal with unexpected expenses

whereas the more dynamic-sounding says:

We can help you sell your house fast! Read the rest of this entry ?


New words – 2 November 2015

November 2, 2015


she shed noun informal a garden shed owned by and equipped for a woman

Is this the ultimate sanctuary? Rise of the SHE shed as more women demand an oasis of calm at the bottom of the garden away from the chaos of family life

[ 20 April 2015]


non-binary adjective denoting a gender identity that does not conform to the generally accepted binary of male or female

Miley’s #InstaPride campaign supports non-binary gender

[ 16 May 2015]

sugar adjective denoting liaisons between older, moneyed men and younger women in which money changes hands. The liaisons are often arranged online.

Rachel, 21, knows the dangers. A timid language student at another top university, she joined a sugar website while she was still at school after hearing her parents arguing about money.

[ 17 June 2015]

Sugar dating websites are not supposed to be a conduit for selling sex – that would put them in a tricky legal area. But only the naive could get the wrong end of the stick.

[ 17 June 2015]

About new words



October 29, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​

The past couple of years have seen a dramatic rise in the use of the word selfie, a word which won the accolade of ‘word of the year’ two years ago, beating onesie and twerking to the top spot.

The word selfie is an abbreviation, obviously. But an abbreviation of what? Self-taken photograph? Self-portrait photograph? Has anyone ever called it that? Does it matter? In every corner of the globe, within a very short space of time, the selfie has taken over the world. The idea of the selfie is not new: Rembrandt painted almost a hundred of them; the Turin Shroud may be one of the earliest. But it is only with the rise of the smartphone and the ability to upload photos instantly to social media that it has become ‘a thing’. New technology demands a new word – otherwise how would it be possible to market it?

The must-have accessory for the selfie-snapper is the selfie stick. Living in Cambridge, I constantly risk injury when walking around the centre from tourists trying to perform the feat of extending a selfie stick while at the same time squeezing themselves into the frame of their smartphones. Several serious injuries have been attributed to the use of the selfie stick, and they have now been banned from many places, including festivals, nightclubs, and museums. In one case, though, it actually saved someone’s life, when it was used to drag a drowning teenager to safety off the coast of Massachusetts. Read the rest of this entry ?


I’ve known Sara for years (Talking about friends)

October 28, 2015

by Kate Woodford​
Our friends are important to us so we tend to talk about them. And what sort of things do we say? We might talk about how strong a friendship is. If we say that we are close to someone, we mean that we know and like them a lot: I’ve known Sara for years – we’re very close. / She’s very close to her brother. You might instead describe someone as a good friend (of yours): Paolo’s a good friend of mine. You could also use the phrasal verb get on (UK) / get along (US), meaning ‘to like someone and have a good relationship with them’: I like James – we’ve always got on / gotten along.

Sometimes we talk about how a friendship started. You may say that you met a friend through another person: I met Alice through a work friend of mine called Lucy. (The friend who introduced you – a friend of two people – is known as a mutual friend). Perhaps you were at a party and you started talking with someone although you didn’t know them. For this, you could say you struck up (= started) a conversation: We were both waiting to get a drink and struck up a conversation. If you liked the person immediately, you could use the informal phrase hit it off: Jamie introduced us at a party and we hit it off immediately. Of course, as we spend more time with a person, we gradually learn more about them. To describe this process, you may say that you get to know someone: He seemed so nice. I thought I’d like to get to know him. / We worked together on a six-month project so I got to know her quite well. If you have known someone for a long time, you might use the phrase to go back a long way: Claire and I met at college twenty years ago so we go back a long way. Read the rest of this entry ?

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