a white sheep bleating as it looks at the camera

Grunting, lowing and bleating (Animal sounds, Part B)

a white sheep bleating as it looks at the camera
Marcel ter Bekke/Moment/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

In Part A of this blog (Howling, mewing and snorting), we looked at words for the various sounds made by dogs, cats and horses. This week we’re widening our scope and considering words for the sounds made by farm animals and wild animals. Continue reading “Grunting, lowing and bleating (Animal sounds, Part B)”

close-up of a determined young man in a racing helmet

A class act and nerves of steel: talking about people you like and admire (2)

close-up of a determined young man in a racing helmet
Fuse/Corbis/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

My last post looked at some general qualities of people we like, such as being pleasant and kind. Today’s post is about some more specific admirable qualities. Continue reading “A class act and nerves of steel: talking about people you like and admire (2)”

an elegant bathroom filled with plants

New words – 16 May 2022

an elegant bathroom filled with plants
brizmaker / iStock / Getty Images Plus

plant-flex verb
UK /ˈplɑːnt.fleks/ US /ˈplænt.fleks/
to post pictures on social media of the expensive plants you own in order to show how rich you are

Adapted from 90s US rapper slang, to “plant-flex” is the horticultural version of performatively displaying one’s wealth via the use of status symbols – in this case the status symbol might be something like a variegated monstera. The idea that a humble houseplant can now be equated to a sports car or fat wad of cash might seem surprising, but single leaf nodes of some must-have species now sell for tens of thousands of pounds on online auction sites.
[theguardian.com, 3 April 2022]

proplifting noun [U]
UK /ˈprɒp.lɪf.tɪŋ/ US /ˈprɑːp.lɪf.tɪŋ/
from “propagating” and “shoplifting”: the activity of picking up stems and roots that are lying on the floor of a plant shop, garden centre etc. and taking them home to try to grow them into new plants

Proplifting in its classic form sees devotees collecting cuttings or leaf droppings from the floors of shops or stores and growing them out in their own homes … Granted, it’s a bit of a legal and ethical grey area, but the community of proplifters online is huge and growing. They argue that their love for plants gives otherwise discarded plant babies a second shot at life. Proplifting doesn’t have to take place in shops though. Wandering the streets, you are likely to come across plants that are ripe for a little haircut in public spaces.
[thelatch.com.au, 8 March 2021]

green laird noun [C]
UK /ˌgriːn ˈleəd/ US /ˌgriːn ˈlerd/
a person or company that buys a large piece of land in Scotland and plants trees on it to compensate for things they do that harm the environment

A land reform campaigner has warned of businesses buying up land in Scotland to offset their carbon emissions rather than reducing what they emit. The so-called “green lairds” have peatland restored or land planted with thousands of trees. But Andy Wightman, a former MSP, said the practice did not go far enough to tackle climate change … Green laird is a term that has been used to describe a business buying thousands of acres of land to plant with trees to help it achieve net zero.
[bbc.co.uk/news, 10 December 2021]

About new words

a Bernese Mountain Dog barking

Howling, mewing and snorting (Animal sounds, Part A)

a Bernese Mountain Dog barking
Jill Lehmann Photography/Moment/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

A reader of this blog recently requested a post on animal sounds. When I looked into the subject, I was struck by the huge range of very specific words in the English language for the various noises that animals and birds make. Accordingly, this is a post in two parts, A and B. Here, in Part A, we start by considering words for the different noises that dogs make. Continue reading “Howling, mewing and snorting (Animal sounds, Part A)”

two older men laughing together in a park

Laid-back, likeable and jovial : talking about people you like and admire (1)

two older men laughing together in a park
triloks/E+/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

After three posts on criticizing people’s character flaws, it’s definitely time to balance that with some vocabulary for praising those we admire! Continue reading “Laid-back, likeable and jovial : talking about people you like and admire (1)”

close-up of a woman's smiling mouth, showing her teeth

Gritting and cutting your teeth (Idioms and phrases with ‘teeth’)

close-up of a woman's smiling mouth, showing her teeth
ultramarinfoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

It might surprise you to learn that the noun ‘teeth’ features in a number of current English idioms. This post is a round-up of the most frequent and useful. Continue reading “Gritting and cutting your teeth (Idioms and phrases with ‘teeth’)”

portrait of an old man frowning angrily

Prickly, abrasive and churlish: talking about people you don’t like (3)

portrait of an old man frowning angrily
John Rensten/The Image Bank/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

This is the final post in a short series about words for people we don’t like. This post will concentrate on describing people who are bad-tempered, rude, or cruel. Continue reading “Prickly, abrasive and churlish: talking about people you don’t like (3)”

a starling perched on a snowy branch

New words – 18 April 2022

a starling perched on a snowy branch
Images from BarbAnna / Moment / Getty

rebirding noun [U]
UK /ˌriːˈbɜːd.ɪŋ/ US /ˌriːˈbɝːd.ɪŋ/
the process of helping to return an environment to its natural state by bringing back birds that used to live there

Swift numbers have declined by 58 per cent since 1995, while house martin populations have similarly suffered … In order to halt the decline, a new call to arms is launching this week urging homeowners across the country to encourage the birds back before it is too late … Forget rewilding, this is hoped to be the beginning of a vital rebirding of the nation’s back gardens.
[telegraph.co.uk, 19 March 2022]

climate doomism noun [U]
UK /ˌklaɪ.mət ˈduːmɪ.zəm/ US /ˌklaɪ.mət ˈduːmɪ.zəm/
the belief that climate change is now irreversible and that there is no point making any effort to stop it getting any worse

[Alaina Wood] is also part of a growing cadre of people, many of them young, who are fighting climate doomism, the notion that it’s too late to turn things around. They believe that focusing solely on terrible climate news can sow dread and paralysis, foster inaction, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the summer of 2021, Ms. Wood … began creating TikTok videos debunking extreme examples of climate doomism — among them that all of humanity will perish within decades.
[nytimes.com, 22 March 2022]

water neutrality noun [U]
UK /ˌwɔː.tə njuːˈtræl.ə.ti/ US /ˌwɑː.t̬ɚ nuːˈtræl.ə.t̬i/
the principle that the total amount of water used in an area after new houses, shops, etc. have been built must not be more than the amount used in the same area previously

The definition of water neutrality is that for every new development, total water use in the region after the development must be equal to or less than the total water use in the region. There are three steps to achieving water neutrality: (1) reducing water use by making the new build as water efficient as possible (2) installing water reuse systems, such as rainwater harvesting or grey water recycling and (3) offsetting any remaining demand in the existing local region.
[www.linkedin.com/pulse, 16 February 2022]

About new words

skyline of city buildings lit up at sunset

A vast, sprawling metropolis (Words for describing cities)

skyline of city buildings lit up at sunset
Gary Yeowell/DigitalVision/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

It’s reckoned that around 55% of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. With this in mind, I thought we’d take a look at the sort of words we use to describe urban and suburban areas. I hope you find it useful. Continue reading “A vast, sprawling metropolis (Words for describing cities)”

Two adorable border collie puppies sit in front of a veterinarian as one playfully growls at the other causing the other puppy to look scared.

Lily-livered or hard as nails: talking about people you don’t like (2)

Two adorable border collie puppies sit in front of a veterinarian as one playfully growls at the other causing the other puppy to look scared.
FatCamera/E+/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

My last post contained general insulting words and phrases. You can find words and phrases for people who are stupid, untrustworthy, boring or stubborn in previous posts by me and my colleague Kate Woodford, so today’s post looks at ways of describing some other character flaws. Continue reading “Lily-livered or hard as nails: talking about people you don’t like (2)”