All over the world, people are adjusting to a new way of living as a result of COVID-19. At the time of writing, around a third of the world is on lockdown, permitted to leave home only for such reasons as food and medicine shopping. Even those of us who are lucky enough to be well and virus-free may be finding the sudden changes to our lifestyles challenging. With this in mind, I thought we’d focus on words and phrases around the theme of dealing with difficult situations.
by Liz Walter
In my last post, I introduced a few proverbs that are common in English, especially in conversations. In this one, I am going to look at some common uses of proverbs: to give warnings, to criticize, and to comfort people. I mentioned last month that some proverbs are so well-known that we often use only the first part. Where this is the case, I will show the part that can be omitted in brackets.
Earlier this month, we published a post on extreme adjectives used to describe the weather and emotions. (Extreme adjectives are adjectives that we use when we want to really emphasize a particular quality.) This week, we’re focusing on adjectives that emphasize a high degree of other qualities, for example, size and age.
by Liz Walter
Proverbs may seem rather old-fashioned or strange but when I started thinking about writing this post, I was amazed to realize how many of them are in common use. They serve as a convenient shorthand for something that would often be more complicated to say in a different way. We frequently use them at the end of a conversation to sum up what has been said, and many of them are so familiar that we can omit part of the phrase and still understand what is meant.
bronze ceiling noun [C]
UK /ˌbrɒnz.ˈsiː.lɪŋ/ US /ˌbrɑːnz.ˈsiː.lɪŋ/
the fact that there are many fewer statues of women than of men
Three women who were pioneers for women’s rights are about to make history again. They’re becoming the first statues of women in New York’s iconic Central Park. The people behind the project say they’re breaking the “bronze ceiling” by creating the first ever statues of real women for the park.
[wibw.com, 26 November 2019]
Waspi noun [C, U]
UK /ˈwɒspiː/ US /ˈwɑːspiː/
abbreviation for Women Against State Pension Inequality: an organization of women born in the 1950s whose pensions were affected by a government decision to raise the retirement age for women from 60 to 65, or one of the women thus affected
Responding to the Waspi campaign, Labour has unveiled an election pledge to compensate those affected. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the payments were to settle a “historical debt of honour” to the women born in the 1950s.
[thesun.co.uk, 24 November 2019]
tradwife noun [C]
a woman who does not work outside the home and who believes that her needs are less important than those of her husband
The tradwives have been keenly giving interviews about how they are the true feminists in choosing not to work, to which anyone with a modicum of knowledge about feminism would say: “We gave women the choice – that’s the point! Bake banana bread until the sun comes up, if it makes you happy!” Whether they are still the true feminists in suggesting that “husbands must always come first if you want a happy marriage”, as Pettitt has tweeted, feels more debatable.
[theguardian.com, 27 January 2020]
Are your English adjectives sometimes not strong enough? Perhaps you’re eating something that is so good, the word ‘good’ just isn’t enough. In this case, you might want to describe the food as delicious or even (informal) scrumptious. As you’ll have guessed by now, this post looks at extreme adjectives – that is, adjectives that we use to emphasize a high degree of a particular quality. Remember that we don’t usually put the adverb very before extreme adjectives. Instead, to add even more emphasis, we might use adverbs such as absolutely, totally and completely. Continue reading “Scorching, furious and delighted! (Extreme adjectives in English, Part 1)”
flower miles noun [plural]
UK /ˈflaʊə.ˌmaɪlz/ US /ˈflaʊ.ɚ.ˌmaɪlz/
the distance between the place where flowers are grown and the place where they are sold to customers
We’re proud to say that our family of independent florists and botanical artisans work with sustainable flower farms worldwide. So whether you’re gifting stems to a loved one across the pond, or sending a feel-good arrangement to yourself, you can order safe in the knowledge that you’re helping cut down on flower miles by championing sustainable practice.
[floom.com, 1 March 2019]
ecological grief noun [U]
UK /ˌiː.kəˈlɒdʒ.ɪ.kᵊl.griːf/ US /ˌiː.kəˈlɑːdʒ.ɪ.kᵊl.griːf/
a feeling of great sadness caused by the effects of the climate emergency
The sense of helplessness is very prevalent – the feeling that the scale of our environmental crisis is so large that as individuals we can’t intervene. And I think that’s actually one of the really powerful mobilising potentials of ecological grief – it’s driving action and anger; climate marches.
[theguardian.com, 12 January 2020]
cli-fi noun [U]
books, movies etc. about bad events that occur because of climate change, such as wildfires and droughts
“Climate change needs stories, and readers need them to be told,” he said. “There are figures, statistics, but these don’t really say anything. Cli-fi makes people more aware of the situation.”
[phys.org/news, 15 November 2019]
by Liz Walter
As coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) continues to dominate the news, I thought it might be useful to look at some of the language we use to talk about it. Regular readers will know my obsession with collocations (word partners), and there are lots of good ones in this topic, most of which can be applied to other diseases too. Continue reading “Quarantine, carriers and face masks: the language of the coronavirus”
food desert noun [C]
UK /ˌfuːd ˈdez.ət/ US /ˌfuːd ˈdez.ɚt/
an area where there is little or no access to healthy food
A widely held theory maintains that those who live in food deserts are forced to shop at local convenience stores, where it’s hard to find healthy groceries. A proposed solution is to advocate for the opening of supermarkets in these neighborhoods, which are thought to encourage better eating.
[www.nyu.edu, 10 December 2019]
food insecurity noun [U]
UK /ˈfuːd ˌɪn.sɪˈkjʊə.rə.ti/ US /ˈfuːd ˌɪn.səˈkjʊr.ə.t̬i/
the state of not being able to afford to buy enough food to stay healthy
The government is to introduce an official measure of how often low-income families across the UK skip meals or go hungry because they cannot afford to buy enough food, the Guardian can reveal. A national index of food insecurity is to be incorporated into an established UK-wide annual survey run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that monitors household incomes and living standards.
[www.theguardian.com, 27 February 2019]
social supermarket noun [C]
UK /ˌsəʊ.ʃᵊl ˈsuː.pəˌmɑː.kɪt/ US /ˌsoʊ.ʃᵊl ˈsuː.pɚˌmɑːr.kɪt/
a place where food is sold at very low prices to people who do not have enough money to buy it in other shops
A ‘social supermarket’ has opened offering a week’s worth of shopping for just £3 to Britons who struggle to feed themselves and their families. The food, worth between £15 and £25, is donated and … it helps those struggling financially to put food on their tables, serving so many people that it has been forced to open an extra day.
[mirror.co.uk, 14 January 2019]
Readers of this blog often ask us for posts on English idioms. Understandably, they also tell us that it’s important that the idioms are used now. One way that we make sure we focus on up to date idioms is by looking at expressions used in current newspapers. The expressions in this week’s post are taken from a range of national newspapers that were published on February 5th, 2020. Continue reading “Beds of roses and sore thumbs (Newspaper idioms)”