New words – 19 March 2018

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reverse vending noun [U]
UK /rɪˈvɜːs ˈven.dɪŋ/ US /rɪˈvɝːs ˈven.dɪŋ/
the activity of putting empty plastic bottles into a machine so that they can be recycled, and getting a small amount of money back for each one

Detailed work is expected to begin this month on how a “deposit-return” scheme for bottles and cans might work in Scotland. One of the radical schemes likely to be considered is “reverse vending”, where the empty plastic bottles are fed into a network of machines in shops and supermarkets. The system has operated for decades in many Scandinavian countries where recycling rates are about double our own.
[, 4 September 2017]

shop dropping noun [U]
UK /ˈʃɒp ˌdrɒp.ɪŋ/ US /ˈʃɑːp ˌdrɑː.pɪŋ/
the activity of leaving messages hidden in a shop (often in the pockets of a piece of clothing) to raise awareness of the ethical practices of the manufacturer or retailer

In an attempt to shine a spotlight on the ethics of the British fashion industry, its members will be spending the four-day clothing festival in high-street stores near LFW’s Somerset House base engaged in “shop dropping”. This involves creating messages of protest, taking them into retailers and planting them inside the pockets of clothing for consumers to find.
[, 4 September 2017]

slow fashion noun [U]
UK /sləʊ ˈfæʃ.ᵊn/ US /sloʊ ˈfæʃ.ᵊn/
the activity of making and buying clothes that are of high quality and designed to last, with low impact on the environment

In just three years, the British footwear label Dear Frances has won a following that includes Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Sienna Miller, as well as industry accolades … Yet despite its rapid rise, the company remains dedicated to the concept of slow fashion. Each piece is handmade in Italy, and although the label introduces some new styles each season, the core of the business remains its collection of best sellers.
[New York Times, 11 October 2017]

About new words

Observant or blissfully unaware? (Noticing and not noticing things)


Besim Mazhiqi / Moment / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

Are you observant? (Do you usually notice what’s happening around you?) This week we’re thinking about words and phrases in this area.

A really useful word is the verb spot. If you spot something or someone that interests you, you notice them, often when you are trying to see them: I spotted Tom in the crowd. / Police spotted him leaving the building.

Continue reading “Observant or blissfully unaware? (Noticing and not noticing things)”

New words – 12 March 2018


coffin cubicle noun [C]
UK /ˈkɒf.ɪn kjuː.bɪ.kᵊl/ US /ˈkɑː.fɪn kjuː.bɪ.kᵊl/
a very small living space for one person made from an apartment that has been subdivided into units

The cost of living in a coffin cubicle? Over half of their monthly income. Few have their own bathroom facilities and virtually none have any sanitary space for cooking, washing or eating. Facilities are shared or, worse still, kitchens share space with bathrooms.
[, 9 October 2017]

broken-heart syndrome noun [U]
UK /ˈbrəʊ.kᵊnˈhɑːt ˈsɪn.drəʊm/ US /ˈbroʊ.kᵊnˈhɑːt ˈsɪn.droʊm/
a temporary medical condition which affects the heart and is usually caused by a stressful or upsetting situation

Once medications stabilised Simpson, the physicians talked to her about the stress in her life, and they told her about broken-heart syndrome. It “made complete sense,” Simpson said. She was sent home after two days, and though she still takes two heart medications, she is doing fine.
[, 20 October 2017]

death cleaning noun [U]
/ˈdeθ kliː.nɪŋ/
the practice of throwing away things you don’t need as you get older, so that after your death your friends or family do not have to deal with a large number of possessions you have left behind

Magnusson says people should start thinking about death cleaning as soon as they’re old enough to start thinking about their own mortality. “Don’t collect things you don’t want,” she says. “One day when you’re not around anymore, your family would have to take care of all that stuff, and I don’t think that’s fair.”
[Time, 17 October 2017]

About new words

Having the time of your life: phrases with time

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by Liz Walter

In my last post, I mentioned that the word ‘time’ is the most common noun in English. This is partly because there are so many phrases which contain the word. This post looks at some common and useful examples.

Continue reading “Having the time of your life: phrases with time”

New words – 5 March 2018

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stoozing noun [U]
the practice of borrowing money on a credit card with a 0% interest rate and then investing the same money in a bank account that pays a high interest rate so that a profit can be made when the original loan is repaid

“Ideally stoozing would be most appropriate for consumers who already have savings and a decent income,” explained Rachel. “This is so that they could leave the deposit untouched in a high interest current account, while also meeting any minimum funding requirements to be eligible for interest, and at the same time managing repayments on a credit card.”
[, 27 September 2017]

price gouging noun [U]
the act of increasing the price of goods or services beyond what is considered fair, normally during a state of emergency

As Hurricane Irma … hits the northeast Caribbean, Florida residents are already seeing price gouging for items like water, food and gas as they prepare for the storm that is on track to reach parts of the state by the weekend. Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi opened a price-gouging hotline for residents to report these instances, and a “high volume of complaints” have already rolled in since it opened on Monday.
[, 7 September 2017]

robo-adviser noun [C]
UK /ˈrəʊ.bəʊ.ədˈvaɪ.zəʳ/ US /ˈroʊ.boʊ.ədˈvaɪ.zɚ/
a computer system that uses algorithms and other software to provide financial advice

New customers usually answer online questions about their financial goals and attitude to risk. The robo-adviser then suggests portfolios that it will manage for them. This can be done within minutes.
[Sunday Times, 2 July 2017]

About new words

Are you listening? (Hearing and listening words and phrases)

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by Kate Woodford

We have two ears and one mouth so that we listen more than we talk, or so the saying goes. Whatever we think of this saying, most of us certainly listen (or at least, hear) a lot during the course of a day. This week, then, we’re looking at the various words and phrases that we use to describe this activity.

Continue reading “Are you listening? (Hearing and listening words and phrases)”

New words – 26 February 2018

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wild cycling noun [U]
/ˈwaɪld ˈsaɪ.klɪŋ/
the activity of exploring the countryside by bicycle, using only small paths and lanes

Wild cycling is a release: it’s getting back to nature, and even more to our collective childhoods. That’s when most of us first got bikes. Remember how it felt? The freedom, the means to roam and discover places, and the visceral rush of bombing through the woods and bouncing over the bumps. It’s escaping traffic, living in the moment – but above all wild cycling is childlike fun.
[The Telegraph, 3 September 2017]

slow adventure noun [U, sometimes C]
UK /sləʊ ədˈven.tʃəʳ/ US /sloʊ ədˈven.tʃɚ/
a type of holiday involving outdoor activities that allow you to appreciate the natural environment and are not physically demanding

A new adventure concept called ‘slow adventure’ has just been revealed in Northern Ireland … Slow adventure focuses on slow, immersive experiences that engage with nature and provide an opportunity to learn about the local environment, food and wildlife whilst also taking part in an activity … Those who book onto an experience could get to enjoy walking through the Sperrin Mountains foraging for food along the way, bake their own bread the traditional way in a farmhouse kitchen, see how artisan cheese is produced or have a go at traditional fishing and cook their catch on a wild camp fire.
[Outdoor Enthusiast, 11 September 2017]

river bugging noun [U]
UK /ˈrɪv.ə bʌg.ɪŋ/ US /ˈrɪv.ɚ bʌg.ɪŋ/
a type of outdoor activity involving sitting in a very small inflatable boat shaped like an armchair (called a river bug) and being carried along a river where the current is very strong

River bugging is the latest thing to hit the UK shores from New Zealand … After receiving expert instruction from our experienced river bug guides, we’ll get you out on the white water course. You will be complete with your webbed gloves and full wet suit gear, ready to hit the course.
[, 28 March 2017]

About new words

Once in a blue moon (saying how often we do things)

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by Kate Woodford

Are you always saying ‘always’? Do you usually say ‘usually’? Would you like more ways to say how often you do something or how often something happens? Then look no further because this week, we’re looking at interesting alternatives to words such as ‘often’, ‘sometimes’ and ‘rarely’.

Continue reading “Once in a blue moon (saying how often we do things)”

New words – 19 February 2018

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napercise noun [U]
UK /ˈnæp.ə.saɪz/ US /ˈnæp.ɚ.saɪz/
a type of exercise class that involves sleeping for a short time

David Lloyd Gyms have launched a new health and fitness class which is essentially a bunch of people taking a nap for 45 minutes. The fitness group was spurred to launch the ‘napercise’ class after research revealed 86 per cent of parents said they were fatigued. The class is therefore predominantly aimed at parents but you actually do not have to have children to take part.
[, 28 April 2017]

sweatworking noun [U]
UK /ˈswet.wɜː.kɪŋ/ US /ˈswet.wɝː.kɪŋ/
any activity that combines exercise with networking, such as going to the gym with business clients

“Sweatworking is about combining your work meetings with your workouts, to the benefit of both,” explains Steven Ward, CEO of non-profit fitness lobby UK Active. “It’s an efficient way to get some exercise while developing a greater rapport with clients and colleagues.” Dubious? Don’t be. Sweatworking is a bona fide thing, and yes, real people are actually doing it.
[Men’s Health, 5 September 2017]

Fitstagrammer noun [C]
UK /ˈfit.stə.græm.əʳ/ US /ˈfit.stə.græm.ɚ/
someone who posts on the social media site Instagram about fitness and healthy eating

The disposition of the Fitstagrammer – or certainly the one he live-feeds on social media to his hundreds of thousands of dedicated digital disciples – is one of unchecked buoyancy. He is a human medicine ball with a lunatic’s smile, a Prozac pill with glutes the size of watermelons. He’s like one of those grinning, gormless punchbags once found at fairgrounds: the harder life hits them the faster they come bouncing back up.
[GQ, 26 July 2017]

About new words

What time is it?: How to say the time

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by Liz Walter

Talking about time is a very basic skill, but one that can often cause problems, especially if your main language thinks about time in a different way.

Firstly, if you want to know the time, what question do you need to ask? Well, if you are sure that the person you are asking knows the answer, you can simply say: What time is it? or What’s the time? (this is less common in US English). However, if you are not sure if they know, for example if you want to ask a stranger on a train or in the street, you can say: Excuse me, do you have the time, please? or (in UK English) Have you got the time, please?

Continue reading “What time is it?: How to say the time”