Posts Tagged ‘origin’


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 ?


Happy shopping!

November 17, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
Traditionally in the US, people’s minds start turning towards the holidays after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). That’s not your summer holidays, as Brits might understand it, but the December pile-up of religious and secular festivities that represents the high point of consumer spending, not just in the US, but in many countries around the world.

With Thanksgiving out of the way, Americans feel free to concentrate on preparing for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other festivals, as well as the New Year, and that usually involves a heavy dose of spending. The custom dates back a long way, but in the 1970s marketing people introduced the term Black Friday. This refers to the ​Friday after Thanksgiving, when ​shops ​reduce the ​price of ​goods in ​order to ​attract ​customers who ​want to ​start ​their ​gift ​shopping, or, in other words, to kick-start the spending season: Read the rest of this entry ?


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 ?


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 ?



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 learn, you learn, he/she/it learns…

October 22, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
I learn you learn
The Cambridge English Dictionary is constantly being updated and expanded to reflect the interests of our users. One area of particular interest to our users is that of English Language Teaching (ELT), and a number of ELT terms have recently been added to the dictionary.

We’ve added some of the words that learners of English might be puzzling over in their quest to find the best way to achieve proficiency. There are the acronyms:

  • EAP (English for Academic Purposes: the ​teaching of ​English to ​speakers of other ​languages who need ​English to ​study at a ​college or ​university);
  • ESP (English for ​specific/​special ​purposes: the ​teaching of ​English for use in a ​particular ​area of ​activity, for ​example, ​business or ​science);
  • ESL (English as a Second Language: the ​teaching of ​English to ​speakers of other ​languages who ​live in a ​country where ​English is an ​official or ​important ​language);
  • ESOL (English for ​speakers of other ​languages: used, ​especially in the UK, to refer to the ​teaching of ​English to ​students whose first ​language is not ​English, but who are ​living in an English-speaking ​country).

Then there are the methods and materials: elicitation, pairwork, realia, cloze tests, classware, and graded readers. Read the rest of this entry ?


How rich is a billionaire?

October 15, 2015

by Colin McIntosh​
How many is a billion? The answer may seem obvious, but the use of this word can lead to confusion. In the UK and Ireland the word traditionally meant the number 1,000,000,000,000 (a million millions), which is called a trillion in the United States. A billion in the United States is considerably smaller: only 1,000,000,000 (a thousand million). The system used in America is called the short scale, whereas that formerly used in Britain and Ireland is called the long scale. Read the rest of this entry ?

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