London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names

travel destination
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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!”

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

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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)”

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

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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.”

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

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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)”

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

Making an effort and telling a joke: avoiding common errors with collocations

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by Liz Walter

Collocation, or the way we put words together, is a very important part of English. In this post, I am going to look at some of the most common mistakes learners make with verb + noun collocations. If you make these errors, people will still understand you, but your English will not sound natural and you will lose marks in exams. Continue reading “Making an effort and telling a joke: avoiding common errors with collocations”

Our four-legged friends (Talking about animals)

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by Kate Woodford

We share our planet with a huge number of other creatures – living beings that we categorize as animals, birds, fish or insects. This week, we’re taking a look at the language that we use to talk about these creatures.

Let’s start with the phrase in the title. Four-legged friend is a humorous expression used in British English to refer to an animal, especially a dog or a horse: This week, we publish poems on the subject of our four-legged friends. Birds, meanwhile, are sometimes referred to as ‘our feathered friends: So how can we help our feathered friends survive the cold weather?

Many other animal terms reflect their relationship with humans. For example, a pet is an animal that lives in a person’s home as a companion: Isabel wanted a pet so we bought her a cat. Pets are sometimes referred to more formally as companion animals: Over sixty percent of all UK households have one or more companion animal.

Domesticated animals have been brought under human control in order to live or work with us: domesticated animals, such as dogs and horses

Meanwhile, wild animals live independently of people, in their own natural conditions: wild horses

A stray is a pet that no longer has a home or cannot find its home. ‘Stray’ is often used adjectivally: a stray dog / I think that cat’s a stray. The adjective feral describes an animal that exists in a wild state. It is used especially for animals that were previously kept by people: feral dogs/cats

Creepy-crawly is a child’s word meaning ‘insect’. It is sometimes used negatively, suggesting a fear of insects: I’m not really a fan of creepy-crawlies. / a child’s book on creepy-crawlies

Prey refers to an animal that is hunted and killed for food by another animal: A hawk hovered in the air before swooping on its prey. A predator is an animal that hunts, kills, and eats other animals: lions, wolves, and other predators

A pest is an insect or small animal that is harmful or damages crops: common pests such as mice

The plural noun vermin is used for small animals and insects that are harmful and difficult to control in large numbers: flies, rats, cockroaches and other vermin

Sadly, a word that is heard more and more is endangered.  Endangered animals may soon not exist because there are very few now alive: Mountain gorillas are an endangered species.

Whether you’re an animal lover or not, we hope you find some useful words and expressions in this post!

 

 

 

Don’t sweat the small stuff: words and phrases connected with keeping calm

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by Liz Walter

I’ve written quite a bit recently about arguing and fighting, so I thought it would be nice to turn to something more pleasant: staying calm and relaxed. This can be difficult in the modern world, where many people report feeling stress or pressure (the anxious feeling you have when you have too much to do or difficult things to do): I couldn’t stand the stress of that job. We were under pressure to work harder. The related adjectives are stressful and pressurized: The situation was very stressful. She works in a pressurized environment. Continue reading “Don’t sweat the small stuff: words and phrases connected with keeping calm”

New words – 27 August 2018

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shero noun [C]
UK /ˈʃɪə.rəʊ/ US /ˈʃɪr.oʊ/
a female hero, especially one who supports women’s issues

The COO of Facebook and a true shero, Sandberg is a mother, activist, author, speaker and leader … Through her book she conveys that women can be great mentors for each other … She believes that until women demand equality and power in all spheres, of which work is a very important part, the plight of women leaders will not change.
[www.theodysseyonline.com, 11 July 2016]

ladydata noun [U, C]
UK /ˈleɪ.di.ˌdeɪ.tə/ US /ˈleɪ.di.ˌdeɪ.t̬ə/
the results of an investigation into how any of the government’s proposed changes to the budget would affect women

And that’s one reason the Labour MP Stella Creasy has just launched a campaign for what she’s calling “ladydata” (and, yes, the name’s meant to be ironic). She wants the government to commit to running all its budget decisions through an independent assessment of their gender impact, which would publicly reveal any differences in the way they affect men and women.
[The Pool, 12 December 2017]

womenomics noun [U]
UK /ˌwɪm.ɪ.ˈnɒm.ɪks/ US /ˌwɪm.ɪ.ˈnɑː.mɪks/
the activities undertaken by a government to enable more women to enter the workforce, especially into high-level jobs

For those who have already decided that Japan’s “womenomics” movement is an empty promise, the Kanagawa Women’s Empowerment Support Group has plenty of ammunition. Its pink-toned website introduces a panel of movers and shakers aiming to promote female empowerment in Kanagawa prefecture in the coming year: 11 high-profile corporate leaders — and all 11 of them men.
[Financial Times, 8 March 2017]

About new words