Library or bookshop? Fabric or factory? Avoiding common false friends

by Liz Walter


Sometimes words look the same or similar in two different languages but have different meanings. We call these words ‘false friends’ because they seem as though they will be ‘friendly’ and easy to learn, but they trick us into making mistakes. In this post, I will discuss a few false friends with English: I have tried to pick ones that are problematic for speakers of several other languages. Continue reading “Library or bookshop? Fabric or factory? Avoiding common false friends”

New words – 4 February 2019

Thomas M Scheer / EyeEm / Getty

rosehip neuron noun [C]
UK /ˌrəʊz.hɪp.ˈnjʊə.rɒn/ US /ˌroʊz.hɪp.ˈnʊr.ɑːn/
a type of human brain cell with a distinctive appearance that looks similar to a rosehip (the fruit of the rose plant)

One reason rosehip neurons eluded neuroscientists for so long is likely because the cells are so rare in the brain, Bakken said. Another reason, he added, is because human brain tissue is difficult for scientists to obtain for study. Indeed, in the study, the researchers examined only one layer of the brain. It’s possible, however, that rosehip neurons could be found in other layers, too, Bakken said.
[Live Science, 27 August 2018]

scutoid noun [C]
UK /ˈskjuː.tɔɪd/ US /ˈskuː.tɔɪd/
a three-dimensional shape found in skin cells

What matters is that mathematicians had never before conceived of the scutoid, much less given it a name. What matters even more is that scutoids turn out to be everywhere, especially in living things. The shape, however odd, is a building block of multicellular organisms; complex life might never have emerged on Earth without it.
[The New Yorker, 30 July 2018]

interstitium noun [C]
UK /ɪn.təˈstɪʃ.əm/ US /ɪn.tɚˈstɪʃ.əm/
a human organ made up of spaces filled with fluid situated in and between tissue and other organs

Remarkably, the interstitium had previously gone unnoticed despite being one of the largest organs in the human body … The researchers realised traditional methods for examining body tissues had missed the interstitium because the “fixing” method for assembling medical microscope slides involves draining away fluid – therefore destroying the organ’s structure.
[, 28 March 2018]

About new words

It makes my blood boil! (The language of anger)

Tania Bondar/iStock/Getty Images Plus/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

Anger solves nothing, or so they say. Whether or not this is true, we all feel angry now and then. You probably already know the angry synonyms annoyed and irritated, but perhaps you’d like a more interesting range of expressions to describe this feeling? If so, read on! Continue reading “It makes my blood boil! (The language of anger)”

New words – 28 January 2019

Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty

Blue Monday
noun [C]
the third Monday in January, said to be the most depressing day of the year

Arnall devised a literal mathematical formula to arrive at the Blue Monday theory. It factors in weather, debt and time since Christmas, timing of New Year’s resolutions, low motivational levels, and the urgent feeling that you need to take action. It also reflects that Monday is regarded as the worst day of the week with many dreading the prospect of returning to work.
[, 15 January 2019]

Continue reading “New words – 28 January 2019”

Divulging and disclosing (The language of giving information)


by Kate Woodford

We tell each other things all the time, whether it’s our news, some important information or just interesting facts. This week we’re focusing on the language that we use to describe giving information.

Starting with a really useful phrasal verb, if you pass on a message or a piece of news that someone has told you, you tell it to someone else:

Remember to pass on my message to Ted.

No one passed the news on to me.

The verb relay means the same: He heard the announcement and immediately relayed the news to his colleagues.

Sometimes we pass on information to lots of people. The verb spread is often used for this. It frequently comes before the nouns gossip and rumour:

I hope you’re not spreading gossip, Alice!

He’d apparently been spreading rumours about her around the school.

Spread’ is also used intransitively to describe the way that information quickly becomes known by lots of people: So why does fake news spread so quickly?

The verb circulate is also used in this way: News of her retirement quickly circulated around the office.

Another verb meaning ‘to tell information to a lot of people’ is broadcast. People use it especially about information that they would prefer to be private: I’d rather my news wasn’t broadcast to the entire office!

The more formal verb disseminate is also used, but without the negative meaning: One of the organization’s aims is to disseminate information about the disease.

Other words mean ‘to give secret information’, for example reveal, divulge and (formal) disclose:

He wouldn’t reveal what was written in the letter.

When asked, she refused to divulge her salary.

They made an agreement not to disclose any details.

An informal phrasal verb with this meaning is let on. If you let on, you tell others about something secret: Please don’t let on that I told you she’s leaving!

Another phrasal verb is blurt out. If you blurt out a secret fact, you say it suddenly and without thinking, usually because you’re nervous or excited: I was supposed to be keeping it secret and then I just blurted it out!

There are two nice idioms for giving secret information. If you let the cat out of the bag or spill the beans, you tell people something that should have been secret:

I wasn’t going to tell anyone about my plans but Anita let the cat out of the bag.

So who spilled the beans about Daniel’s promotion?

Be careful what you divulge this week!

New words – 21 January 2019

Johanna Cuomo / EyeEm / Getty

green screen noun [C]
a large steel grid densely covered with ivy thought to act as a barrier to air pollution

Schools are being pressured into buying expensive ‘green screens’ to shield children from air pollution despite concerns that they are not the best solution and may make little overall difference to health … More than a dozen schools in London, Manchester and Leeds have already installed green screens and at least 30 more have applied to the Greater London Authority for grants of up to £35,000 to buy them after they were recommended by air quality audits.
[The Times, 27 October 2018]

precipitation whiplash noun [U]
UK /prɪˌsɪp.ɪˈteɪ.ʃən.ˈwɪp.læʃ/ US /priːˌsɪp.əˈteɪ.ʃən.ˈwɪp.læʃ/
a period of very dry weather followed by a period of very wet weather, thought to be caused by the effects of climate change

Abrupt transitions in California from a parched winter to a soggy one … will become more common if greenhouse gases continue to increase, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change. This “precipitation whiplash” has implications for both wildfire and flood risk.
[, 23 April 2018]

climate gentrification noun [U]
UK /ˈklaɪ.mət.ˌdʒen.trɪ.fɪˈkeɪ.ʃən/ US /ˈklaɪ.mət.ˌdʒen.trə.fəˈkeɪ.ʃən/
the process by which a place that is thought to be less at risk of the effects of climate change turns from a poor area to a richer one

The study finds considerable evidence of climate gentrification, and for the elevation hypothesis in particular. Properties at high elevations have experienced rising values, while those at lower elevations have declined in value. In fact, elevation had a positive effect on price appreciation in more than three-quarters of the properties and 24 of the 25 separate jurisdictions the authors examined.
[, 11 July 2018]

About new words

The life and soul of the party (How we behave at social events)

Tara Moore/DigitalVision/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

How do your friends behave at social events? Is one of them the life and soul of the party, chatting, laughing and dancing with everyone? Or perhaps you know a party pooper, someone who spoils other people’s enjoyment by refusing to join in and have fun. This week we’re looking at language that relates to spending time with other people socially. Continue reading “The life and soul of the party (How we behave at social events)”

New words – 14 January 2019

Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty

anxiety consumerism noun [U]
UK /æŋˈzaɪ.ə.ti.kənˈsjuː.mə.rɪ.zəm/ US /æŋˈzaɪ.ə.t̬i.kənˈsuː.mɚ.ɪ.zəm/
the situation in a society where a large number of products designed to ease anxiety are available to buy

Have you heard of the latest trend hitting the retail industry? It’s called anxiety consumerism … The past few years have seen a jump in sales for products such as adult coloring books and essential oils and diffusers. And more recently, for products like fidget spinners and weighted blankets – this time with marketing aimed more towards the younger group suffering from this mental health condition.
[, 27 September 2018]

magic point of sale noun [C]
a shop or e-commerce site where customers can use new technologies such as augmented reality to browse and test products before they buy them

In 2018, consumers expect to summon retail experiences as they would a genie from a lamp, called forth from a smartphone, personal assistant, smart speaker, or even from the physical environment itself. That means summoning an on-demand magic point of sale that allows them to engage with your brand, browse products, test and purchase in innovative new ways.
[, August 2018]

care commerce noun [U]
UK /keəʳ.ˈkɒm.ɜːs/ US /ker.ˈkɑː.mɝːs/
the services offered by companies that allow the products they sell to last longer

Stores will help consumers to preserve their purchases, known as care commerce … Brands are beginning to capitalise on this trend. Nike has installed sneaker dry-cleaning and engraving services in its Moscow flagship and French luxury brand Hermès has popped up around the globe with … laundrettes offering a free dry cleaning and dyeing service for owners of its iconic silk scarves.
[, 21 December 2017]

About new words

I’m hoping to become a vet: talking about our future lives

Topic Images Inc./Topic Images/Getty Images

by Liz Walter

It is common to ask young people about their hopes and plans for the future. This post looks at some words and phrases you can use to respond to such questions.

We often use the general phrases I’m hoping/planning to … or I’d like to … :

I’m hoping to become a vet.

I’d like to live abroad for a few years.

Continue reading “I’m hoping to become a vet: talking about our future lives”

New words – 7 January 2019

AlexZabusik / iStock / Getty Images Plus

groomsmaid noun [C]
a female friend of a man who is getting married who has special duties at the wedding

Actress Christina Hendricks has landed an odd job at her former Mad Men castmate Michael Gladis’ upcoming wedding – she’ll serve as a “groomsmaid”. The actress will dress like one of bride-to-be Beth Behrs’ bridesmaids, but take care of all the last-minute things Gladis needs. “I’m sort of there as one of the best men…,” she tells talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
[, 10 April 2018]

buddymoon noun [C]
a honeymoon to which the married couple’s friends are invited

One honeymoon option becoming increasingly popular is the buddymoon, or a honeymoon where you bring your gang along for the ride. And while many brides are hesitant to take the most romantic trip of their lives … with their friends, others are embracing the trend and starting off their new life not only alongside their soulmate, but with the others in closest to them.
[, 24 November 2017]

sten do noun [C]
a party or other celebration for a man and woman who are going to get married, to which both the bride’s and groom’s friends are invited: a blend of ‘stag do’ and ‘hen do’

We are choosing to have a sten do, because our interests lie in similar activities, and we feel that the premise of traditional hen and stag dos is outdated. So many of our friends have reminded us that it’s our last night of freedom. We’re already committed to each other, and living with one another – what would we do on a hen or stag do that we wouldn’t normally do together?
[Metro, 16 May 2018]

About new words