Just who is driving this thing?

by Colin McIntosh

car_faceDo you remember Herbie the Love Bug? Herbie was a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle car in a string of Walt Disney movies. In typical Disney anthropomorphic style, Herbie goes his own way, falls in love, cries, plays jokes, and generally has a mind of his own.

While the new driverless cars, like those being trialled by Google at the moment, will probably never cry, they will take you places without you having to lift a finger. As with all new technologies, they bring a set of new words and meanings along with them, some of them new to the Cambridge Dictionary. Continue reading “Just who is driving this thing?”

To be honest with you: conversational expressions for giving opinions

by Kate Woodford​

honestTo be honest with you, I’ve never really liked him.

Learners of English often ask us how they can make their English sound more natural and conversational. We at Cambridge Dictionaries Online try to help out by looking at the sorts of words and phrases that native English speakers naturally use when speaking. This week we’re looking at expressions that we often use when giving opinions, especially negative opinions that other people might not like.

Let’s start with two very common ones. The phrase to be honest (with you) and if I’m honest with you are used a lot in speech, coming at the start or end of a sentence in which someone says something negative. (If the opinion expressed is very negative, the speaker might say ‘brutally honest’) To be honest, I’ve never really liked him./To be brutally honest, I don’t think she’s right for the job. A phrase used in a similar way is To tell (you) the truth…: To tell the truth, I didn’t even want to go to the party. These phrases all suggest that you are saying what you really think, even if it is bad. Continue reading “To be honest with you: conversational expressions for giving opinions”

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’?

[www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34767821 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.

[www.standard.co.uk 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.

[http://www.standard.co.uk/l 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!”