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…)

Fifteen minutes of fame

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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…)