A foil wrapped heart on a pink background with lots of hearts.

A heart of gold or a heart of stone? (‘Heart’ senses and phrases, Part 1)

A foil wrapped heart on a pink background with lots of hearts.
Jennifer A Smith/Moment/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

The word ‘heart’ is used a tremendous lot in English. As you might imagine, it’s often used to say things about love and emotions, but it has other less predictable meanings too. In this three-part post, I’ll look at the way we use this word, focusing on its various senses and a range of ‘heart’ idioms and phrases. As ever, I’ll present language that is current and useful. Continue reading “A heart of gold or a heart of stone? (‘Heart’ senses and phrases, Part 1)”

a large pile of broken household goods

New words – 8 August 2022

a large pile of broken household goods
hroe / iStock / Getty Images Plus

urban mining noun [U]
UK /ˌɜː.bən ˈmaɪ.nɪŋ/ US /ˌɝː.bən ˈmaɪ.nɪŋ/
removing and recycling metal parts from objects such as batteries and electronic devices that have been thrown away

As well as requiring good collection and recycling systems, urban mining relies upon people handing over products they no longer use. British charity WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) recently estimated that as many as 125 million mobile phones are being hoarded in people’s drawers and cupboards in the UK alone.
[opendemocracy.net, 15 March 2022]

solar skin noun [C]
UK /ˌsəʊ.lə ˈskɪn/ US /ˌsoʊ.lɚ ˈskɪn/
a number of very thin solar panels that completely cover the outside of a building

In West Melbourne, Australia, an eight-story building will be the country’s first office tower with a “solar skin,” marking a watershed moment for the construction industry. The $40-million office tower will be outfitted with 1,182 solar panels the thickness of a regular glass facade. And when complete, the array will provide enough power to meet practically all of the building’s energy needs, with almost no ongoing power costs.
[interestingengineering.com, 6 June 2022]

peecycling noun [U]
/ˌpiːˈsaɪ.klɪŋ/
using human urine as a fertilizer for plants

Peecycling—aka recycling human urine—gives “liquid gold” an entirely new meaning. But while the concept is making waves today, it’s nothing new. Urine has been used as fertilizer since 1867. Before making its way to the United States, it was considered a sustainable farming practice around the world in Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
[brightly.eco, 21 June 2022]

About new words

a woman's manicured hands stroking soft, dark blue velvet cloth

Tender, velvety or abrasive? Talking about textures (1)

a woman's manicured hands stroking soft, dark blue velvet cloth
Maryna Terletska/Moment/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

Today’s post focuses on the texture of things: in other words, the way they feel. Continue reading “Tender, velvety or abrasive? Talking about textures (1)”

a man holding a bag of groceries looks worried as he reads the receipt

New words – 1 August 2022

a man holding a bag of groceries looks worried as he reads the receipt
Elena Perova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

ripflation noun [U]
/rɪpˈfleɪ.ʃᵊn/
the situation when companies use inflation as an excuse to increase their prices more than necessary in a way that rips off (= cheats) their customers

Ripflation, my coined term meaning ripoff inflation, is when the economic and supply chain conditions have significantly improved but various players in the supply chain keep prices elevated beyond necessity … In other words, ripflation uses inflation as its convenient cover story. Why are corporate profits objectively soaring in 2022 yet consumers are being hit so hard? Could it be ripflation? Could it be their stinginess and unwillingness to give back to a public that has been traumatized for 3 years?
[medium.datadriveninvestor.com, 31 March 2022]

skimpflation noun [U]
/skɪmpˈfleɪ.ʃᵊn/
the situation when the price of a product or service stays the same but the quality becomes worse

“Skimpflation is when consumers are getting less for their money,” says Alan Cole … formerly a senior economist at the joint economic committee of the US Congress. “Unlike typical inflation, where they’re paying more for the same goods, skimpflation is when they’re paying the same for something that worsened in quality.”
[theguardian.com, 28 June 2022]

greedflation noun [U]
/griːdˈfleɪ.ʃᵊn/
the situation when companies use inflation as an excuse to increase their prices more than necessary in order to make as much money as they can

This isn’t inflation. It’s greedflation. This sudden, heart-stopping rise in prices is in large part an effect of corporations jacking up prices. Why? Because they can. They used the pandemic as an excuse to raise prices disproportionately.
[eand.co, 22 April 2022]

About new words

close-up image of a man in business clothes fastening his belt

Tightening your belt and wearing the trousers (Clothes idioms, Part 2)

close-up image of a man in business clothes fastening his belt
GSO Images/The Image Bank/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

In Part 1 of this post, we looked at English idioms containing words for items of clothing that cover the top half of the body. This week, we’re working our way down the body with idioms that include words such as ‘belt’, ‘trousers’ and ‘shoe’. (Footwear features in a surprising number of current idioms!) Continue reading “Tightening your belt and wearing the trousers (Clothes idioms, Part 2)”

a man with grey hair and glasses standing in a bakery

New words – 25 July 2022

a man with grey hair and glasses standing in a bakery
Mark Edward Atkinson / Tracey Lee / Tetra images / Getty

unretirement noun [U, C]
UK /ʌn.rɪˈtaɪə.mənt/ US /ʌn.rɪˈtaɪr.mənt/
the act of going back to work after you have retired

Amid a hot labor market and high inflation, retired workers are returning to work at a rising rate. ‘Unretirements’ are on the rise as workers who previously said they were retired are now taking jobs again. As of March 2022, 3.2% of workers who were retired a year earlier are now employed.
[hiringlab.org, 14 April 2022]

youth transplant noun [C]
UK /ˈjuːθ ˌtræns.plɑːnt / US /ˈjuːθ ˌtræns.plænt/
a way of making people age more slowly by injecting them with chemicals that are the same as those found in the bodies of young people

Science is beginning to discover that “youth transplants” really can slow down the ageing process. The fountain of youth, it seems, is youth itself. Although nobody is suggesting we siphon the bodily fluids of youngsters into our elderly, it opens the door to artificially replicating the cocktail of chemicals found in young people. Young people have more powerful cells which operate more efficiently and could restore vitality to ageing systems.
[telegraph.co.uk, 14 May 2022]

baby bust noun [C]
/ˈbeɪ.bi ˌbʌst/
a large decrease in the number of babies born among a particular group of people during a particular time

A drop in births for just a year would not be a major problem on its own, but this likely baby bust will come after many years of falling birthrates. U.S. annual births fell to 3.75 million in 2019 from 4.3 million in 2007. Together with the Covid baby bust, these trends suggest that our country could see a multiyear reduction in births that approaches — in reverse — the swell in births that led to the baby boom generation born after World War II.
[nytimes.com, 4 March 2021]

About new words

stylised image of a young woman looking over her shoulder at an open door

Keeping an open mind and opening your heart: useful phrases with ‘open’

stylised image of a young woman looking over her shoulder at an open door
Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

In today’s post, I’m going to look at a range of phrases that contain the word ‘open’. There are a lot of them, and you may be able to think of more, but I’ve picked out ones I think will be useful to most English learners. Continue reading “Keeping an open mind and opening your heart: useful phrases with ‘open’”

a young woman looking frustrated as she reads a message on her mobile phone

New words – 18 July 2022

nicoletaionescu / iStock / Getty Images Plus

fexting noun [U]
/ˈfekst.ɪŋ/
the act of fighting with someone by exchanging text messages rather than speaking on the phone or in person

If you’re the first lady, then having an argument with the US president via text message (or “fexting”, as Jill Biden called it) might keep marital disputes private from the Secret Service, but relationship experts have warned it could make things worse.
[theguardian.com, 3 June 2022]

algospeak noun [U]
UK /ˈæl.gəʊ.spiːk/ US /ˈæl.goʊ.spiːk/
words used on social media posts as a way of avoiding using other words that algorithms will identify as unsuitable or inappropriate

“Algospeak” is becoming increasingly common across the Internet as people seek to bypass content moderation filters on social media platforms … Algospeak refers to code words or turns of phrase users have adopted in an effort to create a brand-safe lexicon that will avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by content moderation systems. For instance, in many online videos, it’s common to say “unalive” rather than “dead.”
[washingtonpost.com, 8 April 2022]

crypto mugging noun [C]
UK /ˈkrɪp.təʊ ˌmʌg.ɪŋ/ US /ˈkrɪp.toʊ ˌmʌg.ɪŋ/
the illegal activity of attacking someone in order to steal their mobile phone and use it to take control of their cryptocurrency

Police have warned digital asset investors of a wave of “crypto muggings” in London, following a series of crime reports. While cybercrime usually takes place online, London police have revealed that criminals are stealing mobile phones on the street specifically to steal cryptoassets such as Bitcoin.
[uktech.news, 9 May 2022]

About new words

young man raising his straw hat and smiling at the camera

I take my hat off to you! (Clothes idioms, Part 1)

young man raising his straw hat and smiling at the cameraby Kate Woodford

English has a number of really useful, current idioms and phrases that feature items of clothes. This week we’ll start by looking at idioms with the word ‘hat’ and we’ll work our way down the body to ‘shirt’ idioms. In Part 2, we’ll consider idioms containing words for clothes that cover the bottom half of the body. Continue reading “I take my hat off to you! (Clothes idioms, Part 1)”

a tropical beach at sunset

New words – 11 July 2022

a tropical beach at sunset
Levente Bodo / Moment / Getty

gratification travel noun [U]
UK /ˌgræt.ɪ.fɪˈkeɪ.ʃᵊn ˌtræv.ᵊl/ US /ˌgræt̬.ə.fəˈkeɪ.ʃən ˌtræv.ᵊl/
going on long, expensive holidays, usually to faraway destinations

Identifying the latest trend is Original Travel, which is predicting that ‘gratification travel’ will be the next big thing. The tour operator, which specialises in tailormade tours, reports that it is booking longer, more expensive and more decadent holidays than pre-pandemic, with nearly a quarter (23%) of current bookings being for trips of 15+ days.
[forbes.com, 23 April 2022]

edu-vacation noun [C]
UK /ˌedʒ.ʊ.vəˈkeɪ.ʃən/ US /ˌedʒ.ə.veɪˈkeɪ.ʃən/
a holiday that includes some educational activities, such as classes, cultural tours etc.

Everyone could benefit from an edu-vacation! Although many edu-vacations are geared toward children—in an attempt to create learning opportunities in new environments, as well as to provide parents with a child-free break—educational retreats exist for adults, too.
[veranda.com, 30 March 2022]

hometel noun [C]
UK /həʊmˈtel/ US /hoʊmˈtel/
a hotel that is designed to make guests feel as though they are living in a comfortable home

The hometel concept combines the freedoms you’d have at home with an Airbnb meets hotel experience, with all the services you’d anticipate when staying away … Lamington Group’s UK-based hometels offer a unique proposition that accommodates a variety of needs while providing its guests with the feeling of living there as opposed to staying for a night.
[theceomagazine.com, 16 December 2021]

About new words