Thank you for the regift!

by Colin McIntosh​

upcycleMillions of tons of waste go to landfill every year, despite efforts to persuade us to recycle more. Of course there is an important green agenda here, but in these recessionary times it makes sense to cut back on waste and unnecessary consumption to save money. These changes in consumers’ habits have brought with them new additions to the Cambridge Dictionary.

One area where people are making changes is in giving presents. Have you ever received a gift from a dear old aunt that you realized straight away you would never wear? Well, someone else might love it! This is the world of regifting:

I regifted Dana those earrings I got from my boyfriend last year. Continue reading “Thank you for the regift!”

The sharing economy: Part 2

by Colin McIntosh​

P2PIn my previous post we looked at some aspects of the sharing economy, made possible by Web 2.0 technology. This time we’ll look at new words connected with the sharing of data and content between users who are not trying to sell anything – or at least don’t appear to be. This type of sharing is sometimes called P2P, or peer-to-peer, although strictly speaking P2P involves a specific type of relationship between computers on a network, ​rather than using a ​central ​server.

At a simple level, this involves pooling resources. For example, if two people live and work near each other, it makes sense for them to find each other through a car-sharing app so that they can save on fuel and effort at the same time as reducing traffic congestion. Continue reading “The sharing economy: Part 2”

The sharing economy: Part 1

by Colin McIntosh​

C2CWhen Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, could he have foreseen how radically it would change our lives? Web 2.0 – a name for all the internet ​features, ​websites, and apps that ​allow ​users to ​create, ​change, and ​share internet content – has brought about a revolution in (amongst other things) the way our economy works. Like most advances in technology, it brings a new set of words with it, and some of these have recently made their appearance for the first time in the Cambridge dictionary. Continue reading “The sharing economy: Part 1”

Megacity life

by Colin McIntosh​

megacityIn 2011 the world’s population passed seven billion, only 12 years after reaching six billion; by 2017 more than 50% are expected to be living in cities. These statistics point to the fact that cities are growing at a phenomenal rate.

Demography is the ​study of ​changes in the ​population of a ​particular ​area, or of the world, over ​time, including numbers of births and deaths, migration, etc. A relatively new science, it has contributed several of the words and expressions newly added to the Cambridge dictionary.

Many of the new city dwellers will be living in a megacity – that is, an urban area of over ten million people. The process of urbanization (the growth of city populations compared to those in the countryside) affects every continent apart from Antarctica. There are currently 35 megacities in the world, five of them in China. Cities grow when the birth rate exceeds the mortality rate (or death rate), or as a result of internal or cross-border migration. Continue reading “Megacity life”

New words – 14 March 2016

silver_splittersilver splitter noun informal someone who divorces in later life

The number of people divorcing in later life has been increasing at a time when divorce rates overall have been falling. What’s behind the phenomenon of the ‘silver splitters’?

[ 09 November 2015]

lead parent noun in a couple with children, the parent who performs more of the parental duties, usually the one with fewer work commitments

The lead parent is the one who does the school run and has their name down as the emergency contact, while their number two can be more flexible and take on extra responsibility at work because they know everything is being held together at home.

[ 12 October 2015]

deputy parent noun in a couple with children, the parent who performs fewer of the parental duties, usually the one with greater work commitments

In last night’s episode of Homeland we met Carrie Mathison the deputy parent. No longer a workaholic CIA agent she appears to have nailed the job/life balance, thanks to a boyfriend who handles childcare when she is working, or kidnapped.

[ 12 October 2015]

About new words

Renaissance man, Renaissance woman

by Colin McIntosh​

mona lisaRenaissance man has become a way of referring to a man who does many different things very well:

He’s a ​writer, ​politician, ​musician, and ​athlete – a ​real ​Renaissance man.

The origin of the expression looks back to the Renaissance, the ​period of new ​growth of ​interest and ​activity in the ​areas of ​art, ​literature, and ​ideas in ​Europe during the 15th and 16th ​centuries. The period has given us several art terms and words related to culture, some of which are new to the Cambridge dictionary. Several of them are from Italian, the language of the country that is often considered the cradle of the Renaissance. Continue reading “Renaissance man, Renaissance woman”

Peak beard has been reached

by Colin McIntosh​

beardBy definition, the most cutting-edge fashions cannot be too popular. Being different from the rest of the herd is what marks out the true trendsetter, and once the trends he or she has espoused become ubiquitous, he or she needs to move on to the next new thing. In this bewildering world of change, the Cambridge dictionary is there at the cutting edge to bring you the latest trends in the English language.

Anyone who has lived in or visited a city in the western world over the past five years cannot fail to have noticed the bizarre popularity of beards. Whereas before beards were derided by fashionistas as the province of grandaddies, now a cult has grown up around them. But their very ubiquity is now their downfall. We have now, it seems, reached peak beard: the tipping point where their popularity means that they are no longer an indicator of being in the vanguard. Continue reading “Peak beard has been reached”

Look it up!

by Colin McIntosh​
The British dictionary tradition has differed from the American tradition in various ways, one of which is the treatment of words with a capital letter, like Brazil, Edinburgh, and John F. Kennedy.

British dictionaries traditionally made a distinction between content that was lexical and content that was encyclopedic. Lexical content (words, in other words) was the job of the dictionary, whereas encyclopedic content (countries, cities, dead white men) was the job of the encyclopedia. Nowadays, with the advent of search engines like Google, where all types of information are accessible, people tend not to distinguish between the two, and the internet is simply seen as one huge, amorphous source of information. This obviously has meant a big change in dictionary users’ expectations.

One enormous difference for dictionary makers in the digital age is that we can see what our users are looking up (or searching for, in the new parlance). When Samuel Johnson or James Murray published new dictionaries in past centuries, they had no idea if their users were looking up words they’d added, or if they were looking up words that hadn’t been included. Now we can run regular checks of “words searched for” and “words not found”. Continue reading “Look it up!”

Shopping for the festive season

by Liz Walter​
shopping festive
With Christmas fast approaching, many of us will be busy buying presents, whether we are Christians or not, so in this blog I’m going to look at some vocabulary connected with gift shopping.

If you are a well-organized person, you will probably want to get ahead by starting your shopping early. That way, it is easier to find bargains, for example by having the time to compare prices or by looking out for special offers. Some people even use the January sales to stock up on items for the following year.

Others prefer to leave everything to the last minute. They may end up paying exorbitant prices because lack of time means lack of choice, and they risk discovering that the items they wanted to buy are out of stock. They will probably also need to find stores that offer a gift-wrapping service, since they are unlikely to have the time to buy wrapping paper and wrap the presents themselves. Continue reading “Shopping for the festive season”

The generation gap

by Colin McIntosh​
generation gap
It’s a feature of younger generations through the centuries that they feel the need to give themselves an identity through their ideas, their fashion, their politics, and their language. Leaving aside their language for another post, let’s look at the labels they’ve given themselves, that they’ve given others, and that others have given them, many of which are new additions to the Cambridge English Dictionary.

The Beat Generation, born in the US in the 30s, were probably the trailblazers. Young people who thought that personal experience was more important than accepted norms, they created the pattern for future generations of disaffected youth. Like their British equivalents, the Angry Young Men, the Beats tended to have a literary focus, although the term could also be used with a wider reference.

The boomers, or baby-boomers, born in the baby boom after the Second World War, were the ones who, in Harold MacMillan’s famous phrase “never had it so good”, and they’re still thought of in this way by succeeding generations who had it worse. They’re now being blamed for high property prices, the debt crisis, and impossible university tuition fees. Continue reading “The generation gap”