Posts Tagged ‘origin’


The body beautiful

January 5, 2016

by Colin McIntosh​
The pressure to achieve the perfect body shape is greater than ever before, for men no less than women. At the same time, rates of obesity are at their highest level ever. These two related facts are reflected in some new additions to the Cambridge English Dictionary. Much of the vocabulary relates to our bodies and how we see them.

An objective measure of how overweight or  otherwise we are is given by the BMI or body mass index: a measurement of our weight in relation to our height. But the way we see our bodies ourselves is very often not objective: we may have a body image that is very different from the way other people see us, with the result that we become irrationally unhappy with our appearance. This condition is called dysmorphia, and can lead to body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness in which a person spends a lot of time worrying about how he or she looks and wrongly believes there are problems with his or her appearance. We look in the mirror and we see something very different from the actual image that is reflected back at us. Read the rest of this entry ?


Look it up!

December 29, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
The British dictionary tradition has differed from the American tradition in various ways, one of which is the treatment of words with a capital letter, like Brazil, Edinburgh, and John F. Kennedy.

British dictionaries traditionally made a distinction between content that was lexical and content that was encyclopedic. Lexical content (words, in other words) was the job of the dictionary, whereas encyclopedic content (countries, cities, dead white men) was the job of the encyclopedia. Nowadays, with the advent of search engines like Google, where all types of information are accessible, people tend not to distinguish between the two, and the internet is simply seen as one huge, amorphous source of information. This obviously has meant a big change in dictionary users’ expectations.

One enormous difference for dictionary makers in the digital age is that we can see what our users are looking up (or searching for, in the new parlance). When Samuel Johnson or James Murray published new dictionaries in past centuries, they had no idea if their users were looking up words they’d added, or if they were looking up words that hadn’t been included. Now we can run regular checks of “words searched for” and “words not found”. Read the rest of this entry ?


The generation gap

December 22, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
generation gap
It’s a feature of younger generations through the centuries that they feel the need to give themselves an identity through their ideas, their fashion, their politics, and their language. Leaving aside their language for another post, let’s look at the labels they’ve given themselves, that they’ve given others, and that others have given them, many of which are new additions to the Cambridge English Dictionary.

The Beat Generation, born in the US in the 30s, were probably the trailblazers. Young people who thought that personal experience was more important than accepted norms, they created the pattern for future generations of disaffected youth. Like their British equivalents, the Angry Young Men, the Beats tended to have a literary focus, although the term could also be used with a wider reference.

The boomers, or baby-boomers, born in the baby boom after the Second World War, were the ones who, in Harold MacMillan’s famous phrase “never had it so good”, and they’re still thought of in this way by succeeding generations who had it worse. They’re now being blamed for high property prices, the debt crisis, and impossible university tuition fees. Read the rest of this entry ?


Scots wha hae!

December 15, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
Scotland has been called various things over the centuries, not all of them complimentary. Called Caledonia by the Romans, Scotia by the medieval Latinists, and Alba by the Picts and Gaels, Scotland continues to refer to itself by all of these names, depending on whether the situation calls for stirring patriotism, sentimental poetry, or down-to-earth realism. Perhaps the low point was reached after the union with England in 1707, when Scottish supporters of the union called their home country “North Britain” in an attempt to downplay Scotland’s cultural uniqueness. What would William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) have made of it?

Scotland is effectively a trilingual country, speaking Gaelic, the dominant language in the Middle Ages, Scots, the dominant language in the Early Modern period, and a distinctive Scottish variety of English, Scottish English, increasingly dominant since the union with England. Each of these three is still spoken today and each has had an impact on the speech of all the people of Scotland, as well as the English spoken by the world at large. Read the rest of this entry ?


The high price of a haircut

December 8, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
The credit crunch started to bite in 2008, with a whole lexicon of terms, some new and some previously confined to the vocabulary of economists and bankers, making an appearance in the news. Most of them are still with us, and some brand new ones have joined them in the Cambridge English Dictionary.

Toxic debt (debts that have little chance of being paid back or of being paid back with interest) was one of the main factors that caused the crash, with subprime loans (used to describe the practice of lending money, especially to buy a house, to people who may not be able to pay it back) made by the US institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Many home owners were faced with foreclosure (having a property bought with borrowed money taken back because the money was not being paid back). Read the rest of this entry ?


Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

December 1, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
interplanetary craft
Are you a fan of shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek? Both shows have been around since the 1960s, and, not surprisingly, have generated some of their own vocabulary, some of which has now entered the Cambridge English Dictionary.

The phenomenon of fandom, meaning “the state of being a fan of someone or something, especially a very enthusiastic one”, is a fairly recent one, but the things that these new fans are fans of are often far from new. The fans of the 50-year-old Doctor Who and Star Trek even have names for themselves, Whovians and Trekkies. These fanboys and fangirls (an informal and slightly derogatory way to refer to these over-enthusiastic fans) attend conventions and get involved in cosplay (dressing up as characters from the shows). Russell T. Davies, a writer and TV producer, was one such fanboy who later went on to become the first producer of the relaunched Doctor Who in the 21st century. Read the rest of this entry ?


Coffee culture

November 24, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
coffee culture
In a study published recently and widely reported in the media, researchers from Harvard University School of Public Health found that people who drink a moderate amount of coffee per day are less likely to die from a range of diseases. Good news for coffee drinkers, who make up an ever-increasing proportion of society.

Seattle, which likes to consider itself the home of coffee, is partly responsible for this growth in coffee drinking around the world, being the birthplace of the Starbucks chain. This is the source of much of the new vocabulary around coffee drinking, which you will now find in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Most of this vocabulary comes originally from Italian, but filtered through the Seattle approach, which involves making you stay on the premises as long as possible. Central to the whole operation is the barista (the person who makes the coffee, an Italian word from bar, meaning a coffee shop). Bring your laptop, settle down, and spend the morning sipping. As well as the traditional cappuccino (which has grown to double or triple the size of the Italian original), on offer we have lattes (even bigger and milkier than a cappuccino), macchiatos (with less milk than a cappuccino, and served in a smaller cup), americanos (with added water to make it less strong) and chais (not actually a coffee, but a tea drink originally from India with milk, sugar, and spices). Variations include decaf (decaffeinated) and skinny (with low-fat milk). If you’re in a hurry, ask for it to go (served for you to drink somewhere else, usually in a paper cup):

Two skinny decaf lattes to go, please!

Read the rest of this entry ?

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