Fifteen minutes of fame

Credit: Getty Images

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

The pop artist Andy Warhol once said that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Now it seems that the future has arrived: reality TV stars, rappers, chefs, and minor sports players now qualify for celebrity status. Celebs or slebs (to give them their slightlydisparaging but affectionate moniker) range from A-listto Z-list, but anyone can dream of enjoying the celebrity lifestyle, even without an invitation to a red-carpet event or black-tie party.

The accoutrements of the super-wealthy (more…)

How do you spell a sneeze?

sneeze

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

Not everything we say forms part of the regular English repertoire of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on. Some can barely even be described as words, since they don’t follow the typical rules of English spelling. What do you say when you want to announce your presence discreetly to someone who hasn’t noticed you come in? In English you would make a kind of throat-clearing noise. Or when you want to express disapproval of something so bad that it doesn’t deserve a comment?

(more…)

Thank you for the regift!

upcycle

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

Millions of tons of waste go to landfill every year, despite efforts to persuade us to recycle more. Of course there is an important green agenda here, but in these recessionary times it makes sense to cut back on waste and unnecessary consumption to save money. These changes in consumers’ habits have brought with them new additions to the Cambridge Dictionary.

One area where people are making changes is in giving presents. Have you ever (more…)

Down with skool!

spelling

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

English is famously difficult to spell, although its uniqueness in this respect has been considerably exaggerated. The often-quoted ghoti as a spelling of fish (gh as in tough, o as in women, and ti as in nation) would never be possible, as the values attached to those letters are dependent on their position in the word. It is true that there are some unnecessary complications, though, and there have been attempts over the years to simplify English orthography. Not many (more…)

The sharing economy: Part 2

P2P

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

In my previous post we looked at some aspects of the sharing economy, made possible by Web 2.0 technology. This time we’ll look at new words connected with the sharing of data and content between users who are not trying to sell anything – or at least don’t appear to be. This type of sharing is sometimes called P2P, or peer-to-peer, although strictly speaking P2P involves a specific type of relationship between computers on a network, rather than using a central server.

At a simple level (more…)

The sharing economy: Part 1

C2C

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, could he have foreseen how radically it would change our lives? Web 2.0 – a name for all the internet features, websites, and apps that allow users to create, change, and share internet content – has brought about a revolution in (amongst other things) the way our economy works. Like most advances in technology, it brings a new set of words with it, and some of these have recently made their appearance for the first time in the Cambridge dictionary.

You may have used websites or apps like eBay, Uber, and Airbnb. These are (more…)

The indispensable @

at sign

by Colin McIntosh About words: A blog from Cambridge Dictionaries

One of the least used keys on the keyboard is now one of the most indispensable: @.

It is read as at, but the symbol itself has no proper name in English. The at symbol seems to be the only generally recognized way of referring to it.

Traditionally it was used in financial records to show the price of a particular item on a list, and read as at:

50 units @ £4.75

Now it has found (more…)