You look a million dollars! (Describing appearances)

Choose what makes you happyby Kate Woodford

Describing other people’s appearances is something most of us do now and then. We might do it in order to ask who someone is: ‘Who was the very smart guy in the blue suit?’ Sometimes we describe how other people look simply because we find it interesting: ‘Sophie always looks so elegant – not a hair out of place!’ If you’d like to expand your vocabulary for describing how people look, read on! Continue reading “You look a million dollars! (Describing appearances)”

New words – 19 November 2018

Andrew Olney / DigitalVision / Getty

free-range parenting noun [U]
UK /ˌfriː.reɪndʒ.ˈpeə.rᵊn.tɪŋ/ US /ˌfriː.reɪndʒ.ˈper.ᵊn.tɪŋ/
a way of raising children that involves allowing them to do many things without being supervised in order to encourage them to become independent and responsible

Free-range parenting isn’t about being permissive or uninvolved. Instead, it’s about allowing kids to have the freedom to experience natural consequences of their behavior — when it’s safe to do so. It’s also about ensuring kids have the skills they need to become responsible adults.
[www.verywellfamily.com, 24 March 2018]

maternymoon noun [C]
UK /məˈtɜː.ni.muːn/ US /məˈtɝː.ni.muːn/
a holiday taken by a family while the mother is on maternity leave from work

For us, we were quite happy with a driving holiday overseas for our first maternymoon, however, we’ve decided on a relaxing, tropical holiday closer to home for our second one. Yep, you heard right – a second one!
[www.nowtolove.com.au, 16 August 2016]

rental family noun [C]
UK /ˈren.tᵊl.fæm.ᵊl.i/ US /ˈren.t̬ᵊl.fæm.ᵊl.i/
actors who are paid to pretend to be someone’s family members in order to provide companionship or to accompany the person to social events such as parties and weddings

Yūichi Ishii, the founder of Family Romance, told me that he and his “cast” actively strategize in order to engineer outcomes like Nishida’s, in which the rental family makes itself redundant in the client’s life. His goal, he said, is “to bring about a society where no one needs our service.”
[New Yorker, 30 April 2018]

About new words

London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names

travel destination
kwanisik/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Liz Walter

Place names are amongst the hardest words in English to pronounce. Even people with English as a first language are often unable to guess the pronunciation of an unfamiliar place. I have restricted myself to major English towns and cities because there simply isn’t enough space in one post to venture more widely, but do let me know if you’d like posts on the pronunciation of other major place names.

I want to start with the capital, London, because many learners of English pronounce the two ‘o’ sounds here to rhyme with the ‘o’ in ‘dog’. However, the correct pronunciation is /ˈlʌn.dən/. The first ‘o’ rhymes with the ‘u’ in ‘fun’ and the second one is almost omitted: if you simply try to pronounce ‘dn’ at the end, it will sound correct. Continue reading “London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names”

People’s Word of 2018: Cast your vote!

The team at Cambridge Dictionary have shortlisted four words that were added to the dictionary this year, and we would like YOU to tell us which of these words best sums up 2018.

There are over 100,000 words and meanings in the Cambridge Dictionary, but we are constantly adding to these, with almost 2,000 new words and updated definitions every year.

The four words we have shortlisted for the People’s Word of 2018 are: Continue reading “People’s Word of 2018: Cast your vote!”

New words – 12 November 2018

Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty

brain belt noun [C]
/ˈbreɪn.belt/
an area of a country that attracts many intelligent people to work in modern industries and areas of new technology

The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission has called for billions of pounds of infrastructure investment in the Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge ‘brain belt’, which he said could add hundreds of billions to the national economy.
[Transport Network, 17 November 2017]

headtrepreneur noun [C]
UK /ˌhed.trə.prəˈnɜːʳ/ US /ˌhed.trə.prəˈnɝː/
a headteacher who looks for and develops opportunities to raise money to provide funds for their school

Enterprising headteachers are generating hundreds of thousands of pounds for their schools to counter budget cuts. One “headtrepreneur” estimated that he brought in extra money, resources and business donations worth about £300,000 a year. Others are renting out facilities and buildings, selling staff’s professional expertise to other schools or companies or drumming up donations and money from local businesses.
[The Times, 22 June 2018]

T level noun [C]
/ˈti:ˌlev.ᵊl/
a public exam in a technical or vocational subject, taken in England by people aged 17 or 18

The first schools and colleges that will teach new technical qualifications called T levels was announced this week, as Theresa May said that … “T levels provide a high-quality, technical alternative to A levels, ensuring thousands of people across the country have the skills we need to compete globally – a vital part of our modern industrial strategy.”
[The Times, 22 June 2018]

About new words

Painstaking work and uphill battles (Words and phrases relating to effort)

John Lund/Blend Images/Getty

by Kate Woodford

We recently shared a post on words meaning ‘difficult’. This week we look at a related area of the language – words and phrases that we use to describe tasks and activities that require a lot of effort.

Let’s start with expressions that we use for activities that require mainly physical effort. A strenuous activity requires the body to work hard: He was advised not to do strenuous exercise for a few days. Continue reading “Painstaking work and uphill battles (Words and phrases relating to effort)”

New words – 5 November 2018

Giovanni Lo Turco / EyeEm / Getty

mono meal noun [C]
UK /ˈmɒn.əʊ.mɪəl/ US /ˈmɑː.noʊ.mɪəl/
a meal made up of only one food item (usually a type of fruit or vegetable), thought by some people to have health benefits

To count as a true mono meal, it also means that one isn’t drinking anything during the meal. For instance, if you decide to have a bowl of mangoes alone that would be a mono meal: most people have had a mono meal when consuming things like fruits or bread without any spread on top.
[www.tapmagonline.com, 7 January 2017]

Continue reading “New words – 5 November 2018”

It’s a piece of cake! Words and phrases to describe things that are easy.

images by Tang Ming Tung/Moment/Getty

by Liz Walter

One of the first idioms that students of English usually learn is a piece of cake – maybe because it is such a strong image. We use it to describe things that are easy to do: Getting into the building was a piece of cake – I simply walked through the open door. This post looks at several other words and phrases for easy things.

The phrases child’s play and a walk in the park are used in a similar way: Installing the software was child’s play for Marcus. She’s been running marathons for years, so a 5k run is a walk in the park for her. We can also say that something is a breeze or (more informally, in UK English) a doddle: Cleaning the floors is a doddle with one of these machines. If someone breezes through an activity, they accomplish it easily: She seemed to breeze through her exams. Continue reading “It’s a piece of cake! Words and phrases to describe things that are easy.”

New words – 29 October 2018

Henrik Sorenson / DigitalVision / Getty

speed mating noun [U]
UK /ˈspiːd.ˌmeɪ.tɪŋ/ US /ˈspiːd.ˌmeɪ.t̬ɪŋ/
a way of meeting new friends that involves attending an event at which you talk to a lot of people for a short time to see if you like them

But going to an event such as speed mating is not without stigma. Olivia is a pseudonym because she knows that if she used her real name her students “would take the mick out of me”. After the event, she is exhausted: “I didn’t expect it to be so full-on … It’s also just reassuring to know I’m not the only person to feel like this. It’s not sad and it’s not pathetic, being 29 and not having friends in a new city.”
[The Guardian, 5 May 2018]

Continue reading “New words – 29 October 2018”

Easier said than done! (Talking about things that are difficult)

Buena Vista Images/DigitalVision/Getty

by Kate Woodford

I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes wishing that things were easier. Work tasks, instructions, directions – so many things that we deal with on a daily basis can prove difficult. Read this post and the next time you find something hard, you’ll at least have an interesting set of vocabulary with which to complain!

Continue reading “Easier said than done! (Talking about things that are difficult)”