Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween in Scotland, articles quiz

Read about Halloween in Scotland and at the same time test your use of articles.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Video vocabulary quiz and a look at some collective nouns

A recent post (Let's not call a spade a spade) included the expression ‘to know someone in the biblical sense’, meaning to have a sexual relationship with them. This expression is informal and is usually used humorously. In a sketch from the British TV comedy show ‘Not the nine o clock news’, 'Gerald the gorilla', there is a rather more obvious variation - ‘to live with someone in the biblical sense’, with the same meaning.
What on earth is a 'a congregation of crocodiles'. We take a look at the strange world of collective nouns.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Intensifiers are ridiculously easy to understand

This post is mainly a discussion of one intensifier - ridiculously. For a more general lesson on intensifiers, please see my new post here
The Grammarphobia Blog recently published a post where a reader complained about the use of the adverb ridiculously as a substitute for tremendously and gave this example sentence:

She’s ridiculously chic

And the writer of the blog more or less agreed with him, saying:

What you’re seeing or hearing here is the use of “ridiculously” as an intensifier meaning very, extremely, extraordinarily, and (as you point out) tremendously.

And they found what they claim is an early example of this usage, by the writer Monica Enid Dickens:

The gravel drive, where even a tired horse used to jog-trot because his stable was near, was ridiculously short.

(A drive is a small private road which connects a private house to the public road. Gravel is the very small stones sometimes used to make these roads. Jog-trot is a way a horse moves. What she's saying is that the drive was so short that even if the horse was tired it started going faster because it knew it was nearly home.)

But does ridiculously simply mean very, or perhaps very, very? Was Dickens being careless in her choice of words? Is it that ridiculously simple? I think not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let's not call a spade a spade - the language of euphemisms

Euphemisms - we all use them; when we want to be less direct, or to be diplomatic or make something nasty sound not so bad. Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary defines euphemism as 'a word or phrase used to avoid saying an unpleasant or offensive word'.

To call a spade a spade is to be very direct and to the point, even if what you say is unpleasant or impolite. In other words the exact opposite of a euphemism.

Take this quiz, which includes euphemisms old and new, and see if you can work out what they refer to.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Of scams and conspiracies - the language of climate change

An annotated rant, a look at the expression ad hominem and a vocabulary exercise based on words to do with dishonesty

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wedding vocabulary anagram quiz

This is a bit of an experiment with a new exercise format.

Two exercises to test your knowledge of the language of weddings in the English-speaking world.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Who you are is what you eat 2 - Follow up exercise

Here is a vocabulary follow-up exercise to Who you are is what you eat

Who you are is what you eat

In Britain people can have different names for certain meals, depending on their social background. It's just another example of our strange eccentricities.

Random Idea English investigates, and reminisces ...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Loop back to me and we'll touch base about this offline.

While teaching at a large bank recently, I started talking about business jargon, and more precisely business buzzwords. I said that for many native-speakers, this sort of language can be incomprehensible, sound pretentious or just sound plain ugly.
In the UK many employees say they feel cut off from management, as they haven’t a clue what management are talking about. [1]. It has got so bad that the government has even sent out a list of ‘forbidden words’ to local councils. [2]