Countability – grammar codes

by Dom Glennon​​


Advices and informations

Have you ever noticed strange codes in square brackets on entries in Cambridge Dictionaries Online and wondered what they mean? These are grammar codes, giving you a brief summary of how that word behaves grammatically. More information can be obtained by hovering your cursor over the code, and there’s a full page of them here, but we thought we’d look at some in more detail.
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Hairdryers and squeaky bums: the colourful world of football words

by Dom Glennon

hairdryer_gunIn previous posts, we’ve looked at some of the more common words and expressions used in football (as well as the 100 words that Fabio Capello needed), but with the World Cup imminent, we thought it would be interesting to focus on some of the more colourful phrases that have entered our football vocabulary.

A small number of players and other figures involved in the sport have become immortalized in the English language, although it is not always the best or most memorable players. The Cruyff turn may be named after one of the trademark moves of one of the best footballers to have ever played, but a far less famous player has arguably had more of an impact on the game: the Bosman ruling, allowing players to move freely to another club when their contract has expired, is named after Jean-Marc Bosman, the Belgian lower-league player who has enjoyed little of the power and wealth that his breakthrough gave to modern players. Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has no move named after him, while the only linguistic legacy of a rival for that title, Maradona, is the infamous Hand of God. Antonin Panenka, a talented Czech player but hardly one of the all-time greats, has however been immortalised thanks to a delicately chipped penalty kick that won the 1976 European Championship, forever after simply to be referred to as the Panenka penalty. Continue reading “Hairdryers and squeaky bums: the colourful world of football words”

2013 in 10 words

mandelaby Dom Glennon

As another eventful year passes, its most momentous incidents are reflected in searches on Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO). Whenever a major news story breaks, we often see an increase in searches for related words. Here’s a run-down of our top ten of those words and the events that inspired them.


On February 15 a meteorite fell to earth in Chelyabinsk in Russia, providing both some spectacular images and a big spike in online searches for meteorite. We also saw at that time an increase in searches for meteor and asteroid.


Sometimes it was not the most obvious word that was searched for: when Pope Benedict XVI resigned in February and was replaced two weeks later by Pope Francis, the first pope from South America, it was the word conclave, the meeting of cardinals to decide who to elect the new Pope, that became the most searched-for term during that period. Continue reading “2013 in 10 words”

Interesting times, interesting searches part 2: the top 50 searches of 2011

by Dom Glennon

Continuing our look at the major events of 2011 and how they were reflected in searches on Cambridge Dictionaries Online, and the most popular searches of the year…

On October 3rd, Amanda Knox and Rafaele Sollecito were found not guilty of involvement in the murder of Meredith Kerchner, in a case that gripped the attention of the world. Suitably around that time, we see a big increase in searches for appeal and acquit.

Just a few days later, Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. As the principal creator of such products as the Apple Mac, iPod and iPhone, Jobs had a huge influence on technology and thus on society itself. Around the time of his death and just after, we can see big increases in searches on visionary, apple and also pancreatic, the form of cancer of which he died. Continue reading “Interesting times, interesting searches part 2: the top 50 searches of 2011”

2011 – interesting times, interesting searches

by Dom Glennon

“May you live in interesting times” is, according to legend, an ancient Chinese curse. Whether this is true or not, there is no doubt that 2011 was an interesting year to be alive, and rarely for good reasons – disasters, revolutions, assassinations, and all set to a backdrop of huge economic uncertainty. So how were these momentous events reflected in searches on Cambridge Dictionaries Online, and what were the most popular searches  last year?

In March, the world watched on in horror as Japan reeled from an earthquake followed by a tsunami, which then looked like causing a meltdown in the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Looking at the records, in the week of March 10-17, we see a big increase in searches for tsunami, catastrophe and meltdown, and words such as avert, debris and aftermath also appear high in the search rankings. Continue reading “2011 – interesting times, interesting searches”

Fabio Capello’s 100 words of football

England football manager Fabio Capello has recently come under criticism for his poor grasp of English despite being in the job for over 3 years, but this week he has hit back, claiming he requires “maximum 100 words” to communicate tactics to the England footballers. This comment has been seized on by the English media, keen to criticise the error-prone manager, but also amused at what this tells us about the size of the average English footballer’s vocabulary.

But is Capello’s statement so absurd? Well, as many have pointed out, you need to know far more than 100 words to communicate effectively in English – just the most basic words such as the, to, be, of, in etc amount to far more than that. But let’s be generous to Capello: let’s assume he was not including these words, sometimes referred to as function words, in his putative 100. Let’s assume that in fact he was referring only to the content words, those nouns, verbs and adjectives that provide the meat on the bones of communication. Would it really be possible to talk football with only 100 of these? Continue reading “Fabio Capello’s 100 words of football”