How to use articles: another look (1)

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by Liz Walter

Back in August 2015, I wrote a post about using articles – the words a, an and the. That post has had the most hits of any published on this site, so it is obviously an area that learners of English are interested in. You can read the post here: https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2015/08/19/a-an-and-the-how-to-use-articles-in-english/.

If you are not sure about using articles, do go and read it, as it contains all the most important rules. However, looking back over it now, I’m struck by the number of interesting comments and queries, so in this post and the next one, I am going to follow up on some of these because I think (hope!) a lot of people will find the answers useful.

Continue reading “How to use articles: another look (1)”

New words – 11 December 2017

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omurice noun [C]
UK /ˈɒm.jə.raɪs/ US /ˈɑː.mjə.raɪs/
a Japanese dish consisting of an omelette filled with fried rice and topped with ketchup

A 23-year-old Japanese omurice seller who goes by Kuya Omurice on his Facebook page is a college student who sells the yummy ketchup-drizzled omelets with rice by announcing where he’s going to be for the day and carrying his goods with him in an ice bucket.
[www.geek.com, 28 July 2017]

birch water noun [C and U]
UK /bɜːtʃ ˈwɔː.tᵊr/ US /bɝːtʃ ˈwɑː.t̬ɚ/
a drink made from the sap of the birch tree, said to have health-giving properties

What, you haven’t heard of birch water? Because coconut water, aloe water, maple water and cactus water are so passe, there were several companies at Fancy Foods hawking water made from the sap of birch trees. Companies like Absolutely Wild claim that the water is rich in antioxidants and electrolytes, has “detoxifying and restorative properties” and “strengthens your body’s immunity.” 
[The Washington Post, 30 June 2017]

vegducken noun [C]
UK /vedʒ ˈdʌk.ən/ US /vedʒ ˈdʌk.ən/
a cooked dish consisting of three different types of vegetables placed inside each other

There’s no shame in not eating turkey at Thanksgiving, or ham at Christmas—that is, when you have Butternut Squash Vegducken. This vegetable stunner of an entrée is an entirely meatless take on turducken, with butternut squash, eggplant, and zucchini filling in for the usual suspects.
[www.epicurious.com, October 2015]

About new words

Introducing yourself

Yuri_Arcurs/DigitalVision/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

A visitor to this website recently asked for the sort of phrases he might use when introducing himself to people, for example in an English class. We thought we would write a blog post on the subject.

Starting with the most important piece of information, we could say ‘I’m Maria Gonzalez.’ or ‘My name is Maria Gonzalez.’ If we want to say how old we are, we simply say ‘I’m twenty-three.’ or ‘I’m twenty-three years old.’ Then we might say, for example, ‘I’m Spanish.’ or ‘I’m from Spain.’ To give more detail about where we live, we could say ‘I’m from Valencia in Spain.’ or even ‘I’m from Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.’ Continue reading “Introducing yourself”

New words – 4 December 2017

Dan Dalton/Caiaimage/Getty

Black Fiveday noun [C, usually singular]
/blæk ˈfaɪv.deɪ/
the five-day period around Thanksgiving, when shops reduce the price of goods in order to attract customers

But part of the reason for the soaring spending figures is because retailers are stretching the November promotional period for longer than ever before. Last year saw the introduction of the ghastly “Black Fiveday” to festive vocabulary as retailers started to discount from five consecutive days from the Thursday before to “Cyber Monday”.
[Sunday Telegraph, 19 November 2017]

doorbuster noun [C]
UK /ˈdɔː.bʌs.təʳ/ US /ˈdɔːr.bʌs.tɚ/
an article that is sold very cheaply in order to attract customers into a shop and make them buy other, more expensive, things

This year, in-store deals may not be quite as limited because Walmart has more than tripled the number of products available compared with last holiday season. The retailer has even done away with the wristband system used to manage its high-demand, low-supply doorbuster items.
[Yahoo! Finance, 21 November 2017]

golden quarter noun [C]
UK /ˌgəʊl.dᵊn ˈkwɔː.təʳ/ US /ˌgoʊl.dᵊn ˈkwɔːr.t̬ɚ /
the three-month period from October to December when retailers usually make the most profit

“October marked yet another reversal of fortunes for retailers, reinforcing just how volatile consumer spend has been,” said Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG. “Despite the positive picture last month, these latest figures will be a real disappointment and not the start to the golden quarter retailers had hoped for.”
[www.telegraph.co.uk, 7 November 2017]

About new words

Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2017

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Our Word of the Year for 2017 is … populism.

Choosing our Word of the Year required looking at not only the most searched-for words, but also ‘spikes’ – occasions when a word is suddenly looked up many more times than usual on or around a particular date.

On 22 January 2017, as a polarizing candidate was being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, searches for the word inauguration on the online Cambridge Dictionary spiked. But so did searches for the word populism because, on that same day, Pope Francis warned against a rising tide of populism in a widely reported interview with El Pais newspaper. In mid-March, after another high-profile interview with the pontiff – this time with the German newspaper Die Zeit – searches for populism spiked again.

Spikes can reveal what is on our users’ minds and, in what’s been another eventful year, plenty of spikes can be directly connected to news items about politics in the US (nepotism, recuse, bigotry, megalomania) and the UK (shambles, untenable, extradite). The much-anticipated Taylor Review of working practices in the UK caused the term gig economy to spike in July, and of course the spectacular solar eclipse is reflected in the spike for eclipse on 21 August.

What sets populism apart from all these other words is that it represents a phenomenon that’s both truly local and truly global, as populations and their leaders across the world wrestle with issues of immigration and trade, resurgent nationalism, and economic discontent.

Populism is described by the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘political ideas and activities that are intended to get the support of ordinary people by giving them what they want’. It includes the usage label ‘mainly disapproving’. Populism has a taint of disapproval because the –ism ending often indicates a philosophy or ideology that is being approached either uncritically (liberalism, conservatism, jingoism) or cynically (tokenism). Evidence from the Cambridge English Corpus – our 1.5-billion-word database of language – reveals that people tend to use the term populism when they think it’s a political ploy instead of genuine. Both aspects of –ism are evident in the use of populism in 2017: the implied lack of critical thinking on the part of the populace, and the implied cynicism on the part of the leaders who exploit it.

 

I wish I’d studied harder: Expressing regrets and wishes

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by Liz Walter

Nobody’s life is perfect, right? We all have things we’d like to change, or things we wish hadn’t happened. This post is about the way we express those feelings, and in particular the tenses we use, as learners of English (very understandably!) often make mistakes with them.

There are two basic phrases we use to express regrets and wishes: I wish and If only … .

When you are talking about situations that exist in the present, the strange thing you need to remember is that you talk about the situation in the past simple: Continue reading “I wish I’d studied harder: Expressing regrets and wishes”

New words – 27 November 2017

Westend61/Getty

screen fatigue noun [U]
/ˈskriːn fəˌtiːg/
the situation where people feel they spend too much time reading text on an e-reader, tablet, etc.

Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales. 
[The Guardian, 27 April 2017]

Rovable noun [C]
UK /ˈrəʊvə.bᵊl/ US /ˈroʊvə.bᵊl/
a very small robot that can be worn on your body and carry out a number of different tasks

In the future, the researchers imagine that Rovables might shrink to the size of a fingernail. Picture lots of robots scurrying around your clothes on a programmed routine: onto your limbs to track your movements at the gym, up to your neck to let you take an incoming call, then over to your back to flash lights while you bike home from work in the dark.
[www.newscientist.com, 21 October 2016]

digital notepad noun [C]
UK /ˈdɪdʒ.ɪ.tᵊl ˈnəʊt.pæd/ US /ˈdɪdʒ.ə.t̬ᵊl ˈnoʊt.pæd/
a small computer with a special screen you can write or draw on, using a type of pen called a stylus

The ReMarkable digital notepad produced by a Norwegian company is a revolution on the tablets market … The first digital paper tablet for reading, writing and sketching was produced. ReMarkable has a digital paper display without screen glare, and a higher-friction surface. 
[www.technicalprogressnews.com, 1 June 2017]

About new words

Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)

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by Kate Woodford

I recently wrote about phrasal verbs that we use to describe managing problems. While I was researching this area, I started to think more widely about the language of solutions.  I noticed how many words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

The first word that comes to mind is panacea. People often say that something is not a panacea for a particular problem, meaning it will not magically cure that problem. The idea here is that the problem is more complicated or varied than people sometimes assume: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems. A phrase with a very similar meaning is silver bullet or its variant magic bullet. Again, a silver/magic bullet is a solution that is too simple or too general for a complicated and varied problem. It is usually used in the phrase ‘There is no silver bullet for…’: The fact is, there is no silver bullet for managing water shortages. Continue reading “Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)”

New words – 20 November 2017

Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty

femoir noun [C]
/ˈfem.wɑːʳ/
a book or other piece of writing based on a female writer’s personal knowledge and experiences, written from a feminist viewpoint

Tracey Spicer says women must speak up on entrenched gender discrimination, take charge of personal finances and shun gruelling beauty routines. The esteemed journalist and author of the self dubbed ‘femoir’ The Good Girl Stripped Bare has shaken off internet trolls and continues to call out sexism in the workplace.
[www.theconstantinvestor.com, 27 April 2017]

equel noun [C]
/ˈiː.kwəl/
a book that features some elements of a previous book, such as characters and places, but tells a separate story that is not connected

So … is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is… an ‘equel’. It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise, and characters they’ve met before.
[www.independent.co.uk, 14 February 2017]

flybrary noun [C]
UK /ˈflaɪ.brər.i/ US /ˈflaɪ.brer.i/
a collection of books at an airport or on an aeroplane that people can borrow to read during their flight

Easyjet is placing thousands of children’s classics on planes during the summer holidays … in an initiative it calls “flybraries” … Kids can read the books on the flight (let’s hope, for a change, for delays, so they can finish) and, when they land, download free samples of other classics for the beach.
[The Sunday Times, 23 July 2017]

About new words

Vertebrae, bacteria and cacti: Forming plurals in English 2

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by Liz Walter

Last month I looked at the basic rules for forming plurals in English . In this post, I look at some more complex cases, where the words come from Latin and Greek.

A large proportion of English words have Latin or Greek roots. We still use the Latin plurals for many words, particularly in scientific language, although it is acceptable to use English plurals (usually with ‘s’ or ‘es’) for some of them, particularly non-technical words such as stadium or cactus. However, this depends on the English plural being simple to pronounce – the plural of crisis is always crises, probably because ‘crisises’ is so difficult to say. Continue reading “Vertebrae, bacteria and cacti: Forming plurals in English 2”