Words from Indian languages

by Liz Walter
From the time the East India Company was set up by Queen Elizabeth I, England (and then Britain) has had a very close relationship with India. Although Hindi became the official language after the end of the British Raj, English is still widely used for communication between speakers of the nation’s more than 1,500 languages.

Of course, the process has not all been one way, and many words have passed from Indian languages into English, some of them so common that most people would have no idea of their origin. Shampoo, for instance, comes from a Hindi word meaning ‘to press’, and dungarees (trousers with an part that covers the chest and straps that go over the shoulders) take their name from the Hindi word for the thick cotton cloth from which they were often made. Bungalow (a house with only one level) comes from the Hindi for ‘in the Bengal style’. Continue reading “Words from Indian languages”

Not much between the ears: how to say that someone is stupid

by Liz Walter
There are many different ways of saying that someone is stupid, depending on factors such as who you are talking to, whether or not you care about offending someone, or how serious you are being.

We can describe someone who has trouble understanding things as slow or dim, but note that we almost always put words like a bit or rather in front of these words: Her husband’s a bit dim. My pupils were rather slow. A kinder way of describing a student who isn’t doing well is to use the verb struggle: My daughter struggles with maths. She’s struggling at school.

At a more advanced level, someone with a vacuous expression has little sign of intelligence in their face, while an inane remark is silly and has no real meaning.

In English, it is common to express critical ideas by using positive words in negative sentences. We say things such as: He’s not that bright. She’s not the sharpest pupil I’ve ever taught. They are the less intelligent ones. Continue reading “Not much between the ears: how to say that someone is stupid”

Valentine’s Day: How to talk about love.

by Liz Walter
February 14th is Valentine’s Day, when people all over the world express their love for one another. With that in mind, we thought it would be good to give you not only some useful words to talk about love but also the phrases or ‘word partners’ you need to use them in a natural way.

The first and most important thing you need to know is that we fall in love. Fall is really the only verb that sounds natural with love, probably because it expresses the idea of what happens to us so well. Falling in love is a kind of accident – usually a happy accident, but one that we are not able to control. We express a similar idea when we say that someone is madly in love, or even head-over-heels in love, as if love makes that person feel crazy and out of control. Continue reading “Valentine’s Day: How to talk about love.”

Gender Benders

by Hugh Rawson

In Connecticut, where I live, women’s basketball is one of the most popular sports. Many people arrange their lives around the schedule of the University of Connecticut’s women’s team.  Fans (the word is short for fanatic, by the way) don’t want to miss a game even though the outcome is rarely in much doubt.

The UConn women are good shooters, of course, but their success over the years has always depended a lot on their defensive skills. They switch between zone defenses, where players guard particular areas around their basket, and man-to-man defenses, where each player is responsible for a different member of the opposing team. And man-to-man, if you pause to think about it, is a bit odd in the context. After all, there are ten women on the floor. No men. Why don’t sportscasters say woman-to-woman or, since these are young women, girl-to-girlContinue reading “Gender Benders”