New words – 29 August 2016

Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty

prebuttle noun an argument against something that has not yet been said

[Hilary Clinton’s] campaign actually issued a prebuttle yesterday, asking for Sanders to endorse some of her proposals.

[WNYC: WNYC News (US and local New York news) 05 January 2016]

Berniesplain verb informal (of Bernie Sanders supporters and staffers) to explain Bernie Sanders’s positions to African-American voters in a patronizing

Charles Blow wrote a column in the Times today saying, ‘stop Berniesplaining’, and that he found that very condescending to African Americans.

[WNYC: Brian Leherer Show (NYC public affairs talk show) 11 February 2016]

virtue signalling noun demonstrating that you are right-thinking in your politics, for example, by wearing a charity ribbon or by updating your profile on a social media website to signal your support for someone

This is all a rather roundabout way of getting to ‘virtue-signalling’, a phrase that began to spread via op-ed sections last year and proliferated rapidly on Twitter, and against which quarantine measures now urgently need to be taken.

[ 20 January 2016]

Are You Guilty of  “Virtue-Signaling?”

[ 04 January 2016]

About new words

It’s been a while… (Starting a conversation with an old friend)

by Kate Woodford


People often ask us for conversational English on this blog. They want to learn the sort of phrases that they can use to chat informally with friends. Of course, we can chat about so many different subjects, it’s hard to know which particular areas of the language to look at. However, one thing that we all need from time to time is the language for starting a conversation with a friend that we haven’t seen for a while. Continue reading “It’s been a while… (Starting a conversation with an old friend)”

New words – 22 August 2016

Plume Creative/DigitalVision/Getty Images Plus
Plume Creative/DigitalVision/Getty Images Plus

ringxiety noun the phenomenon of seeming to hear or sense a non-existent message or call on your phone

Do YOU have ‘ringxiety’? Being insecure about relationships leads people to hear ‘phantom calls’, researchers say

[ 05 February 2016]

If you find yourself reaching to answer your phone only to find that it had never rang [sic] you could be suffering from ‘ringxiety’,
according to academics.

[ 04 February 2016]

peak stuff noun the point at which consumers in developed countries cease to desire or require so many new acquisitions

If having more no longer satisfies us, perhaps we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’

[ 31 January 2016]

Ikea senses room to grow amid ‘peak stuff’

[ (article title) 18 January 2016]

postmateriality noun in the digital age, after materials such as film and tape stopped being used to record sound and images

We have a generation now that’s kind of coming to age postmateriality.

[NPR: All Things Considered (US news and information) 15 February 2016]

About new words

Scared, frightened, afraid and terrified: talking about fear

by Liz Walter

Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty
Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty

The other day I was teaching a lesson on things that make us afraid. We started by looking at the common ‘synonyms’ afraid, scared and frightened. One of the things I frequently do with my students is ask them for other words in the same word family because this is a skill they are likely to need in English exams. Continue reading “Scared, frightened, afraid and terrified: talking about fear”

New words 15 August 2016

Atli Mar Hafsteinsson/Cultura/Getty
Atli Mar Hafsteinsson/Cultura/Getty

gringe noun a grown-out fringe (of hair)

‘A side-swept ‘gringe’ like Kate’s is good because it is forgiving and easy to grow out if the woman who has it isn’t a fan.

[ 09 March 2016]

beardruff noun informal dandruff in or from a beard

Got Beardruff? Stop Beard Itch In It’s [sic] Tracks With These Tips

[ 17 March 2016]

footcial noun a beauty treatment for the feet

Dubbed ‘handcials’ and ‘footcials’ because they use the same techniques as facials, the experience leaves people’s entire body feeling relaxed.

[MNS email (US real estate email update) 08 January 2016]

About new words

I slept like a log. (Sleep idioms)

by Kate Woodford


This week, we’re looking at the surprising number of idioms in English that relate to sleep and rest. Try to stay awake till the end!

Starting with the morning, if you say that someone is in the land of the living, you mean that they are awake. This is a humorous phrase, sometimes used of someone who has finally woken up after a lie-in (= a time when they have stayed in bed in the morning later than usual):

I was hoping to speak to Klara. Is she in the land of the living, do you know? Continue reading “I slept like a log. (Sleep idioms)”

New words – 8 August 2016

 Evgeni Dinev Photography/Moment/Getty
Evgeni Dinev Photography/Moment/Getty

set-jetting noun travelling to places because they have been the locations for films or TV programmes

Set-jetting is the latest travel trend that puts you on the set of your favorite movies, TV shows or even book settings.

[ 08 February 2016]

teraproject noun an extremely large project, especially one costing over a trillion dollars

The problem, in the Age of the Teraproject, is that governments are still really, really bad at managing even mere billion-dollar projects.

[ 02 January 2016]

STEAM abbreviation the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math considered as a group

In recent years there’s been an increasing emphasis on encouraging STEM education – science, engineering, technology, and math – but other advocates have advocated STEAM, which adds art into the mix.

[WNYC: Leonard Lopate Show (US culture and current affairs talk show) 08 January 2016]

About new words

Phrasal verbs for the holiday season

by Liz Walter

Hero Images/Getty
Hero Images/Getty

August is a month for holidays in many countries, so I thought it would be nice to look at some phrasal verbs and other multi-word verbs connected with going on holiday. (By the way, holiday is a British English word – Americans take vacations.)

One very simple phrasal verb connected with holidays is go away. If we ask someone ‘Are you going away this summer?’, we are asking about their holiday plans; it is not a general enquiry about them going somewhere. We use get away in a similar way:

I hope to get away for a few days soon. Continue reading “Phrasal verbs for the holiday season”

A life beyond fiction

by Colin McIntosh

Justin Pumfrey/Caiaimage/Getty
Justin Pumfrey/Caiaimage/Getty

Some works of fiction achieve remarkable popularity by creating entire alternative worlds that seem to exist fully formed; a few even have their own languages, or conlangs. And often, particularly in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s literature, these books create new vocabularies to talk about their new worlds. Many of these words only exist in the realms of fantasy, but some gain a new life and are taken up in the real world. When this happens, they are added to the Cambridge Dictionary. Continue reading “A life beyond fiction”

New words – 1 August 2016

Paper Boat Creative/DigitalVision/Getty
Paper Boat Creative/DigitalVision/Getty

sliver building noun an extremely tall, narrow skyscraper

It seems that we are seeing more super-tall buildings, including those sliver buildings on fifty-seventh street in midtown.

[WNYC: Leonard Lopate Show (US culture and current affairs) 21 January 2016]

shadow flipping noun the practice of selling a house and then re-selling it several times before completing the contract

An angry former homeowner who believes he’s a victim of ‘shadow flipping’ is speaking out about a Richmond real estate investor, who has been sued by several other homeowners, in the hopes he can serve as a warning to others in our overheated housing market.

[ 11 February 2016]

nanotecture noun small-scale, experimental architecture

Take a look at 11 other examples of ‘nanotecture’ – from the small, to the not-so-small.

[ 28 March 2016]

About new words