New words – 26 June 2017

macielphoto-MF/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty
asperitas noun [U]
UK /æsˈpe.rɪ.təs/ US /æsˈpe.rɪ.t̬əs/
a type of cloud that forms a thick layer in the shape of waves

The asperitas cloud is among the stars of the World Meteorological Organization’s scarcely published International Cloud Atlas.
[USA Today, 24 March 2017]

dark sunshine noun [U]
UK /ˌdɑːkˈsʌn.ʃaɪn/ US /ˌdɑːrkˈsʌn.ʃaɪn/
a substance thought to exist inside the sun that gives off a special type of light

While scientists continue looking skyward to find more insight into the mysteries of dark matter, some have begun looking to our sun for “dark sunshine.”
[Astronomy magazine, 25 May 2016]

red geyser noun [C]
UK /redˈgiː.zəʳ/ US /redˈgaɪ.zɚ/
a galaxy that contains a large number of very large black holes and where no new stars are able to form

Today, astronomers … are announcing the discovery of a new class of galaxies called “red geysers” that harbor supermassive black holes with winds that have the power to keep dormant galaxies quiet.
[Astronomy magazine, 25 May 2016]

About new words

It’s kicking off! (Phrasal verbs for starting things)


by Kate Woodford

This week we’re looking at the many phrasal verbs that are used to refer to things starting.

Let’s begin with the verb ‘start’ itself as it has a number of phrasal verbs. If you start off a meeting, you begin it by doing something: I’d like to start off the meeting with a brief summary of our aims. You can also use ‘start off’ intransitively: I’m going to start off with a few introductions. Continue reading “It’s kicking off! (Phrasal verbs for starting things)”

New words – 19 June

F rating noun [U]
UK /ˈef.reɪ.tɪŋ/ US /ˈef.reɪ.t̬ɪŋ/
a classification awarded to a film written or directed by a woman, or with important female characters

The F rating was created in 2014 by Bath film festival executive director Holly Tarquini to “support women in film and change the stories we see on screen”.
[The Guardian, 7 March 2017]

the Paula principle noun [C]
UK /ˈpɔːl.ᵊ.prɪn.sə.pᵊl/ US /ˈpɑːl.ᵊ.prɪn.sə.pᵊl/
a theory that most women have a job that does not allow them to fulfil their competence

The Paula principle applies as much to the clerk who does not apply for a supervisor’s job because she does not have the confidence, as it does to the deputy CEO blocked from the top job by covert discrimination or male cliquery.
[The Observer, 12 March 2017]

sologamy noun [U]
UK /səˈlɒg.ə.mi/ US /səˈlɑː.gə.mi/
the act of marrying oneself in an unofficial ceremony

Love or hate sologamy, it seems to capture the public imagination, begging a variety of glib questions that people can’t wait to ask: “Does that mean if you don’t get on you’ll have to divorce yourself?”
[Huffington Post, 27 February 2017]

About new words

I was completely baffled. (Words meaning ‘confused’)


by Kate Woodford

From time to time, we all find ourselves unable to understand things, whether it’s instructions for a piece of equipment that confuse us, an event or situation that we can’t explain or just a comment by a friend. Life is sometimes just confusing! This is reflected in the number of near-synonyms and phrases that describe being confused and things that confuse us. This week we thought we would take a look at them. Continue reading “I was completely baffled. (Words meaning ‘confused’)”

New words – 12 June 2017

Lana Pfeifer/EyeEm/Getty

ambient tea noun [C and U]
a type of tea served at room temperature, usually with food

Ambient tea … feels appropriate for service with fine food as it can be poured from a bottle or decanter into glasses at a temperature that creates no condensation on the glass and is pleasant to hold in one’s hands.
[, 14 December 2016]

golden milk noun [C and U]
UK /ˈgəʊl.dᵊn.mɪlk/ US /ˈgoʊl.dᵊn.mɪlk/
a type of drink made with coconut milk, turmeric and sometimes other ingredients

Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, golden milk is a combination of the powerful spice turmeric, coconut milk, and sometimes coconut oil.
[, 21 June 2016]

mindful drinking noun [U]
the activity of consuming little or no alcohol at social events

Forget pub crawls – increasing numbers of young people are replacing beer and wine with “mindful drinking” – where abstinence, not alcohol, is all the rage.
[The Observer, 26 February 2017]

About new words

Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, grammar schools or renationalized railways? The UK general election.

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by Liz Walter

UK citizens are going to the polls on June 8th to choose their next government. Again.

Yes, we had a general election in 2015, and yes, in theory, we have a five-year fixed-term parliament, so really we should have waited until 2020. However, our Prime Minister, Theresa May, decided that it would be a good idea to call a snap election (one decided suddenly). Since this is a language blog, I won’t speculate on her reasons, but instead concentrate on the language being used in the campaign. Continue reading “Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, grammar schools or renationalized railways? The UK general election.”

New words – 5 June 2017

Astronaut Images/Caiaimage/Getty
gigamansion noun [C]
a very large and expensive house

Gigamansion is the term we must now use to describe the new breed of homes that are landing like alien motherships on the fragrant hills of Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills.
[The Times, 18 February 2017]

furnitecture noun [U]
UK /ˈfɜː.nɪ.tek.tʃəʳ/ US /ˈfɝː.nɪ.tek.tʃɚ/
furniture that is part of the structure of a house or other building

The property … contains some fantastic examples of “furnitecture” – furniture that’s integrated into the architecture. Murphy has only four pieces of furniture because everything else – seating, beds, bookshelves, wardrobes – is part of the fabric.
[The Telegraph, 27 February 2017]

sky pool noun [C]
a swimming pool suspended in the air between two buildings

The developers say the transparent ‘sky pool’ will be the first of its kind in the world, giving swimmers the ability to look 35 metres down to the world below, with only 20cm of glass between them and the outside world.
[Cosmopolitan, 13 February 2017]

About new words

Can I give you a hand? (Words and phrases for helping others)

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by Kate Woodford

Most of us enjoy helping other people. We like to feel useful and we feel like better people when we do things for others.  The act of helping also brings us together, often creating a sense of community. This week, then, we look at the words and phrases that we use to refer to actions that we do to help others.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the noun hand, meaning ‘help’ is used in a number of common conversational phrases. It is often – although not always – used for physical rather than mental tasks. Could you give/lend me a hand with this table, please? / Ethan might need a hand with the clearing up.
Continue reading “Can I give you a hand? (Words and phrases for helping others)”

New words – 29 May 2017

Zave Smith/Image Source/Getty

Instagirl noun [C]
UK /ˈɪn.stə.gɜːl/ US /ˈɪn.stə.gɝːl/
a female model who has a large number of followers on Instagram, a social media site for sharing photographs

US Vogue coined the term “Instagirl” to describe the new crop of models whose careers and Instagram platforms are effectively one and the same.
[The Observer, 5 March 2017]

shelfie noun [C]
a photograph that someone takes of the books and other objects on their shelves and then publishes on a social media site

Instagram has a lot to answer for. While most us are just beginning to get to grips with the selfie, the ‘shelfie’ movement has been gaining digital ground.
[The Telegraph, 3 February 2017]

surroundie noun [C]
a 360-degree photograph taken with a special camera

Forget selfies – 2017 is all about 360° cameras and ‘surroundies’, which capture the entire scene around you.
[Elle, January 2017]

About new words

Playing second fiddle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

Every few months on this blog, we like to pick out the idioms that have been used in a range of national newspapers published on the same day. As with previous posts, we include only the most frequent idioms – in other words, the sort of idioms that you might read or hear in current English.

One tabloid newspaper reports that a television celebrity who used to be very concerned about what the public thought about her, at 49, ‘couldn’t give two hoots’. To not care/give two hoots about something is to not care at all. Another paper quotes a celebrity as saying that she and her husband are ‘not in each other’s pockets’ since they work away from home much of the time. If two people live or are in each other’s pockets, they are with each other all the time and depend on each other. The same paper describes the meeting of minds that sometimes happens in school lessons. A meeting of minds is a situation in which two or more people discover that they have the same opinion about something. Continue reading “Playing second fiddle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)”