To boldly go…

to boldly go

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

Even though we like to complain about our weather, we live on a planet that almost seems to have been created specifically for humans (rather than humans having evolved to suit the conditions). Temperatures are generally moderate, and the worst effects of cosmic rays and radiation from the sun are mitigated by our atmosphere. Scientists call planets that enjoy this fortunate combination of conditions Goldilocks planets – not too hot and not too cold, but just right, as in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where Goldilocks tests three bowls of porridge until she finds the one that is just right. Goldilocks is just one of the new meanings added to the Cambridge dictionary that are connected with space exploration and colonization.

What if conditions were to change (more…)

Feeling the music, seeing the words

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by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

In May 2016 Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish virtuoso percussionist, collaborated with the Papworth Trust charity to create a very special garden for the Chelsea Flower Show, where new gardening ideas are showcased every year. Glennie, who has been profoundly deaf since the age of twelve, plays her panoply of instruments by feeling the vibrations with her body, and the inability to hear in the conventional way has never stood in the way of her musical ambitions. Deaf culture, of course, has always been about ability rather than disability, and some new words connected with Deaf culture recently added to the Cambridge Dictionary recognize this fact.

The Chelsea garden, called the “Together We Can” garden, celebrates (more…)

What planet are you on?

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by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

According to a 1992 bestseller, “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. And I always thought I was from planet Earth! The book attempted to help men and women understand each other by explaining some fundamental differences between men’s and women’s psychology, and belongs to the expanding genre of self-help literature.

The growth of psychology (more…)

cn u txt?

Acronyms speech bubble

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

The advent of social media has seen a huge increase in the use of informal abbreviations, many recently added to the Cambridge Dictionary. We have always had abbreviations, of course. Well-known examples include IOU (for “I owe you”), used to give an informal written guarantee that you will pay back a sum of money, and x for a kiss, for example at the end of a letter.

The fact of using a small screen (more…)

Bottoms up!

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by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

Have you heard the one about the vineyard in Scotland? It has never produced a drop of drinkable wine. Not a joke but, sadly, a true story. Wine from Chateau Largo, in Fife, was described as “undrinkable” – by its owner. Despite global warming, Scotland’s climate is not yet ready to make it the world’s next wine-producing region.

The wine world has expanded (more…)

Listen up, you guys!

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by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

Many of the world’s languages have more than one word for “you”. English is unusual in having just one. In other languages there is often a distinction made between singular and plural – i.e., when speaking to one person or to more than one person. For instance, in Mandarin Chinese   is singular and nǐmen is plural. Another common distinction is between informal and formal pronouns (as in  and usted in Spanish).

The distinction between singular and plural has been lost in English. Thou (more…)

Watching the detectorists

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by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

You could be forgiven for thinking that old-fashioned hobbies that don’t involve computers have fallen out of favour. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the internet has made it easier for people with specialist hobbies from different corners of the world to come together to support one another in their enthusiasms. This has generated a crop of new words, some of which are now making their first appearance in the Cambridge dictionary.

One new general word that has recently arrived in Britain from the US is hobbyist. This (more…)