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)”

New words – 22 October 2018

Caiaimage / Chris Ryan / OJO+ / Getty

cheating mafia noun [U]
UK /ˈtʃiːt.ɪŋ.ˈmæf.i.ə/ US /ˈtʃiːt.ɪŋ.ˈmɑː.fi.ə/
a system in which students can pay to receive help to pass their exams in order to increase their chances of securing a place at a good university

Students need top marks — sometimes over 99 percent — to get into the country’s highly oversubscribed universities and so examiners are bribed, answer sheets leaked and exam rooms infiltrated. No more, said Neena Srivastava, secretary of the Uttar Pradesh board of education, who described the cheating mafia as part of organized crime. “We are fighting against this evil. We have to cleanse the state of this menace.”
[Washington Post, 9 February 2018]

Continue reading “New words – 22 October 2018”

Obituary: Professor Ron Carter

It is with great sadness that we say farewell to Professor Ron Carter, who died after a long illness on 12th September 2018. Ron was Emeritus Professor of Modern English Language at the University of Nottingham and, since the late 1980s, his name has been closely linked with Cambridge University Press through his books, research projects and service as a Press Syndic.

Ron’s first book for CUP, The Web of Words, co-authored with Michael Long, was published in 1987. Ron’s passion for literature and his firm belief that knowledge of how language works was the key to unlocking the meanings of literary works stand as an enduring thread in his published works. While never abandoning his interest in stylistics and literary studies, over the next two decades, Ron turned his attention to the creation and exploitation of corpora, and in the 1990s we founded and co-directed the CANCODE and CANBEC spoken English corpus projects, funded jointly by the Press and the University of Nottingham. The impact of the CANCODE project was global, not only in terms of the wealth of linguistic insight gained from it, as reflected in Ron’s many academic articles, and those of his Nottingham colleagues and students, but also in the paradigm-shift it created through its emphasis on the grounding of English language teaching materials in empirical evidence. The culmination of Ron’s corpus research came in 2006 with the publication of the Cambridge Grammar of English, which I was privileged to co-author with him. The book attracted national and international media interest, an experience Ron was no stranger to, following his influential role on the government-funded LINC (Language in the National Curriculum) programme in the 1990s, with media interviews and debates and controversies, which Ron handled with his usual gentle, calm and highly professional manner.

Other books for CUP and academic papers followed from the corpus projects over the last 20 years, and I was greatly privileged to have been his co-author on many of them. They included Exploring Spoken English, Exploring Grammar in Context (co-authored with Rebecca Hughes), English Grammar Today (co-authored with Anne O’Keeffe and Geraldine Mark) and From Corpus to Classroom, which we co-authored with Anne O’Keeffe. The fact that many of Ron’s most significant works for CUP and other major publishers were co-authored is a tribute to the wonderful relationships he forged with his fellow academics in Nottingham and other universities. We who worked with him loved the humour, the razor-sharp insight, the gentleness, fairness and decency and the devotion to rigorous scholarship which were the hallmark of his approach to research and writing.

During the last years of his university career, Ron served as a Press Syndic, a role to which he brought all the qualities of a man determined to uphold academic standards and a man of great vision, one prepared to see what was around the next corner and not to be afraid to confront new challenges in scholarship and language pedagogy.

Ron will never be forgotten by his friends and colleagues, by the editors and others with whom he enjoyed such good relations at the Press, and, most of all, by the many hundreds of students who passed through his hands at the University of Nottingham and who received the gift of inspired teaching and nurturing from the humblest and the most decent of men.

Michael McCarthy