Tag Archives: vocabulary

757. Setting up my new Pod-Room / DIY (Do It Yourself) Vocabulary & Expressions

Describing how I am setting up my new pod-room with a couple of stories and plenty of vocabulary for talking about DIY and doing improvements to your home. Vocabulary list available.

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Episode Notes & Transcript

Hello listeners, welcome to LEP#757. In this one I am going to talk to you about how I am setting up my new podcasting room (is it an office, is it a studio?) and I’m going to teach you some vocabulary related to doing practical work with your hands at home.

Just before we start I just want to say hello properly to everyone in LEPland and deal with a little bit of podcast admin. 

Hello

I hope you’re doing well. It’s been over 2 weeks since I published the last episode because of the house move (I moved house a few weeks ago). If you’re wondering how that’s going – I’ll talk about it a bit in this episode, but let’s just say that the phrase my wife and I have been using over and over is “it’s coming along” which means we are making progress, bit by bit, slowly but surely – unpacking our stuff from boxes, setting up the new place, getting things sorted out such as an internet connection at home and the important appliances like a cooker, a washing machine etc. Things are getting slightly less chaotic every day. Also I was ill for week (not COVID thankfully) which didn’t help. Anyway, if you’ve been waiting patiently for a new episode – thanks for waiting. If you’ve been waiting impatiently, I’ll still say thanks for waiting. Things are still up in the air so I can’t get back into the usual podcasting routine yet, which means there might be another delay after I publish this episode, but when I have my new podcast room set up and have done lots of other things that need doing, normal podcasting will resume. Hopefully this slowdown has allowed a lot of you to catch up with me.

3 of announcements and bits of admin before we start properly:

  1. Premium subscribers – I am currently working (when I can) on P33 parts 3 & 4 which are turning into quite substantial episodes. Part 3 is all about word families, parts of speech and word stress patterns. That means how word stress patterns can change from the noun form of a word to the adjective, verb and adverb forms etc. (Politics – politician – political – politically, Economics – economist – economic – economically, architecture – architect – architectural – architecturally, etc) Part 4 will be pronunciation drills with full sentences, not just words on their own. So that’s coming soon to LEP Premium. If you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get all those episodes – go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo to get all the info. If you ever have problems with the registration process – try using other browsers, and not on a mobile phone.
  2. Spotify listeners – hello! Recently loads of my episodes disappeared on Spotify. I don’t know if you noticed but episodes 1-664 just disappeared. Well, they should be back now or soon. It was just an automatic update which changed some settings, but those settings have now been reset. So everything should be normal, the episodes should be available again and you should be able to listen on Spotify as usual. In any case you can always get all the episodes in the LEP App which you can download free from the app store on your phone (just search for Luke’s English Podcast App). That’s the whole episode archive, plus about 10 bonus episodes which are only available in the app, all the mini phrasal verb episodes, some music and videos and access to the premium content too if you have a subscription.
  3. OPP – If you’re looking for other things to listen to while waiting for new episodes of LEP at the moment, you could check out my appearances on several other podcasts. Recently several of my podcast friends reached milestone episodes and they both chose to invite me as a guest as a way of marking the occasion. Apparently I am the pod-father. First of all, Rock n’ Roll English hosted by Martin Johnston – he reached episode 250 recently and invited me on to have a chat about the ins and outs of making podcasts for learners of English and it’s a typically funny and unfiltered conversation. That’s episode 250 of Rock n’ Roll English. Also Zdenek’s English Podcast reached episode 400 recently and Zdenek invited me as a guest. I love the way Zdenek and Martin decided to pay their dues to the podfather in this way! I had an epic chat with Zdenek about loads of things including how his podcast has been inspired by mine in some ways and about the development of him as a teacher and podcaster. I think it’s a good conversation with insights about various things including what it’s like making podcast content and how confidence develops, the creative process and generally another inside look into podcasting for learners of English. Check them out – you will find links on the page for this episode. 2 other episodes of other people’s podcasts you could check out.


This is an episode about DIY – or Do It Yourself

This is not an episode about how you can teach yourself English, although I could talk about that a bit, later in the episode.

DIY is a common expression in English, meaning Do It Yourself and it relates to doing practical work at home. 

People talk about doing DIY. We say things like “I’m going to do some DIY this weekend” “I’ve been doing some DIY”, “I did a bit of DIY at the weekend”,  “I’m no good at doing DIY” “My husband does all the DIY in our house” “My wife tends to handle all the DIY because I’m rubbish at it, etc etc”. 

DIY (Do It Yourself) means all the practical work that you might do at home from time to time – the things we do in order to make improvements to our home. I’m talking about things like putting up shelves, painting & decorating, fixing things and other similar work that you do to improve your own home without having to call someone in to do it for you, like a plumber, carpenter, decorator or electrician. You don’t call someone in to do it, you do it yourself. DIY.

It’s the sort of thing you might do at the weekend. Putting up shelves seems to be the most common example of DIY as far as I can tell. Putting up shelves – that thing that seems so simple on paper, but in reality is the sort of thing that can bring a person to their knees – and I don’t mean kneeling down in order to do some work, but to kneel down in a desperate plea to the gods of (what – wood? Screwdrivers?) in order to beg for mercy because your attempt to put up the shelves is proving to be too difficult a task. What do you mean, Luke? I mean, doing DIY, for example, putting up shelves can be a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

As I said, on paper it doesn’t seem that bad, but to do it right you have to do it properly. You have to read up on how to put up shelves, maybe watch some tutorials online, then plan a specific time to do it, go to the hardware shop or DIY shop to get all the right materials and tools. You put on some old clothes, maybe prepare an area of the home where you’re going to do your work and make sure no pets or children go anywhere near it, you get the stepladder out, and then you try and actually put some shelves on the wall, or build something or whatever, and if you’re not very good at it, if you’re not a practical person, it can be stressful and you end up making a total mess of it, and you hit your thumb with a hammer and then you start swearing and maybe break something and fall off the ladder, and have an argument with your spouse or something and then just give up and go to the pub or something. It depends how handy you are, how practical you are or not. For many of you, this isn’t a problem and the idea of putting up shelves being diffiult is laughable to you. I don’t know your life. 

But I do know, that DIY is a very common thing in life and surely this is something that unites all of us to some degree. Either because we all have to do DIY sometimes, or at least we know someone who has to do DIY and it’s just a thing that happens in our lives. Do you know all the English that you need to talk about DIY? The tools, the verbs, the specific phrases for all of it? That’s what I’m dealing with here. 

The reason I’m doing this episode right now might be obvious for those of you who are regular listeners. I have just moved into a new flat and also I’m setting up a new office/studio for myself and this is involving a lot of this kind of work. 

In fact, this is what is taking up most of my time at the moment, which is why the podcast has been a bit delayed recently. When I’m not teaching English classes at the British Council or spending time with my wife and daughter doing family things, I’m working on the flat and working the office. 

What I’m going to do in this episode, then, is:

  1. Describe exactly what I’ve been doing in the office and talk about how I’m trying to set it up as a good base for my podcast work. I’m going to describe the DIY I’ve been doing.
  2. Go through a vocabulary list of various words and phrases for talking about the fascinating subject of DIY.

Setting Up The Pod-Room

  • What is it?
  • Where is it?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it need to be?
  • What are you doing with it?

Tell us about the shelves you put up, in as much detail as possible.

Vocabulary – DIY

Putting up shelves

  • Tape measure – to measure things (length, depth, width, height, distance from x to y etc)
  • Spirit level – to check that things are level (horizontally or vertically)
  • Pencil – to mark lines or crosses/spots 
  • A drill – to drill holes (into thing)
  • A cordless drill
  • Battery / battery pack – charge it regularly
  • Drill bits (different bits for different materials) – to drill holes of the right size / to drill (into)
  • Types of material – masonry (stone and brick), wood panels (MDF, chipboard, wood (pine, oak etc)
  • Wall plugs / Rawlplugs – to hold screws in place and prevent damage to the walls (you push them into the holes and then when you screw in the screw, the plug expands inside the hole and grips the inside of the hole, preventing the screw from falling out) they ensure a tight and secure fit for screws in material which is brittle or porous.
  • Screws – screw them into the wall or into wood to attach things
  • Nails – hammer them into the wall or wood to attach things
  • Screwdriver – to screw in screws, or unscrew screws
  • Electric screwdriver / power screwdriver – a convenient way to screw screws
  • Hammer – to hammer nails or pull nails out of walls
  • Mallet / rubber mallet – to hammer other things, without causing damage. You can use a mallet to hammer rawl plugs into the holes, for example.
  • Pliers – to hold things firmly, to grip things
  • A saw – to saw wood (handsaw, hacksaw, etc)
  • Sandpaper – to sand things and make them smooth or take off rough edges – like wood, dried filler or rough patches of paint
  • A plane – to remove layers of wood
  • File – to rub against wood (usually) and change the shape, remove layers (e.g. if a door sticks and doesn’t close properly)
  • Rags – to wipe things, clean things, dust things (remove dust)
  • Dustpan and brush – to clean up dust and other bits and pieces
  • A multi-tool – a convenient thing to help you do lots of things, including cut your arm off if it gets trapped under a rock in the desert 

Painting

  • Paint – to cover surfaces, to coat surfaces, to add colour, to make things look nice
  • Layers of paint or coat:
  • Primer – to prepare the wood by covering dark colours or patches, prevents things from leaking through (like some oil or sap which comes from knots in the wood) and makes the surface smooth (MDF is absorbent so the primer helps to stop the MDF from absorbing all your paint – it also causes wood fibres to stand up, so you can then sand them down) etc 
  • Sealer – seals the wood and creates a watertight layer
  • Undercoat 
  • Topcoat
  • Types of paint, with different appearances:
  • Matt (flat surface, low “sheen”, not reflective, harder to wash, prone to marks and scuffs, easy to add other coats without showing up brush strokes) 
  • Eggshell / satin (higher level of “sheen” than matt, easier to wipe than matt, more durable than matt)
  • Gloss (highly reflective, has a very high “sheen” level, sometimes used in kitchens because it can be wiped clean and is therefore a bit more hygienic)
  • Oil-based paint
  • Water-based paint
  • A brush – to apply paint to things 
  • A roller – to apply paint evenly and conveniently to large surfaces
  • A tin/tub of paint – the containers the paint comes in
  • Masking tape – to cover parts which you don’t want to paint, like skirting boards, windows, handles etc
  • Plastic sheets – to cover and protect the floor from drops of paint

That’s it!

When the pod-room is set up and I have a proper internet connection (and maybe a new computer) I will be doing podcasts with videos like in 2021 and you will be able to see the amazing and inspiring work I did on the shelves 😂

Speak to you soon! Bye bye bye…

750. An Unedited Ramble / How to talk about Being Busy in English

In this unedited episode I share some of the thoughts that have been running through my head, talk about being busy and look at some vocabulary to describe busy times in your life. Video version available.

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Vocabulary Notes

How to talk about being busy in English

1. The word “busy”

Pronunciation

/bɪzi/ “Bizzy” – like “business”

Not “Buzzy”

Collocations

  • A busy time
  • To be extremely busy
  • To be busy with something
  • To be busy +ing
  • To be too busy + infinitive
  • awfully, extremely, really, terribly, very | exceptionally, particularly | desperately, frantically | a bit, fairly, pretty, quite, rather | constantly

2. Expressions for when you have too many things to do and you don’t have time for everything

  • To have a lot to do (It’s possessive have, so don’t put it in the continuous form)
  • To have an awful lot to do, to have a hell of a lot to do
  • To have a lot of things to doTo have loads of things to do
  • To have tons of things to do
  • To have a lot on
  • To have a lot going on
  • To be rushed off your feet = Always in a hurry because you have so many things to do
  • To be up to your ears/neck in work, admin, marking, assessments
  • To be under a lot of pressure
  • To work well under pressure
  • To be snowed under (with something)
  • To be swamped (with)
  • To be overwhelmed
  • To have your hands full
  • To have a lot on your plate

A busy time

  • A full day/month/year
  • Hectic
  • It’s all go (go go)
  • Things are a bit mad/crazy/hectic/Full-on
  • (to be in) a mad rush

3. Expressions for when being busy is good, because having time on your hands and doing nothing is bad

  • To keep yourself busy
  • I’m keeping myself busy

That’s all for this episode. Speak to you next time! Bye bye bye…

739. The Escaped Man by CT Platt (Learn English with Short Stories)

Reading a short story presented on Commaful.com. The Escaped Man is a mystery full of tension and intrigue. Listen closely as I break it all down and explain the vocabulary fully. YouTube video version also available.

Audio Version

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Introduction Transcript & Links

Hello listeners and video viewers,

It’s time to do another story on the podcast. This time I’m going to be reading a story called The Escaped Man which was written by CT Platt and is presented on the Commaful website.

Commaful.com is a website where you can find short stories, fan fiction and other reading texts and it’s all presented in quite a nice and easy-to-read format.

I’m going to read the story to you once and all you have to do is follow it, and hopefully enjoy it. I have a couple of questions for you to help you stay focused on your listening.

Then I’ll read through the story again and break it down line by line, explaining, pointing out and teaching you bits of vocabulary and grammar as I go.

Learning English through stories is a great idea and tends to work because it places language in a vivid context and is generally quite entertaining and fun.

So listen to the story and then let me break all the language down for you bit by bit.

Just before I read the story, here are a couple of questions for you.

Where does the story take place? How do you know?
Is this American English or British English? How do you know?
What is going to happen next?

OK, let’s start.

commaful.com/play/lisa/the-escaped-man/

Full Script of the Story

www.wattpad.com/543021670-suspense-stories-the-escaped-man-c-t-platt-2017

729. TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test (with Josh MacPherson from TSTPrep.com)

Talking to Josh MacPherson about tips and advice for taking TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test. YouTube version also available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, here is an episode about English Tests like TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test which I hope will still be an interesting episode even for those who have no plans to take one of these tests. I’m joined by online English teacher Josh MacPherson. I guess you have heard of TOEFL, and the Duolingo English Test is a test made by Duolingo, that company which helps you learn languages on your phone, and which seems to be managed by a green cartoon owl, who is some kind of master of learning English. They make a test now, and it’s getting really big.

Some time is spent describing the tests but we don’t just spend an hour describing TOEFL. Most of the time we are doing samples from the test, commenting on my performance in a TOEFL speaking task, discussing testing methods in general and giving comments on ways to perform well, particularly in the speaking parts of a test like TOEFL and IELTS.

Also, tests should be reliable and having genuinely good English skills should (of course) cause you to get decent results, so a lot of the tips relating to getting a better score are also generally good tips for improving your level of English, so even if you’re not planning to take one of these tests, the tips and advice here should be applicable to your English anyway.

There is a video version of this episode on YouTube and you can see Josh’s screen and can observe our conversation as if you are taking part in a Zoom call with us. You can find the video on the page for this episode or on my YouTube channel.

Again, the audio is not tip top this time round and that was caused by things like microphone echo, which I have managed to fix, but in any case I think you can still hear everything clearly.

That’s it, I hope you enjoy it and you will find all the links you need on the page for this episode on my website.

Let’s get started

I am joined today by Josh MacPherson from TSTPrep.com and the TST Prep YouTube channel.

Josh is an English teacher who specialises in helping learners of English prepare for English tests, particularly TOEFL and also the fairly new DuoLingo English Test.

I thought I’d interview Josh to find out more about these tests and to get some tips from him about how to get the best result that you can.

Also, we’re going to do some test questions during this interview, so we can see how well I perform in these tests too.

Links

Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Josh for his contribution to this episode.

Don’t forget, links are available on the page for this episode for all the things Josh mentioned there including test practice, sample answers, tips and videos.

Thank you as ever for listening all the way up to this point.

There’s not much more for me to add here. I haven’t played the guitar on the podcast lately, but I will be coming back to that soon, but for now I will just wish you a fond farewell and until next time, good bye bye bye bye bye

720. How Fred Learns Vocabulary with the New York Times Spelling Bee (with Fred Eyangoh)

Fred often plays spelling games on his phone during his lunch break, and he has discovered lots of new words as a result. In this episode I talk to Fred about his process of discovering and understanding new words and I talk about learning vocabulary with online dictionaries.

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Hello listeners, 

I hope you are doing well out there in all the various parts of LEPland. Are you ready for a new episode? Yes, you are? That’s why you’re listening to this? Yes, that makes sense. It would be pretty weird if you had pressed play on this episode and thought “Wait wait! I’m not ready! I must immediately reasses my life choices. What am I doing?” I’m assuming you’re ready for this episode, and that you are fully on-board and prepared mentally, physically and spiritually for another dose of English.

This episode is called How Fred Learns Vocabulary with the New York Times Spelling Bee.

Fred Eyangoh is my guest for this one and he is a returning guest, as some longer-term listeners might remember. Fred has been on the podcast a few times before. Basically, I know Fred from doing stand-up comedy at English language comedy shows in Paris. He’s a stand up comedian, like me. Fred is also a bit of a movie geek and he loves to talk about films of various kinds. His last appearance on this podcast was when we talked about Avengers Endgame a couple of years ago.

But this episode is not about films. We decided instead to talk about how Fred expands his vocabulary in English using the New York Times Spelling Bee. 

Do you know what a spelling bee is? It’s not an insect that is good at spelling words and making honey. No. A spelling bee is basically a spelling competition. Often spelling bees are done in the USA in schools. 

But the New York Times Spelling Bee is basically just a spelling game that they publish in their daily newspaper, and it’s for adults or students, not children. It’s the sort of thing you can do on your lunch break or while commuting to work or college or something and it involves trying to spell as many words as possible from a limited number of letters.

In case you’re wondering, the ‘bee’ part in ‘spelling bee’ is nothing to do with the insects that make honey. The word bee here is actually derived from the middle-English word ‘bene’ (spelled B E N E, and middle-English is not used any more of course) which basically meant when neighbours get together to do an activity that helps someone. A sort of group activity in which everyone gets together to help someone in the community. Somehow along the way this word became associated only with these competitions designed to help kids improve their spelling, and the word ended up being spelled “bee”. As far as I know, there are no other uses of the word “bee” like this. So, you can just learn the phrase “spelling bee” to mean a spelling competition.

So, this episode is all about ways to expand your vocabulary. Recently Fred has found that this little spelling game has introduced him to various new words, and this has been an inroad into English for him, so we decided to talk about it on the podcast.

The overall point here is that there are many ways to expand your vocabulary. You can come across words while reading books or articles, you can find them by listening to podcasts, you can find them by checking transcripts and by using subtitles, by playing computer games, by checking song lyrics, or by playing word games. There are probably other ways that you can think of. There are many ways to come across new words.

I should say that as well as doing these word games, Fred is also a big reader of books and a film nerd. He watches loads of films and TV series in English and investigates the English he hears (or sees if he has the subtitles on) and when he came to the flat to record this episode he had a copy of Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Caroll which he had been reading, and that book is full of word play, poetry and little jokes. So, there are many ways that Fred gets English into his life, but in this episode we’re focusing on how Fred uses this particular little spelling game.

This leads to some discussion about the steps I think you should take when discovering new words, and this relates to one of the recommendations made by Michael from Poland which was to use certain online monolingual English/English dictionaries because they help you to find not only definitions of new words, examples and correct pronunciation but also plenty of synonyms and as you explore the definitions of words you end up discovering other words and it all expands outwards like the branches of a tree.

So this is the overall point – find words in whichever way that you enjoy, but try to go a bit further and explore those words using good English/English dictionaries. Notice how one word leads to another, notice what kind of words they are (nouns, adjectives, verbs etc) and how they fit into a sentence (including which other words they usually go with or collocate with, like certain prepositions, and if they are followed by certain forms like -ing verbs or infinitive verbs), notice how the words are pronounced and if there are several acceptable ways to say them, make note of the spelling and watch out for discrepancies between the spelling and pronunciation, consider if the words are from a specific register (e.g. medical language, legal language, old-fashioned literary language or just general English), if they tend to be from American English or British English. All that information is available from a good dictionary. Also, perhaps consider recording your new words in a notebook or a flashcard app like anki, try to use new words yourself and then try to notice the words again and again as you keep listening and reading. That’s the overall point of this episode.

This is a conversation between two people and so you are going to hear the usual moments when we get sidetracked and there are various conversational tangents, little jokes and things as we make each other laugh. So, it might be a bit tricky to keep up with it all, so just bear that in mind and get ready. 

As you will notice, quite a lot of specific items of vocabulary come up during this conversation and it might be a little difficult for you to keep track of them all, but I will be repeating them at the end of the episode, and they’re also written on the episode page on my website if you’d like to take a look.

Right, so I hope you can keep up with all of this. There will be a part 2 of this conversation, where we explore some word quizzes about commonly confused words in English, but now let’s listen to Fred talking about how he uses the New York Times Spelling Bee to expand his vocabulary, and here we go.


Try the New York Times Spelling Bee here (although you need to register to keep playing) www.nytimes.com/puzzles/spelling-bee

Ending Transcript

So, that was Fred Eyangoh talking about how the New York Times Spelling Bee has helped with his vocabulary, which in turn helps with things like pronunciation and improving your pronunciation helps with your speaking and also your listening skills, and improving your listening skills helps to improve your ability to understand people, and the more you understand people the more you’re able to notice more language that people are using and the cycle continues, and all the while your confidence is improving. This is the idea anyway. Certain habits or at least certain mindsets can help to put you in a positive cycle of language acquisition.

You also heard at the end there how we were about to start a word quiz on the Collins Dictionary website. In part 2 of this conversation we will continue where we stopped. So the next episode will be another one with Fred, exploring some commonly confused words, most of which are homophones – words which sound the same but are spelled differently. So check out that episode too when it arrives. There should be more learning opportunities for you there, and also some silly jokes and tangents too from Fred and me.

Let me now recap some specific things from the conversation you’ve just heard.

My 5 favourite dictionaries again

Look beyond just the definition. These are resources designed specifically to help you build your vocabulary.

Some of them have other resources too, like vocabulary quizzes based on things like idioms, synonyms and commonly confused words, and you’ll hear more about that in part 2 of this conversation as I just said.

Macmillan Sounds App – helps you learn the phonemic script. Download it from the Macmillan website www.macmillaneducationapps.com/soundspron/ 

Words & phrases mentioned

Repeat the word stress and give an example of each.

Admittedly (adv) (use this when you are saying something that weakens the importance or force of what you have just said) “Daily practice is so important in language learning, although admittedly, I don’t follow my own advice when it comes to working on my French”

Horrendous (adj) (something unpleasant or shocking, horrific, appalling, awful, ghastly) “Getting sick in a foreign country can be an absolutely horrendous experience”

Severe (adj) (very intense or serious) “I had to stop working because I had a severe headache”

Word stress

  • Embarrassed 
  • Important 
  • Necessary
  • Accessory

Umbrella terms (all these ones are nouns)

  • Invertebrate
  • Arthropod (invertebrates that include arachnids, insects and crustaceans)
  • Insect (types of arthropod)
  • Flea (types of insect)
  • Arachnid (aka spiders – types of arthropod, but not insects)
  • Crustacean (also types of arthropod which are neither insects or spiders – includes crabs, lobsters, shrimp)

Chitin (what insects’ exoskeletons are made of)

Worms 

Elated (adj) (synonyms – joyful, delighted, excited, proud)

Heart bypass (noun)  – According to the NHS A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is a surgical procedure used to treat coronary heart disease. It diverts blood around narrowed or clogged parts of the major arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. We laughed about the fact that the guy in the example had two heart bypasses, but of course this is a serious procedure that a lot of people have to have. 

To take something with a pinch of salt (UK) – this means to be sceptical about something, or to not completely believe everything that someone says. “Take online medical advice with a pinch of salt. Sometimes it’s not completely accurate.”

To take something with a grain of salt (US)
Allele (noun) (a specific scientific term from genetic biology, pronounced “uh leal” – I remember this word coming up in my biology A level lessons when I was 17, but I haven’t heard it since, until this conversation. I failed that A level by the way.)

Pelf (noun) (money, especially if it has been illegally obtained – this word is hardly ever used today, so don’t worry about it. Collins is the only dictionary that lists it) Synonyms might be swag, booty – but those words aren’t really used either, unless it’s some pirate adventure story set in the 18th century)  

Pilfer (verb) (a slang word meaning to steal – it’s still used but I would probably go for the words “nick” or “pinch” instead) “Someone’s nicked my wallet!” “I pilfered some biscuits from my flatmate’s cupboard.” “Someone’s pinched my mobile phone”.

Quid (noun) (slang word meaning pounds, it’s both the singular and plural form) “A pint of beer in a pub can cost over 7 quid these days. It’s daylight robbery!”

That’s it for this episode then. Part 2 should arrive soon, and it will be called something like Learning Vocabulary with Collins Dictionary Word Quizzes (with Fred Eyangoh) Commonly Confused Words.

So, sit tight until that one arrives!

I hope all is well in LEPland. Don’t be a ninja – write something in the comment section, and by the way, writing one comment like “I’m writing a comment, so I’m not a ninja any more” this doesn’t completely revoke your ninja status, because you have to stay out of the shadows you know!

Speak to you soon, but for now – bye bye bye bye bye

597. Growing Up / Getting Older / Becoming a Father (with Paul Taylor)

In this conversation Paul and I get a bit deep & meaningful and talk about where Paul is in his life at this point, including our thoughts about becoming a father, getting older and growing up.

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Introduction

Rambling about my birthday… My daughter is a toddler now. She toddles around.

Thank you so much for the lovely birthday messages that you sent to me.

I’d like to give a shout out to students in my class today who surprised me with presents, delicious cake and champagne – at 10.30 this morning!

We all drank champagne during the class, in the morning. It seems that champagne is the only alcohol that you can drink in the morning and it’s acceptable. You can’t really drink whiskey, wine, beer, vodka (although I’m sure in some places that a breakfast drink) – where I’m from, it’s not acceptable to drink those things in the morning and if you do you’re an alcoholic, but champagne – go for it!

It was pretty interesting for me to teach English after having drunk champagne, which was great.

Anyway, I am another year older, which I am fine with as I said in a recent episode.

But that brings me to this episode, which is a conversation with one of the pod-pals, Paul Taylor, and the conversation is all about growing up, getting older and becoming a father.

As you will know if you heard the previous episode, Paul is about to become a Dad for the first time. His wife is pregnant and the due date is at the end of June. Congrats to the two of them, on behalf of all the LEPsters! It’s a girl. Hopefully she’ll grow up to be friends with my daughter and the other kids from our circle of friends. We don’t know what the name will be yet. We’re all hoping that the rest of the pregnancy goes well, and the birth too.

Having a child can be a bit of a turning point in your life. I don’t know if you have children.

So, in this conversation Paul and I get a bit deep & meaningful and talk about where Paul is in his life at this point, including our thoughts about becoming a father, getting older and growing up.

All I have by way of an introduction at this stage, are some questions for you to consider in order to prepare you a bit for what you’re going to hear.

Questions to consider before you listen to the conversation

  • As you get older, does your perception of other people change?
  • For example, if you see a group of 18 year olds, how do you feel?
  • If you see people who are in their retirement, elderly people, how do you feel?
  • How do you feel about the passage of time and getting older?
  • How does life change as you move from being a teenager into a young adult and then into being middle-aged and retirement age and old age?
  • What do you think of the way society views old people? Are they looked after, represented or respected fully in your society?
  • What about having children? Does it change your life? How? Is it a change for the better? In what ways?
  • What about your lifestyle?
  • Are you good at looking after yourself?
  • Do you keep yourself fit and do enough exercise? If not, why not?
  • Have you managed to find a sport or exercise routine that suits you and that you enjoy?
  • How about your diet and eating habits? Do you manage your diet well? Do you make sure you’re staying healthy and eating the right things?
  • Daily routine
  • Do you manage to get enough stuff done in your average day?
  • What’s your daily routine? Could you improve it in any way? How much discipline do you have in your life?
  • How motivated and disciplined are you about doing things that don’t bring you instant results?
  • Do you think you need to change your lifestyle as you get older? Is that an easy thing to do?
    What influence did your parents have on your life? Do you ever judge the way your parents brought you up?
  • Do you ever compare yourself to your parents? Do you ever feel like you can’t live up to their expectations or the example they set for you?
  • Were either of your parents often not there when you were growing up? Maybe one of them or both of them worked a lot and wasn’t always there. How do you feel about that?
  • At what age do people leave home and become independent, in your country?
  • What kind of time should you spend with your child? Should you always be there, or is it ok to be absent sometimes as long as you are working hard and making money to help support them?
  • If you have kids or are planning to have kids, what kind of example should you show to your children? What aspects of your personality do you want them to inherit from you? Which aspects would you rather they didn’t learn?
  • Do you need to say “yes” more in your life? Or do you need to learn how to say “no” more?
  • As you get older do you feel that you are becoming more open-minded, or less open-minded? Are you still happy to meet and get to know new people and see new places in your life as you get older?
  • And, is Paul ready to be a Dad? Is he looking forward to it? Is he in the right stage of his life for parenthood?

These are the sorts of questions we are talking about in this episode.

So without any further ado, here is my conversation with Paul.


Ending

Congrats again to Paul and his wife Adi. Best of luck for the birth. We’re all looking forward to meeting the new Taylor when she arrives.

You heard us mention a book there.

“Yes Man” by Danny Wallace – a great, interesting and funny book written in modern plain English.

I know my listeners are always interested in finding new books to read. This one was very popular when it came out and I think it is not too difficult to read and should be full of the right kind of English. Everyday English in a plain and modern style.

There is an audiobook version which you might want to listen to. It’s available on Audible.

That’s almost it.

Podcast News / Admin

I have two more free episodes to publish before things go a bit quiet while I work on premium content.

Those next two episodes are also conversations with guests. Earlier this week I spoke to Oliver Gee, the Australian journalist and he told me lots of interesting stories about things like the recent fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, meeting some famous people while working as a journalist and also his experiences of learning Swedish and French.

And the other conversation hasn’t been recorded yet, but it’s going to be with my Dad. We’re going to talk on Monday next week and the idea is to somehow describe the recent situation in UK politics and some other things like a recent conference that my Dad moderated about climate change, and hopefully we’ll have time to talk a bit more about football, because my Dad follows UK football very closely. That one isn’t recorded yet, but if all goes according to plan I’ll do the recording next week and publish it quickly afterwards, then the Oliver Gee episode should go up.

After that – things will go quiet for a while and there will be no free episodes probably for a couple of weeks, but I will be working hard on new premium content which should arrive steadily during that period.

To sign up to LEP premium go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Don’t forget also that Paul’s live 1hr stand up show is now available on YouTube. Search for Paul Taylor Franglais. The bits which are in French have English subtitles. It’s about 50% English and 50% French. You can check out Paul’s excellent French skills. It’s impressive.

Episode 600 – YouTube Live Stream – I’ve chosen a date and time!!

It’s going to be Friday 7 June at 3pm CET (Paris time)

That’s…

  • 6AM on the west coast of the USA
  • 9AM in New York
  • 8AM in Mexico City
  • 10AM in Rio, Brazil
  • 2PM in London
  • 4pm in Moscow
  • 4pm in Ankara, Turkey
  • 6.30pm in New Delhi
  • 9pm in Shanghai
  • 10pm in Tokyo
  • 11pm in Sydney
  • 1AM on the Saturday morning in Auckland, NZ

If it’s not at the perfect time for you, then I am sorry! There’s not much I can do about that I’m afraid. Whatever time I do it, there will be some people who won’t be able to attend.
Also, this is just when I’m free!

I will be announcing this again on the podcast, but here it is – 3PM Paris time on Friday 7 June.

I’ll also create a YouTube link for the live stream which I’ll share on my website and on social media. That’s how you’ll access the live stream.

OK, cool!

Song Lyrics: Neil Young – I Am a Child

584. Posh or not posh? (Part 3) with Amber & Paul

Amber & Paul join me to talk again about poshness, posh accents and posh celebrities. This episode is full of different British accents – posh, RP and regional differences. It’s also full of comedy and I found myself laughing out loud while editing this, especially the interview with the football player that Paul tells us about. I hope you enjoy it.

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Are these celebrities posh or not? What are the features of posh accents, RP and regional accents in the UK?

Kate Beckinsale

Victoria Beckham

Sadiq Khan

Kenneth Branagh

Stephen K Amos

Elton John

Daniel Craig

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling

George Martin

Jacob Rees Mogg (again)

Danny Dyer

Keep adding your videos of British celebrities in the comment section. Are they posh or not posh?

577. UK vs US Slang Game (with Jennifer from English Across the Pond)

In this episode I’m joined by Jennifer – a podcaster from the USA, and we test each other on our knowledge of slang from our countries. Listen and learn some informal words from British and American English. Notes & definitions below. 

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Introduction

Hello folks,

How are you? I hope you’re well.

Here’s a new episode and in this one I’ve got a guest. I’m talking to Jennifer from the English Across the Pond podcast. You’re going to hear a mix of both British and American English and you can learn some slang from both sides of the Atlantic. Also you can find out about Jen, her podcast, and the other language learning services that she offers to you, with her co-host Dan on their podcast and also through their website. More on that in a moment.

But first let me give you a little bit of news here before we get started properly.

A little bit of news before we get started properly

If you’re a subscriber to my email list then you will have received an email from me recently with a link to a post that I published on my website. Did you get that email? Did you click the link? Normally emails from me just contain a link to a new episode, but sometimes I send you other stuff, like posts on my website which you might find interesting.

Basically in that recent post I said a couple of things. One of them was that February might be a bit quiet for the normal podcast – I mean, these free episodes (because there’s the free podcast and the premium podcast, you see). This is the second episode I’ve uploaded in February, and this might be it for February actually, on the free podcast and that’s because I’m focusing on LEP premium this month in order to make up for the lack of premium episodes in January.

So if you’re a premium subscriber you’ll see that you’ve been getting new episodes regularly and that’s going to continue throughout the month but the number of normal free episodes will be a bit lower.

Now, this means that all the free subscribers can just catch up on all the episodes I’ve uploaded since the start of the year (which is quite a lot) but if you want more you could just wait a bit for some new ones to come along, or you could consider signing up for the growing library of premium stuff.

New premium episodes this month include ones covering vocab & grammar from my recent conversation with Zdenek Lukas. I picked out over 40 bits of target language for you to learn from that, and so there are about 4 parts to that episode. Then, in the pipeline I’ve got premium episodes focusing on language from the Paul Chowdhry episode and the recent episode with James. Tons of language for you to learn. This is all stuff you’ve heard on the podcast, but I’m doing all the work of explaining, clarifying and demonstrating the language and also drilling it for pronunciation and all that – all to help you not just hear it but properly learn it. I do all that work so you don’t have to. To subscribe to my premium content, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

The other thing I wrote about in that recent website post was that I was featured in an episode of the Rock n’ Roll English Podcast. Do you remember Martin and Dan from episode 490. They’re the guys from Rock n’ Roll English, which is another British English podcast. Just recently they had me on one of their episodes and we talked again about how to handle awkward social situations (like we did the first time I was on their podcast), and we covered some pretty funny and fairly disgusting topics, including the ins and outs of giving up your seat on the tube, how long you should hold a door open for someone and how to deal with poo smells in public toilets. Yes, the poo thing is a subject that quite regularly comes up in their episodes.

Anyway, check the episode archive on my website for the recent website post about Rock n Roll English and that’s where you can find the relevant links to listen to that.

Click here to read that post and listen to the episode of RnR English.

Now then, onto this new episode of Luke’s English Podcast…

This is another collaboration with a fellow podcaster. There are quite a few of us out there in podcastland and from time to time we invite each other onto our respective podcasts as you will have noticed.

This time I’m talking to Jennifer from English Across the Pond. Some of you will be familiar with English Across the Pond – it’s another podcast for learners of English, hosted by Jen in the USA and Dan in the UK (that’s another Dan – not Dan from the RnR English Podcast). They do weekly episodes focusing on different topics and you can listen to their conversations which include both British and American English.

In this episode you’ll hear me talking to Jen via Skype (she was in California), and we chose to focus on slang words in British and American English.

UK vs USA Slang Game

We decided it might be interesting to see how much of each other’s slang words we know by playing a kind of UK vs US Slang Game.

What do you think will be the result?

So we both prepared a list of 5 slang words and prepared to test each other, and that’s what you’re going to hear.

There’s a bit of chat between the two of us first, so you can get to know Jen a little bit and then we get stuck into the slang game.

As you listen, see if you can play along with us. Do you know all the words in this game?

Keep listening to hear the words explained, defined and demonstrated. I have a feeling that long-term listeners to my podcast might know some of the British ones because I’ve probably dealt with them in previous episodes of this podcast, but do you know all of them? And how about the American English slang words you’re going to hear?

All the answers to the slang game are on the page for this episode if you want to see them.

And also keep listening until the end to find out about a nice offer that Jen and Dan have for you in terms of the learning English content that they are providing on their website.

Anyway, I hope you’re ready for some real slang from both sides of the pond.

So without any further ado, let’s get started.


Answers to the slang game

British English

1. Buff (adj)
You’re looking buff, have you been working out?
Meaning = muscular, toned

2. give me / let me have a butcher’s at that thing (noun)
Giz a butcher’s at that new phone of yours = give me a look at that new phone of yours
Meaning = Give me a look
It’s cockney rhyming slang. “A butcher’s hook” = a look.

3. Chuffed (adj)
I’m really chuffed to bits to have won the prize.
When my daughter does something for herself she always looks so chuffed.
Meaning = pleased, or pleased with yourself

4. Gutted (adj)
How do you feel to have lost the match today?
I’m absolutely gutted to be honest.
Meaning = very disappointed

  • How would you feel if these things happened? Chuffed or gutted?
    Dan wins a podcasting award, but you don’t.
    Tom Cruise crashes his car into your house.

5. Knackered (adj)
I’m absolutely knackered this evening.
I had an absolutely awful day at work today. I had to work a 12 hour shift with no break. I’m knackered. I’m just going to go straight to bed.
Meaning = very tired, exhausted

USA slang words (California specific)

1. a grippa somethin’ (a grip of something)
You must have a grippa toys in your house at the moment.
I have a grippa things to do today.
I have a grippa work that I need to get done today.
It feels good when we get a grippa things done.
Meaning = a lot of

2. To rock something (clothing)
You’re rocking some fresh sneakers.
I’m rocking this fresh cardigan.
I’m rocking some dope corduroy pants (trousers) this afternoon.
My brother rocks a cowboy hat.
Meaning: To wear some stylish clothes

3. To post up somewhere
If you want to go into that shop, I’ll just post up here and wait for you.
I like to just post up at the beach all day long and enjoy the sun.
Meaning: To stay somewhere for a while and hang out.

4. To flip a bitch
Hey, at the next light, flip a bitch.
Meaning = To do a U-turn (to turn around 180 degrees)

5. To trip out
I was tripping out because I thought I saw you at the restaurant yesterday but I thought “He’s not here. He’s not in Southern California.”
Meaning = to be confused


Outtro

So there you have it.

Now, if you liked what you heard there and you’d like to hear more, you could check out English Across the Pond – they have weekly podcast episodes, but also you could consider signing up for their Gold Membership Package, which includes loads of cool stuff to help you learn English with Jen and Dan.

I’m just telling you about this because you might be interested in what they have to offer. So here is some info that might be of interest to you, plus a couple of freebies (that means free things)

So you heard Jen mention this near the end of the conversation there.

Basically, if you sign up with their membership package, every week they send you a learning plan which contains loads of exercises, activities, tests, vocabulary lists, grammar explanations and also a speaking task and a writing task each week with real feedback from Dan and Jen. So, each week their members get a study plan with all those things.

Jen and Dad have set up a little freebie for any LEPsters that choose to become members, and that’s two free study plans if you sign up within the first week of this episode being published.

So, sign up and you’ll start to receive their weekly study plans and if you sign up within one week of the publication date of this episode you will get two extra study plans as a free gift.

So, if you’re interested just click the link on the page for this episode (below) or go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/eatp

Click here to become an English Across the Pond Gold Member + 2 free study plans
(offer valid within the first week of this episode)

Alrighty then.

So I hope you’re doing fine out there in podcastland.

Don’t forget to check the page for this episode on the website for all the slang you heard here.

Remember LEP will be a bit quiet in February, but LEP Premium is quite busy this month so consider signing up for that. You’ll see it’s very reasonably priced, because I am a very reasonable man.

I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.

Bye!

561. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 1)

The first part of an episode series about trending vocabulary – words which have been used a lot in the last couple of years. Listen to me talk about words chosen by Collins Dictionaries as their “Words of the Year”. This first episode focuses on how publishers use big data and then lots of discussion about the 2017 word of the year, which was fake news.

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Episode Transcript (95% complete)

Introduction

Hello hello!

This episode series (and it will be a series of at least 3 episodes) is all about the Words of the Year. It’s going to contain vocabulary and some general discussion from me about current issues in politics, life and culture.

I originally prepared this episode a year ago in 2017 when the Collins online dictionary released their words of the year for that year, but I never got round to recording it.

Now it’s a year later and Collins have released a new list for 2018, so I thought I’d record and publish the episodes about the words from 2017 and then do 2018’s words as well. That’s what this series will be – The Words of the Year for the last two years running.

I still doesn’t feel completely ready to record this and I’m sure there’s more preparation work to be done, but I’ve decided “Oh, what the hell, it’s time to record this”. Sometimes you can just spend forever preparing and still not feel like it’s ready, so here it is, even though this will probably get into some slightly touchy areas of politics in some cases.

Actually, I think this is one of the reasons I didn’t record this episode, because it’s quite hard to talk about some of these words and their contexts without getting all bogged down in the politics of the moment, and frankly a lot of things about the politics of the moment are just exhausting and divisive, meaning – the topic just divides people and triggers people and I don’t need to do that. But I will talk about these things a bit on this podcast for learners of English because it’s worth exploring some touchy subjects sometimes so you can hear the language that relates to these topics, and these are very current topics.

By the way, getting triggered – this is an expression that’s been used a lot over the last few years. If someone gets triggered it means they have a quick and strong emotional reaction to something. It could mean getting angry when someone says a particular thing or talks about a certain topic in a certain way. It’s associated with people getting angry online.

For example, if I started talking about Trump in a negative way, any Trump supporters listening might get triggered and might write some quick, angry message in the comment section and it’s obvious that I upset this person just by even mentioning Trump name in a less than flattering context.

That’s just an example, but really triggered has a more serious meaning and it’s when something reminds people of a past traumatic experience. Like, a war veteran who had horrible experiences and is living with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), they might be struggling to deal with the emotional and sensory stress of having been in war and perhaps loud noises in a film or loud fireworks at night could trigger their PTSD, causing them to be brought back emotionally or mentally to the battlefield.

Also, people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction who are clean – they’re avoiding drink or drugs, but something might trigger their old behaviour to come back, like perhaps getting involved with an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend and then arguing and splitting up with that person, this could trigger cravings for the drugs or alcohol they used to use a lot in the past.

Also, a trigger in a gun is the part of the gun that causes it to fire. You press the trigger with your finger, and bang!

So you can see where the words trigger or triggered come from.

This is not even one of the words of the year, but I mention it here because I really hope you don’t get triggered by anything in this episode. Instead I’m just talking about some topics that are very current and which probably affect all of our lives in some way. I hope you don’t get triggered by any of it. Not all of it is of political nature, as you will see.

I think my audience aren’t the sort of people to get triggered easily. I don’t think you’re the sorts of people who have knee jerk reactions.

So anyway this is the beginning of this series about the words of the year for the last two years, starting with 2017 and then moving on to 2018. For the 2017 words I’ll be on my own and for the 2018 words I expect to be joined by PODPAL Amber Minogue. OK? Good.

So let’s start with the 2017 Collins Words of the Year. Here we go.

This episode is all about 10 words which were used so much in 2017 that they were put into a list of “the words of the year” by the makers of Collins Dictionary. In this episode I’m going to go through the words, make sure you all are clear about what they mean and then just discuss the issues that relate to these words.

Basically, this episode could even be called “Some of the big issues of the moment” because these words and phrases represent big movements and issues in culture that have been reported on, discussed and talked about a lot recently.

What are “The Words of the Year”?

Every year Collins (the dictionary publisher) publishes its “Words of the Year” list. It’s also done by other dictionaries including Oxford and Merriam-Webster.

In 2015, if you remember, I talked to Amber and Paul about the Collins words of the year, which included the words binge-watch (meaning to watch lots of episodes of a TV show in one long session) and manspread (the way men sit with their legs wide apart, taking up a lot of room and imposing themselves on a situation).

In 2016 the Collins word of the year was Brexit, for obvious reasons. The Oxford word of the year in 2016 was post-truth, defined by the Oxford Dictionary online as:
Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
For example, ‘in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’.

So that was 2015 and 2016 but now let’s talk about the words of the year again – this time for 2017. I know this is last year (I’m recording this in 2018), but honestly these words are still very much at the centre of what’s going on. I started planning this episode last year and only now am I managing to record it. So it’s a bit overdue, but this is still worth doing, these words and issues are still very current and apply to life today just like they did a few months ago. The plan is to move onto the words for 2018 after this.

The Full Shortlist of Words
www.collinsdictionary.com/word-lovers-blog/new/collins-2017-word-of-the-year-shortlist,396,HCB.html

Etymology and more details for the words
www.collinsdictionary.com/word-lovers-blog/new/etymology-corner-collins-word-of-the-year-2017,400,HCB.html

Generally – The Words of the Year list reveals the words and phrases which have seen a spike in usage during the year. These are words that were used more in this 12 month period than at other times. In some cases it means words which have been around for ages but which have come back significantly this year.

It’s not just a list of the 12 most frequent words. I expect that list would be a bit boring – it would be words like “the” and “you” or “I”. So it’s not the 12 most frequently used words, but the words which have seen the biggest increase in use over the 12 month period. They might also be new words which have suddenly started being used a lot.

Many of the words are actually two-word phrases or portmanteaus made from already-existing words. A portmanteau is a word made by combining two other words, e.g. Brexit, manspread, spork, hangry etc.

These words reveal the year’s hot-topics – the things that have been discussed a lot over the last 12 months, particularly in the media (including conventional and online media).

It’s not completely clear to me how Collins comes up with the list. What’s their criteria? I’ve been trying to find out for ages.

But basically I think it goes like this (and this is interesting because it tells us how dictionaries work).

How do Dictionaries Work?

How do these dictionary makers (Lexicographers) keep track of language? Do they just decide on their own, because they are experts? Nope, they use data.

Generally, dictionaries use these things called corpora in order to monitor the frequency and context in which words are being used.

A corpora is a huge database of language. Imagine a machine which counts words and word combinations. Imagine if you could record every bit of language usage (every conversation, everything written down) and feed it into the machine. That machine could then tell you exactly how often certain words are used (frequency) and how they are used (e.g. with which other words, in what kind of grammatical form, etc).

This would be a corpora containing every single bit of language usage – every single word which is spoken or written down. This isn’t really possible I guess, because dictionary makers don’t have access to that kind of information. They can’t record absolutely everything, right? That would be a bit creepy and scary – imagine them recording everything we said. I know some people think that governments and corporations are actually doing this – like, perhaps using our phones to spy on us and record what we say so they can sell the data to marketing companies, or perhaps for some other more sinister reasons – but that’s another story for another time.

The point here is that it’s very difficult for dictionary makers to know exactly how language is used, but they do their best to get as much data as possible.

This machine I mentioned is not far from being true. The corpora that dictionary makers like Collins actually use are huge databases but they don’t contain records of absolutely all the English that is spoken or written. However – they are often very extensive. They make them as extensive as possible in fact. They get as much English into them as possible. In fact, it’s impressive and amazing how much language usage they manage to record and monitor.

Collins Dictionaries use the Collins Corpus.

This is from Collins.co.uk collins.co.uk/page/The+Collins+Corpus

What’s in the Collins Corpus?

The Collins Corpus is an analytical database of English with over 4.5 billion words. It contains written material from websites, newspapers, magazines and books published around the world, and spoken material from radio, TV and everyday conversations. [Luke: I don’t know which conversations, or who they are listening to and how] New data is fed into the Corpus every month, to help the Collins dictionary editors identify new words and meanings from the moment they are first used.

What does the Corpus tell us?

All COBUILD* dictionaries are based on the information found in the Collins Corpus. The full Corpus contains 4.5 billion words. The Bank of English™ is a subset of that corpus – just 650 million words from a carefully chosen selection of sources, to give a balanced and accurate reflection of English as it is used today.

(*COBUILD, is an acronym for Collins Birmingham University International Language Database, and it’s a British research facility set up at the University of Birmingham in 1980 and funded by Collins publishers.)

So it’s not just a panel of judges or experts who decide which words go in, it’s the data which tells Collins which words people are actually using, and therefore the dictionary becomes an accurate and impartial source of information. Basically – it can tell us how English is really used, not how some people think it should be used.

I feel like it’s worth pointing that out, because when some people think about dictionaries, grammar books and linguistics, they immediately start to think of people judging other people’s English and deciding what’s right and wrong. It’s much more, for want of a better word, democratic than that.

However, in the case of the Words of the Year, I think there are some limitations and these limitations sometimes cause us to think “What? Really?” when we actually see the list of words of the year when it is published.

Because the data comes from mainly written sources and from the media in general (conventional and social media I expect) I think the language is skewed towards the kinds of things that are written about or discussed online or in the press. So, it’s not completely representative of the things people have been saying. It’s more representative of what people have been saying or writing about in the media and online. So the Words of the Year end up telling us a lot about the stories being reported in the press, and trends in the general culture.

These are words that have seen a spike in usage. We might not use these words that much in everyday conversation (well, in some cases yes, but in other cases less so – in my conversations anyway), but they have been used this year more than before and they do reflect issues which have been important in society.

Also, Collins do have judges who help to pick the words of the year, so it’s not just based on data – there is some human selection going on there too.

Dictionaries and grammar books (the ones published by the big publishers) are based on the big data mostly.

I have picked the Collins list this year (rather than, say, The Merriam Webster dictionary) because:

  • It’s generally a British English dictionary, but they do include American English and English from other places. So it’s global English but from the British point of view.
  • Their list just seems to me personally to be better than other lists. E.g. Oxford in 2017 chose Youthquake as their word of the year. I didn’t hear that word at all in 2017, whereas the Collins word of the year is definitely something I’ve heard a lot and I think is really relevant to the current culture.
  • I really like the Collins online dictionary. It’s well designed, works well and they provide all the information you need when looking for a word, including all the things you’d expect like the definition, examples, part of speech, phonetic script, audio of the word – but also things like the frequency of the word over time and a simple rating showing you if it’s commonly used (and therefore worth knowing) or not.

Not every word you find is vital to your English. It’s worth considering how frequent it is used when deciding if you’re going to learn it, remember it and use it yourself. It helps you to be more selective about the vocabulary you’re learning.

Collinsdictionary.com – use it when you’re checking new words. Remember to check what kind of dictionary you’re using, e.g. make sure it’s an English-English dictionary.

Most of these words reveal important trending issues and deep divisions in society today.

Almost all of them involve some level of debate.

Let’s get started

Words of the Year (2017)

Fake news

noun: false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting

Information that has been presented as fact, usually in some sort of news report, but is actually not true and is probably just being used for propaganda purposes.

The phrase “fake news” strikes right at the core of the struggle that currently exists around objective truth and the manipulation of information for political advantage. I think it proves that we’re living in a scary time where our basic right to objective and impartial news reporting is under threat, which in turn threatens our basic human rights.

“Fake news” could mean several things, depending on who you are. It’s very contentious (controversial – likely to cause disagreement) except that everyone is using it. The contentious thing is that nobody quite agrees on which news is the fake news. Different people with different political agendas use the phrase in different ways. I’m going to talk about 2 ways it’s used.

  1. Reporting things that aren’t true, or distorting facts in order to push an agenda.
  2. Calling things “fake news” in order to discredit them for some political reason.

Starting with the first point, the term “fake news” is used to talk about genuinely fake stories which are written and disseminated in the traditional media and online and which are full of mistruths, lies and deception. These sorts of stories are used either just to make profit, or for some political motive. For example, there are suggestions that there are ‘clickbait farms’, targeting certain internet users with clickbait stories or with carefully placed fake news stories which are used as propaganda to serve certain agendas, like to influence public opinion, voting behaviour and so on.

More specifically there are the claims that the voting in the 2016 US presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum were affected by campaigns of fake news on social media. The origins of this fake news could be anywhere – whichever power block or interest group wants to push a certain viewpoint, or in this case, influence the outcome of the election. The allegations are that certain groups would benefit from Trump getting in, and so they disseminated fake news about Hillary Clinton in order to tarnish her image.

This sort of thing is particularly widespread on social media, and it’s not just limited to news outlets. It means certain social media profiles, pages on Facebook, Twitter accounts etc pushing a certain narrative which isn’t really true. It can be done by anyone.

There are other examples of publishing false, distorted or clearly biased information which is passed off as news, but which is there to support a particular motive.

E.g. biased reports about the EU in the right-wing press.

Read the one about children’s playgrounds.

blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/safety-rules-force-the-closure-of-uk-playgrounds/

It appears to say this: The EU is shutting down kids’ playgrounds. Kids are now unable to enjoy old-fashioned fun, like swings, roundabouts, climbing frames – and it’s all because of EU law. The EU is going to ban children from enjoying traditional British playing areas. The EU is crushing the very foundation of British culture again and this time they’re going for our kids.

Reality: This law was in fact just a voluntary guideline from a non-EU body (not even the EU) which also includes a British representative (so it’s not “them and us” – we’re involved too). It’s there to publish advisory safety guidelines, like “Hey, here are some tips if you want playgrounds to be a bit safer. Take it or leave it! OK have a nice day, take care bye!!”

It’s nothing to do with the EU and city councils have no obligation to comply with it. The story was printed as a deliberate distortion as part of an anti-EU bias. And anyway, it was probably really good advice.

I remember, growing up in the 80s in England – our playgrounds were pretty dangerous. They were just concrete on the ground. I cut my head open loads of times, and so did my brother, just falling off roundabouts or the swings. Now playgrounds have to have a kind of rubbery surface wherever there are swings or things like that. Good. British playgrounds of the past were obviously wonderful in the sense that we grew up there and childhood is full of fun memories. But a lot of kids got hurt too. Sometimes certain newspapers in the UK just look at the past through rose-tinted glasses.

Moving onto the 2nd use of “fake news” – this is when people label certain reporting as “fake” just because they want to discredit it as part of their attempt to gain control or power.

For example, people say that Trump, his entourage and his supporters use the phrase “fake news” to discredit any report that criticises him and his agenda.

Media outlets that don’t follow the current pro-Trump narrative, for example, might report on stories such as the number of people attending Trump’s inauguration or even details of inquiries and allegations about criminal acts involving the president. These reports make Trump look bad, and also could get him in serious legal trouble.

However, Trump supporters who just want to believe in the man for whatever reason (even if that reason is somehow an honest one – like, “we think Trump will be good for jobs” – a decent reason) but… people who support Trump, and certain media companies (who perhaps support Trump because the owners of those media companies have some kind of vested interest in keeping him in power) these people and media outlets simply dismiss the reports against Trump as “fake news” and part of a so-called “liberal” or “left wing” conspiracy to remove Trump from office.

Trump himself often talks about how the “mainstream media” is fake, mainly because it doesn’t say positive things about him. Perhaps this is egotism, or perhaps it’s a far more calculated and cynical attempt to silence the media. In any case, Trump and his supporters use “fake news” to discredit negative news reports about him.

You might argue that it works for other people and other groups too. Other people lie as well, or make false accusations. Yep, I’m sure they do. I’m just using Trump here as a very famous case of someone crying “fake news” in response to reporting that doesn’t fit their agenda. Feel free to name other cases of this happening, because there are plenty.

This kind of silencing of the media happens because when you control the information being received by the public you then have a massive amount of influence over how people see the world, which certainly means that you can control how you’re perceived, how your enemies are perceived, what you’re doing and so on.

Basically, when the government controls the media in your country, it’s akin to living in a controlled state. It’s almost like controlling the media, and now online media means you get to control reality itself.

It’s complicated. Things aren’t black and white.

Facts are slippery and the truth can be hard to hold onto.

It’s really hard to know which information is real and which information is fake when you consider that a single story can look very different from various points of view. Maybe we can argue that there is no such thing as objective truth because the position from which you view something can totally affect the way you see it.

Also, our attitude towards the story can cloud our judgement. Even when you don’t mean to put a certain spin on an event, you might subconsciously do it in the way you describe the story. It’s also true about the way people consume news. Confirmation bias is a well-established concept, which basically means that people tend to just understand events in ways that confirm their existing world view.

Some people might see the same event and come away with two completely different conclusions of what it all means. E.g. the London riots of 2011 when protests against police brutality turned into fighting with the police and then the damaging of public property.

This is probably a generalisation, but a Labour voter might see the riots as evidence that the government is not doing enough to support poor communities in London, and Conservative voters might conclude that the rioters just need hard justice and to take more individual responsibility. The way you already see the world affects how you interpret events and this includes the way people react to news.

E.g. I made a YouTube video about the Royal Family in 2010 or 2011 I think. I just wanted to collect footage of various people giving their opinions about the Royals. I wanted to get as many different opinions as I could find, and I wanted to collect samples of language for giving opinions.

Some comments in the comment section on YouTube oscillated between “He’s obviously against the royals” to “He’s not very objective – he’s obviously looking for positive comments about the Royals.” Some people were saying I was obviously biased in favour of the royals, others were saying I was obviously biased against them.

I just wanted to get both sides of the opinion in my video. I was looking for both positive and negative comments and was pushing for both (e.g. if someone said something positive, I asked them about a negative point, and vice versa – if someone told me their favourite royal, I’d then ask about their least favourite. If they said something negative, I’d then ask if they had any positive things to say too – so I was doing it in both directions) but people just saw one aspect – the bits they didn’t agree with. They only saw me pushing either a positive or negative agenda.

Generally, those people who don’t like the Royals thought I was trying to promote the monarchy, and those who love the monarchy just thought I was looking for negative opinions.

So, people’s existing attitude towards the subject influenced their assessment of my video, which was only supposed to provide a record of authentic language and therefore I just wanted to collect some engaging and truthful opinions. This kind of thing happens a lot. People consume information in the way that confirms their existing beliefs and prejudices.

I think this is a major aspect of life today in which we are so plugged into information systems like the internet. It’s like so much of what we experience of the world is mediated. I know it sounds scary and maybe I’m being pessimistic, but it’s like we’re getting closer and closer to the Matrix, where all of our experience is not through primary experience, but through the secondary experience of seeing it in a video, or a social media post.

It’s really hard to know what the truth is and in fact people are so bombarded by information, which is often manipulated to the point where people no longer trust “facts” and they just go with gut instinct. The whole idea of “objective fact or truth” has been worn down. Basically, we’ve been bullshitted and lied to so much over the years, and we’ve become cynical as a result that the entire system of trust has broken down and we just believe what we want to believe and that’s it. This is exactly why “post-truth” was the 2016 word of the year. It’s no longer about the facts. It’s about people being driven by emotion and feelings, not expert opinion.

But even gut instincts are manipulated by information. Go back to the Euromyths for a moment. For decades the right-wing press in the UK has been drip feeding the UK various myths about the EU, to the point that many British citizens have an instinctive distrust of anything EU related, without really being able to explain why.

This is bound to be connected to very powerful inbuilt feelings from thousands of years of British people living on an island and living in fear of the “others” who live beyond the borders of that island. That must be a deep-seated feeling of distrust, which comes from basic tribalism from a bygone era.

Perhaps that kind of feeling is what certain newspapers have profited from over the years. There’s always a large section of the British population that is innately mistrustful of the countries on the European continent. Poking this sense of mistrust is what sells papers. That’s why these papers always bang on about Churchill, show pictures of UK flags, and shock their readers with stories about how Britain is being invaded and controlled in some way. It’s not just Britain either. This happens all over the place doesn’t it?

Perhaps we are all victims of manipulation by the media, or the limitations of the media, and this doesn’t just mean the stuff on TV and in newspapers – but by the way our culture is expressed, represented and consumed by all forms of information delivery today – this means, all the media – TV, papers, advertising, films and absolutely everything online that is now part of our everyday reality. More and more of what we see is a construct, especially when we live our lives through the internet. What’s interesting to me is that reality itself is being negotiated by political forces which use our information systems in strategic ways. What can we do about it? I’m not sure! And I’m not sure I’m the one to come up with the solution!

It’s probably a good idea to get off social media or at least take it with a pinch of salt, because that (particularly Facebook as we know) is a breeding ground for fake news, twisting of facts, emotional storytelling and a lack of accountability, where you don’t really know where the information is coming from or who is behind it.

It’s also worth remembering to use critical thinking at all times. Don’t just accept what you see or read. Think about where this information is coming from, and whether it is being used to push a certain agenda. That’s easy to say of course.

It’s hard to know what to do and what to believe.

But then again, some stuff is just obviously bullshit isn’t it. Yeah.

Part 2 – coming soon…

556. With Jessica Beck from Honestly English

Talking to English teacher Jessica Beck about her new website, “Honestly English” and some typical topics she talks about and teaches, including the #MeToo movement and our favourite female superheroes and comedians. Videos and links below.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I have another interview for you to listen to as part of your learning English routine. This time I am talking to Jessica Beck, who you might know from the IELTS Energy Podcast.

I have spoken to Jessica before on this podcast, back in episode 297 when we talked about using humour in the speaking part of the IELTS test.

297. Using Humour in the IELTS Speaking Test (With Jessica from All Ears English)

IELTS Energy is an appropriate title for that podcast because Jessica has loads of energy as you will hear. When we recorded this conversation it was 7AM for her (because of the time difference) which is pretty early for podcasting but she was already wide awake and ready to go. Maybe it’s that American can-do attitude, or the coffee she’s been drinking, I don’t know, but her energy is infectious. It’s one of the hallmarks of the IELTS Energy Podcast in fact, and the All Ears English podcast, which she is also associated with.

Just in case you don’t know, Jessica Beck is an English teacher who lives in Portland, which is in Oregon, which is in the north-west of the USA, which is in North America, which is in America, which is on earth. So you’re going to be listening to a combination of Jessica’s American English and my British English in this conversation.

So, Jessica does IELTS Energy, but she’s on my podcast today because she has just launched a new website and YouTube channel called Honestly English, and I thought we could talk a bit about that and some of the topics she’s been teaching recently in her videos. honestlyenglish.com/

So “Honestly English” – this is her own channel, her own project and therefore is a space where she can teach English in her own way and cover topics that mean a lot to her personally and since Jessica is a huge pop culture nerd her videos and blog posts all contain loads of references to movies and comic books and things like that. She is also very passionate about feminism and raising the status of women in society today.

So these are the things we’re talking about in this episode: The MeToo movement, some language relating to that, then women in pop culture and some superhero characters from the Marvel cinematic universe (specifically Captain Marvel, who will be arriving in cinemas early next year in the Captain Marvel movie and then in Avengers 4 I think) and we also talk about some female comedians from the UK and the USA that we’d like to recommend.

#MeToo

I mentioned the MeToo movement there. I think this is a global phenomenon but you might call it something else in your country. In France it was called #BalanceTonPorc which directly translates as “Balance your pork” or “balance your pig” which doesn’t really mean anything does it – the proper translation of that would be something like “denounce your pig” or “name and shame your abuser”. That’s how #MeToo is known in France, and it may have another name in your country.

Wikipedia defines #MeToo like this:
The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement), with many local and international alternatives, is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement 

So MeToo is all about encouraging women to come forward and share their experiences of harassment of various kinds. Speaking personally, I knew that women often have to put up with dangerous and just plain weird behaviour from creepy guys – like being approached in the street, feeling unsafe in certain places or just putting up with dodgy comments and behaviour at work. I knew that, but the MeToo movement did open my eyes to how much of this kind of thing Women have to put up with every day. I think about my daughter and the kind of society she’s going to grow up in and I want her to grow up in a culture in which she feels safe, she feels she can talk about things that happen to her, in which she won’t have to just accept certain behaviour from men, and I want her to have cool characters and comedians on TV and in films that she can relate too, just like I did during my childhood.

I know this is actually a bit of a touchy subject. There’s a lot of pushing and pulling going on in terms of people arguing about the place of men and women in society and both men and women feeling targeted, victimsed or demonised and things like that. I’ve seen so many arguments in online comment sections. I find all of that stuff quite exhausting to be honest.

I see arguments on YouTube and people getting really angry on both sides about something like a perceived feminist agenda in Star Wars or Doctor Who, for example and then I see other people getting really angry about those people getting angry about feminism in Star Wars or Doctor Who and I’m just sitting here trying not to get angry about people getting angry about other people getting angry about some people getting angry about feminism in Star Wars or Doctor Who or movies and culture in general and I just think oh can we just have a normal conversation? I don’t know.

In any case, let’s find out from Jessica about her new website, let’s learn some of the words and phrases she can tell us about the MeToo movement and also let’s talk about Marvel movies and some great comedians that you might like to check out.

There are links and videos on the page for this episode as usual if you want examples of the comedians we are talking about, and links for Jessica’s website and stuff. So check those out.

Alright then, so this is Jessica Beck, energetic at 7 o’clock in the morning. American English and British English combined in one conversation, and here we go…


Honestly English

Nerdy English lessons focusing on vocabulary and pop culture!

www.HonestlyEnglish.com

Slang, idioms, natural phrases, the origins and context of that vocabulary.

For example, “Nailed it” (see video below)

The Language of the #MeToo Movement

A recent post on Honestly English about the #MeToo Movement

honestlyenglish.com/honest-blog/2018/9/16/what-metoo-means-to-me-and-slang-for-dirty-dudes?rq=me%20too

Language to describe “dirty dudes”
A perv
A pervert
A creep
A creepy guy
A monster
Being menacing
Also:
To harass someone / harassment

Favourite Female Comedians

Mentioned by Jessica

Kathleen Madigan (stand up comedian)

Kristen Wiig

Bridesmaids (film)
Annie (Kristen Wiig) vs the “perfect” best friend

Melissa McCarthy (comedian / actress)

St Vincent (film)

Mentioned by Luke

Maria Bamford
Maria captures the experience of being a woman dealing with mental health issues, by recreating the voices and attitudes of other people in her life, particularly her mother and sister who she imitates. They sound patronising and subtly judgemental and of course there are jokes in there but they are so cleverly weaved into her routine. She does brilliant voices and shifts her attitude quite radically. Her normal voice sounds very vulnerable, and the other voices are so much more confident and strident.

OK, she’s strange but that’s the point.

Maria Bamford Netflix show – Lady Dynamite

Maria Bamford interview on WTF with Marc Maron

French & Saunders
On TV all through my childhood. Came out of the anarchic post-punk era in UK comedy. Two English women who were just funny in the way they bickered with each other and also took the piss out of Hollywood movies and celebrities. They’re national treasures.

French & Saunders making fun of Mama Mia

Victoria Wood
Another national treasure who was on telly all the time. She was like a housewife who was also a comedian. Not like Rosanne Barr, but a normal middle class English woman – a bit like the mum of one of your friends, but she did stand up, sketches and did comedy songs on the piano. She was one of the first stand ups I ever saw, along with various other UK comedians at the time. Her comedy was quite local in flavour, meaning she made reference to things like accents and local identity. Died in 2016 along with loads of other celebs. Bowie, Ali, Prince etc

Sarah Pascoe
A stand up who describes the kind of life that most women (of my generation) experience in the UK, while making it very funny. She talks about all the things that women go through relating to relationships and work. She’s very relatable and it’s like observational comedy about relationships and life (but it’s not shit observational comedy).

Sarah Pascoe in Edinburgh

Podcasts recomended by Jessica

  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (NPR)
  • Paula Poundstone
  • Spontanianation
  • Tawny Newsome

YouTube “Honestly English” – videos every Thursday

www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqOicwVfb__YxbsL-5R3tA

Website www.honestlyenglish.com

Facebook Honestly English www.facebook.com/HonestlyEnglish/