It broke my heart: Idioms and phrasal verbs to express sadness

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by Liz Walter

‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.’ So said Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As a general rule, grief and sadness are more interesting to writers and poets than happiness, and there are many fine descriptions in literature. However, in this post, I want to focus on language that we use in everyday speech.

Firstly, it is obviously very important to use phrases that are suitable for the level of trauma involved. You might describe someone as down in the dumps or down in the mouth if, for instance, they did badly in a job interview or failed an exam. Similarly, the phrase out of sorts is used mainly for someone who is usually cheerful, but simply seems a bit glum at the moment. However, if the sadness is caused by something serious like a bereavement (= when someone dies), those phrases would sound too trivial. Continue reading “It broke my heart: Idioms and phrasal verbs to express sadness”

New words – 15 January 2018

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latte levy noun [C]
UK /ˈlæt.eɪˌlev.i/ US /ˈlɑː.t̬eɪˌlev.i/
a tax paid on disposable, non-recyclable coffee cups the aim of which is to encourage customers to bring their own cup and therefore reduce waste

MPs on the Environment Audit Committee have argued that a so-called latte levy should apply to disposable cups with the revenue used to pay for improved recycling facilities. 
[, 4 January 2018]

raw water noun [U, C]
UK /rɔːˈwɔː.təʳ/ US /rɑːˈwɑː.t̬ɚ/
water that is unfiltered and untreated, thought by some people to be a healthier alternative to tap water

Thinking of buying some “raw water”? Well, first of all, congratulations. Money is obviously not a major constraint for you if you can afford to spend $36.99 or more on a 2.5 gallon jug of water. … Secondly, as with all products, caveat emptor (or buyer beware). After all, raw water is a completely new thing (or actually a very old thing from [the] 1800s back when life expectancy was 40 years or below), and regulations have yet to catch up to this new fad.
[, 7 January 2018]

super coffee noun [U, C]
UK /ˈsuː.pəʳˌkɒf.i/ US /ˈsuː.pɚˌkɑː.fi/
coffee that has had ingredients such as seeds, oats and spices added in order to increase its health benefits

Turns out ordering a skinny latte is so 2015. Instead in 2018, your go-to barista is going to be inundated with orders for ‘super coffee’ with saves up 218%. Think adding protein powders and superfoods like maca to your caffeine hit.
[, 15 December 2017]

About new words

Keep me in the loop. (Words and phrases related to knowledge)

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by Kate Woodford

This week, we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to describe knowing a subject.

Starting with a very useful adjective, someone who is knowledgeable knows a lot, either about one particular subject or subjects more generally: Annie is very knowledgeable about wildlife. A slightly informal expression to describe someone with a detailed knowledge of one particular subject is the phrase clued up: Young people tend to be more clued up on environmental issues. Continue reading “Keep me in the loop. (Words and phrases related to knowledge)”

New words – 8 January 2018


up lit noun [U]
/ˈʌp lɪt/
a literary genre comprising books that make the reader feel optimistic

A bruising year dominated by political and economic uncertainty … has, publishers say, kickstarted a new trend they have have branded “up lit”. In contrast with the “grip lit” thrillers that were the market leaders until recently, more and more bookbuyers are seeking out novels and nonfiction that is optimistic rather than feelgood. 
[The Guardian, 2 August 2017]

book doula noun [C]
/ˈbʊk duː.lə/
a person whose job is to help a would-be author get their book published and to offer advice and support throughout the process

Distinguishing themselves from agents and editors, book doulas offer a sort of coaching service, a kind eye to reassure nervous authors who are having trouble getting their book published. Ariane Conrad, who calls herself an “editorial coach and consultant, AKA book doula”, refers to her services as “bookbirthing”.
[The Guardian, 6 September 2017]

BookTuber noun [C]
UK /ˈbʊk.tʃuː.bəʳ/ US /ˈbʊk.tuː.bɚ/
someone who posts videos of book reviews on the social media site YouTube

Print reviewing and vlogging are two very different things. BookTubers make excellent reading guides and they’re happy to chat about the sort of stuff usually ignored by print critics such as the look (and even feel) of books. There’s a great deal of bookish fun to be had out there on YouTube.
[The Times, 11 August 2017]

About new words

How to use articles: another look (2)

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by Liz Walter

Last month I looked at some of the questions raised in response to my 2015 post on articles. This post continues to answer some of these interesting points.

Continue reading “How to use articles: another look (2)”

New words – 1 January 2018


flashpacking noun [U]
a type of backpacking (travelling or camping while carrying everything you need in a backpack) that is more comfortable and luxurious than traditional backpacking

However, this notion that spending more and travelling with state-of-the-art technological paraphernalia makes a traveller somehow ‘elite’ or ‘flashier’ might not really be relevant any longer … the concept of a clear divide between ‘flashpacking’ and regular backpacking doesn’t really apply any more. It would seem that nowadays, with the world so hyperconnected and once-revolutionary technology now easily accessible, almost all global wanderers are ‘flashpackers’.
[, 11 May 2017]

bleisure noun [U]
UK /ˈbleʒ.əʳ/ US /ˈbliː.ʒɚ/
the activity of combining business travel with leisure time

While bleisure travel isn’t growing in a huge way, this study shows nearly half of millennial business travelers add leisure to business trips. Those young travelers could cut back as they get older — or employers might need to better adjust to a rise in bleisure down the road.
[, 9 June 2017]

honeyteer noun [C]
UK /hʌn.iˈtɪəʳ/ US /hʌn.iˈtɪr/
a honeymoon spent doing voluntary work, usually abroad

Choosing a honeyteer means you and your new spouse could work together to build houses in Belize for orphaned children, teach English to the fisherman of Zanzibar … or head to the Brazilian Amazon to research and monitor pink river dolphins in the Mamirau? So if you are ready to roll up your sleeves after you take off your wedding gown, a honeyteer could be the perfect fit for you and your honey.
[, 14 April 2017]

About new words

Staying the course (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

Every few months, we read a selection of national newspapers published on the same day and highlight common idioms and phrases in their articles and reports. We read all sections of the papers – news, sports pages and gossip columns – and, as ever on this blog, we pick out the most useful, up-to-date idioms.

Continue reading “Staying the course (Everyday idioms in newspapers)”

New words – 25 December 2017

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slow gifting noun [U]
UK /sləʊ ˈgɪft.ɪŋ/ US /sloʊ ˈgɪft.ɪŋ/
the activity of shopping carefully and thoughtfully for gifts, and buying high-quality, often hand-made items from small shops or individual sellers

[S]low gifting has been hailed as one of this year’s top Christmas trends. Personal shoppers are reporting a surge in popularity of gifts from small independent brands. They claim their clients are increasingly looking for products that tell a story, and they are willing to spend big.
[The Times, 19 November 2017]

Christmas creep noun [U]
the act of advertising and selling Christmas-related goods before the traditional start of the Christmas season

The phenomenon of Christmas creep is nothing new, of course. It’s been a cultural touchpoint at least since Charlie Brown walked into a department store during a 1974 Easter special to find that the aisles were already decked with wreaths. But the migration to online shopping has upped the stakes in recent years and made the final months of the year on which retailers rely most all the more crucial.
[, 1 November 2017]

reverse advent calendar noun [C]
UK /rɪˈvɜːs ˈæd.vent ˌkæl.ən.dᵊr/ US /rɪˈvɝːs ˈæd.vent ˌkæl.ən.dɚ/
an activity that involves putting aside one food item per day during December and then taking all the items to a food bank on Christmas Eve to help people in need

Increasingly, ideas such as the reverse advent calendar are gaining in popularity. It’s a simple concept that encourages the public to give, not receive as they count down to Christmas. People collect one food bank item each day and, on Christmas Eve, the whole calendar is donated … Reverse advent calendars are a great idea, and yet another example of how local communities are taking action to stop their neighbours going hungry.
[The Guardian, 1 December 2017]

About new words

Deck the halls! (Decorating words and phrases)

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by Kate Woodford

The Christmas season is once again here and around the world, people who celebrate this festival are making their homes look festive and (informal) Christmassy by putting up decorations. In the past, Christmas decorations were usually quite simple – a Christmas tree hung with a few familiar ornaments that would come out year after year from a dusty box in the attic. Paper chains might be hung along the wall and an empty stocking or two for Santa placed hopefully by the fireplace. Christmas cards would be displayed on shelves and windowsills. Nowadays, for many of us, there are more decorative options.

Continue reading “Deck the halls! (Decorating words and phrases)”

New words – 18 December 2017

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kittenfishing noun [U]
UK /ˈkɪt.ᵊn.fɪʃ.ɪŋ/ US /ˈkɪt̬.ᵊn.fɪʃ.ɪŋ/
the activity of exaggerating your positive qualities in an online profile

Essentially a light version of ‘catfishing’ – when you pretend to be a totally different person online – kittenfishing can be as simple as using profile photos that are out-of-date or heavily edited … An act that we’ve probably all experienced or even been guilty of at some point, kittenfishing comes as the world of dating becomes more and more competitive.
[, 2 July 2017]

finsta noun [C]
a second account on the social media site Instagram, to which a limited number of people have access

The latest development in the world of social media is the concept of a “finsta,” a slang term meaning “fake insta.” Essentially, a finsta is a private social media account a person uses in addition to their public profile to post potentially contentious content.
[, 15 May 2017]

click farm noun [C]
UK /ˈklɪk fɑːm/ US /ˈklɪk fɑːrm/
a place where a team of workers is hired to increase a person or company’s social media profile by clicking on content

Footage has emerged of a giant “click farm” that uses more than 10,000 mobile phones to give product ratings and pages on social media websites phoney “likes”. Companies reportedly pay thousands to get their apps more likes by using services like this massive plant offers.
[Daily Mirror, 15 May 2017]

About new words