Turning the corner by leaps and bounds: talking about improvement

MirageC / Moment / GettyImages

by Liz Walter

Today’s post is about words and phrases that express the idea of things improving or being improved. The most common way to talk about improvement is to say that something gets better or that we make something better:

The weather was terrible earlier, but it’s getting better now.

We are always looking for ways to make our products better. Continue reading “Turning the corner by leaps and bounds: talking about improvement”

New words – 15 April 2019

Naila Ruechel / DigitalVision / GettyImages

vegetable butcher noun [C]
UK /ˈvedʒ.tə.bᵊl.ˌbʊtʃ.əʳ/ US /ˈvedʒ.tə.bᵊl.ˌbʊtʃ.ɚ/
a person who prepares vegetables in a shop

But these days butchery need not involve meat at all, as Harrods has unveiled a new “vegetable butcher” as part of its extended foodhall. … Just like regular butchers, so-called vegetable butchers stand behind glass counters, offer before-your-eyes precision chopping, and can concoct the perfect seasoning for every dish.
[www.telegraph.co.uk, 1 November 2018]

planetary health diet noun [U]
UK /ˌplæn.ɪ.tər.i.ˈhelθ.daɪ.ət/ US /ˌplæn.ɪ.ter.i.ˈhelθ.daɪ.ət/
a way of eating that aims to give everyone in the world enough food to eat without damaging the planet

A diet has been developed that promises to save lives, feed 10 billion people and all without causing catastrophic damage to the planet. Scientists have been trying to figure out how we are going to feed billions more people in the decades to come. Their answer – ‘the planetary health diet’ – does not completely banish meat and dairy. But it requires an enormous shift in what we pile onto our plates and turning to foods that we barely eat.
[www.bbc.co.uk/news, 17 January 2019]

LALS noun [abbr]
/læls/
abbreviation for low-alcohol, low-sugar, used to refer to a type of food or drink, or a way of eating, that contains little or no alcohol or sugar

Our tip for 2019? Watch out for the ‘No-groni’ – the LALS cousin of the Negroni (equal parts gin, campari and sweet vermouth), named ‘cocktail of the year’ by Petersham Nurseries in London. The No-groni contains the non-alcoholic versions of each spirit, and doesn’t contain a drop of the hangover.
[www.afr.com, 17 December 2018]

About new words

Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious

Nora Carol Photography / Moment / GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

One thing that we aim to do on this blog is look at the many different ways we express the same thing in English. This week we’re focusing on words that have the basic meaning of ‘obvious’. As you know, near-synonyms can be different from each other in a number of ways. Many of the synonyms that we will look at here are different because of the things that they usually describe and the words that they are often combined with. Continue reading “Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious”

New words – 8 April 2019

s0ulsurfing – Jason Swain / Moment / GettyImages

nanogardening noun [U]
UK /ˈnæn.əʊ.ˌgɑː.dᵊn.ɪŋ/ US /ˈnæn.oʊ.ˌgɑːr.dᵊn.ɪŋ/
small-scale gardening, for example growing plants on a balcony or patio

Nanogardening: have you heard of it? It’s what many new to the hobby of gardening are engaging in these days. Gardening, but on a micro-scale. For those with only very small spaces, such as a balcony or kitchen countertop, in which to grow plants, nanogardening offers an accessible and relevant starting place for their enthusiasm for plant keeping.
[www.gardencentermag.com, 9 August 2018]

turf art noun [U]
UK /tɜːf.ˈɑːt/ US /tɝːf.ˈɑːrt/
a lawn or other large area of grass that has had a pattern or image of something mown into it

‘Turf art’, as the gardeners at Wisley call it, has been decorating the lawns there for the past six years, and it still remains today one of the only locations to practise such a skill. ‘The garden team started off by doing patterns in the lawns with our Honda rotary mowers instead of traditional straight lines,’ explains Welsey Olliffe, garden manager.
[www.telegraph.co.uk, 29 July 2018]

bee brick noun [C]
/ˈbiː.brɪk/
a brick, similar in size and shape to a house brick, with holes in it to allow bees to nest

‘Each bee brick contains cavities for solitary bees to lay their eggs,’ Waitrose Garden explains. ‘Each cavity is moulded part way into the brick ensuring bees cannot enter the building. Bees lay their eggs inside the holes and seal the entrance with mud or chewed up vegetation. The offspring emerge the following spring and begin the cycle again.’
[www.countryliving.com, 9 January 2019]

About new words

Heavy traffic and prompting speculation: the importance of collocation

Chaiyaporn Baokaew / Moment / GettyImages

by Liz Walter

For students who want to make their English as natural as possible, concentrating on collocation – the way words go together – is probably the most important thing they can do. Studies of non-native English speakers show they use simple words such as ‘bad’, ‘start’ or ‘make’ more often than first-language English speakers do. This isn’t surprising – it’s natural to learn the simplest, most common words of a language first. But one of the best ways to take your English to a more advanced level is to learn new words together with their ‘word partners’ – the words that often go with them.

Often, these collocations aren’t easy to predict. For example, you might not be able to guess that we say heavy traffic to describe a lot of traffic. Similarly, a heavy smoker is someone who smokes a lot – not a smoker who needs to lose weight! These are examples of adjective + noun collocations. A few other examples are glaring errors (very bad and obvious errors), juicy gossip (very interesting gossip), rolling hills (hills with gentle curves) and wild accusations (extreme accusations that are not based on facts).

There are other common collocation types, such as verb + noun collocations. Many of you will already know that people commit crimes instead of ‘do’ crimes or ‘make’ crimes. Sometimes verb + noun collocations use more advanced English, and so it is much more impressive to use a great collocation. For example, something might ‘cause speculation’ or ‘be a challenge’, but your English will sound much more impressive if you can say that something prompts speculation or poses a challenge.

Look out for adverb + adjective collocations too. There are several combinations used for emphasis, such as bitterly disappointed or blindingly obvious. Sometimes these collocations add emphasis by highlighting the meaning of the adjective, as in freely available (easy to get), and sometimes they limit the meaning of the adjective, as in vaguely aware (aware but not clearly).

Try to get into the habit of thinking about collocation whenever you learn a new word. For instance, if you learn a noun, ask yourself, ‘What verb do I need to use this noun?’ or ‘Which adjectives typically describe this noun?’ A good learner’s dictionaries, such as the one on this site, will give a lot of help with collocation. When you look up a word, look at the example sentences. Any parts in bold type are typical collocations, and therefore worth learning. I intend to write more about collocation over the next few weeks – do let me know if there are any particular areas you would like me to cover.

New words – 1 April 2019

Judith Haeusler / Cultura / Getty

waste bread noun [U]
/weɪst.ˈbred/
bread that is made partly with crumbs from leftover bread

On Thursday the first 100 loaves of “waste bread” …  will go on sale in 10 selected branches of Gail’s Bakery … Roughly one-third of each baked 750g loaf consists of leftover bread and the chain calculates that the 100 loaves being baked daily will save approximately 10kg of bread being wasted per day.
[www.theguardian.com, 5 October 2018]

sando noun [C]
UK /ˈsæn.dəʊ/ US /ˈsæn.doʊ/
a type of sandwich made with soft white bread, originating in Japan

“You have to use very fresh, soft, white supermarket bread that mimics the enriched white bread used traditionally in Japan. We know white bread isn’t healthy but here it works because something like sourdough has far too much flavour. Sandos are inverted sandwiches, in a way, because the point is to savour the filling and get almost no flavour from the bread.”
[www.telegraph.co.uk, 4 September 2018]

proats noun [pl]
UK /prəʊts/ US /proʊts/
oats (a type of grain often cooked and eaten for breakfast) with added protein

Protein oatmeal (AKA proats) is the nutritious breakfast that’s been missing from your mornings. Mixing protein and oats together makes for a tasty and, most importantly, filling breakfast, keeping hunger pangs at bay till lunch time. 
[us.myprotein.com, 30 November 2017]

About new words

Deaf ears and high horses: everyday idioms in newspapers

Sunphol Sorakul/Moment/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

Today we’re looking at idioms and expressions from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We do this every couple of months as a way of supplying you with up-to-date, frequently used idioms.

One newspaper describes the UK Prime Minister’s plans for leaving the EU as ‘a leap of faith’. Leap of faith refers to the act of believing in something when you have no real reason to believe that it is true or will happen.

In the news pages of a different paper, a journalist remarks that the Prime Minister’s advice to members of her own party will ‘fall on deaf ears’. If a suggestion or warning falls on deaf ears, no one listens to it.

Another tabloid is confident that the plans for Brexit will succeed and says it will be ‘full steam ahead’ for the UK after the leaving date. If you say it’s full steam ahead in relation to a particular project or piece of work, you mean that it will be started with great energy and enthusiasm.

The same paper also warns politicians that if they oppose the Prime Minister’s plan, they ‘can kiss goodbye to their jobs and their party’. If you say that someone can kiss goodbye to something desirable, you mean they should accept that they will not have it.

Thankfully, Brexit isn’t the only topic being discussed in the papers! The fashion pages of one newspaper feature an article on ‘vegan style’: that is, clothes that contain no animal products, such as leather or wool. ‘Green is the new black!’, it claims. The statement […] is the new black is used to say that something is now very fashionable. (‘Green’ here refers to clothes made in a way that does not harm the environment.)

On the sports pages of the same paper, it is written that a series of defeats have ‘taken their toll on’ the manager of a Premier League football team. If problems take their toll or take a toll on someone, they cause them harm or suffering.

A sports journalist in another newspaper writes about a football club that has recently criticized another club for using dishonest techniques to improve their game. The journalist describes the first club as ‘getting on their high horse’. If you get on your high horse, you speak or behave as if you are better than someone else when, in reality, you are not.

Still in the sports pages, another writer says a previously successful football team is now looking like ‘a spent force’. A spent force refers to someone or something that does not now have the power or ability that they used to have.

New words – 25 March 2019

Carol Yepes / Moment / GettyImages

bakuchiol noun [U]
/bə.ˈkuːtʃɪ.əl/
an ingredient that occurs naturally in a plant and is used in skincare with the aim of preventing wrinkles

A plant extract suitable for vegans, bakuchiol offers the same anti-ageing and rejuvenating properties as retinol, but without the irritating side effects. Derived from the “babchi” plant, this natural ingredient is great to include in your skincare routine if you love the idea of retinol, but your skin can’t handle its potent properties.
[www.lookfantastic.com, 16 January 2019]

tweakment noun [C]
/ˈtwiːk.mənt/
a cosmetic procedure that is carried out by a trained specialist but does not involve surgery

“Women are no longer having to go under the knife for a more youthful look, and patients are increasingly opting for swift, non-surgical procedures,” advises Baiarda. “Lunchtime procedures with minimum recovery time are increasingly popular with young, professional women in their twenties, thirties and forties. At my clinic there has been a 300 per cent surge in lunchtime tweakments in the past year.”
[The Telegraph, 11 December 2018]

skip-care noun [U]
UK /ˈskɪp.keəʳ/ US /ˈskɪp.ker/
a skincare routine that uses a limited number of products, all of which have essential ingredients for healthy skin

Have you heard of skip-care? A trend amongst Korean millennials for finding multi-functional products which cover all bases for a more streamlined approach to skincare, it hails from Seoul (which, it has to be said, was the origin of the laborious 12-step skincare regimes that gave us this problem in the first place).
[Vogue UK, 6 November 2018]

About new words

It’s just so difficult! How to use the word ‘just’

Audtakorn Sutarmjam/EyeEm/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

Just is a really annoying word for learners of English! It’s very common and we use it in lots of different situations, often with quite different meanings. In this post, I will try to explain some of the most common ways in which we use it – not only on its own, but as a part of some common phrases.

We often use just to talk about when something happens. It can mean ‘a very short time ago’ or ‘very recently’:

I’ve just spoken to Tom. (UK)/I just spoke to Tom. (US)

They had just arrived in London. Continue reading “It’s just so difficult! How to use the word ‘just’”

New words – 18 March 2019

filadendron / E+ / GettyImages

Mamri noun [C]
/ˈmæmrɪ/
abbreviation for middle-aged man with a running injury: a man who takes up running in middle age and suffers an injury, often due to his belief that he is fitter than he actually is

Men were 45 percent more likely than women to be injured. The scientists put this down to the Mamris’ tendency to follow homemade over-ambitious training plans which put too much strain on their creaking bodies … ‘Men tend to get injured due to training errors, increasing pace and distance too quickly when they are training for an event’.
[Runner’s World (forums), 4 June 2018]

pyjama paralysis noun [U]
/pɪˈdʒɑː.mə.pəˈræl.ə.sɪs/
a condition in which an ill person, especially someone in a hospital, develops certain health problems as a result of spending too much time in bed and not enough time moving around

The chief nursing office for England, Professor Jane Cummings, has called on all health and care organisations in the country to take part in the campaign to end so-called “pyjama paralysis”. The #EndPJparalysis challenge aims to achieve one million patient days of relevant patients being dressed in day clothes and moving around over a 70-day period.
[Nursing Times, 17 April 2018]

sausage tax noun [C]
UK /ˈsɒs.ɪdʒ.tæks/ US /ˈsɑː.sɪdʒ.tæks/
an amount of money added to the price of processed meats, such as bacon and sausages, and paid to the government with the aim of reducing the consumption of these foods and therefore the associated health problems

A new meat tax may be on the way, which is already being dubbed the ‘sausage tax’, in a bid to encourage us to eat less processed meat. Under the proposed tax, a £2.50 packet of sausages would cost £4.47 which, like the recently introduced sugary drinks tax before it, would in theory drive down sales of sausages and bacon.
[The Telegraph, 7 November 2018]

About new words