I’ve just learned from Stan Carey what a snowclone is. Geoffrey Pullum developed the concept on Language Log back in 2004, for a clichéd phrasal template that gets repeated in innumerable variants. Geoffrey Pullum: “I was looking at things like “In space, no one can hear you X”, where the customizability is that you get […]

“Like” in spoken English

“Like” has become one of the most popular words in spoken English. It was a marker I heard frequently this summer in the States, originating in teen-talk, but now firmly established in informal language. Just listen to My Brightest Diamond singer Shara Worden making small talk with fellow musicians Lisa Hannigan and Molloy Share (from […]

Sex and … grammar?

I’ve got a fun job, writing an exercise a week for learners of English. We think up a topic related to the magazine and a grammar issue that should be addressed, or a set of vocabulary items and an approach to learning them, and then I’m off and running. It’s funny: The more bizarre the […]

Do and make in Frankfurt

I was in Frankfurt for Management Circle teaching a course in Office Communication for Assistants, and the lovely group (hello, ladies!) decided these expressions with do and make were the most helpful ones. Some expressions included: do well = gedeihen, florieren do without = ohne etwas auskommen make do with something = mit einer “suboptimalen” […]

David Crystal: Keep your English up to date

David Crystal has a lovely series of short and amusing talks about words that are popular but not yet in the dictionary, such as “hoodie” and “get a life” and “in your dreams” and “wired” and “gobsmacked” and “clueless” and “wannabe” and “blog”… so all of my favorite words, actually. Includes audio, pdf lesson plan, […]

Back office business grammar

From my back office compact course: Susan is interviewing Karin about her job. Help them with their language. Mouse over but don’t click on the highlighted text in the version you think is correct. If you see “yes” you have got it right. Susan: What do you do / do you work? Karin: I’m a […]