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Tips for non-English speakers

January 9th, 2015 Comments off

 

Tip your hat. Give me a tip for the 5.20. I’m taking this load of rubbish to the tip.

It was the subject of cow-tipping (sneaking up on the unfortunate animals when they are asleep and pushing them over) that inspired a late night mental ramble through the many, many uses of this small word – and a reflection on how difficult such small steps can be for students learning English.

Here’s a list, without even consulting dictionaries:

Tip out – to throw something away, “I tipped out all that soup that’s  been in the fridge for three months”

or

Tip out – to eject: “Ma tipped me out of bed and it was only two in the afternoon”

Tip your hat, as above – “A gentleman tips his hat when meeting a lady.”

Or a synomym for “dump” as in a place to leave large amounts of refuse: “This old mattress has to go to the tip.”

You can give someone a tip, and depending on your intonation it can be sarcastic: “Let me give you a tip about the best way to wash dishes.” Read more…

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Longform journalism is dead! You read it here first

May 20th, 2014 Comments off

Longform shmongform. If you’re emulating Marcel Proust, don’t do it online.

“Why do you spend so much time reading those long boring articles in the New Yorker?” my husband inquired sniffily, before resuming his enjoyment of Neatorama.

Why indeed, I ask myself – well, not when it’s an instructive account of Berlin’s hipp-est clubs , as in a few issues back, or Lizzie Widdicombe’s fascinating “The End of Food” in the May 12 issue.

But sometimes you (that is, I) find the finger sneaking forward to scroll down – and there’s more – and more- and more – and for heavens’ sake, I have a life to live! Part of which includes reading all the other interesting stuff on the internet, and keeping up with the latest viral rabbits-eating-raspberries genre.

Another quote: “Longform is dead,” proclaimed the slender, sensitive, journalism graduate by my side as we quaffed institutional wine and celebrated the surprisingly good magazine which he and his peers had produced as a final-year assignment.

The magazine was both on paper and online – there was more content online, but the editor, my companion, assured me that it didn’t run on and on like Beowulf. “Always loved reading,” he said, “but I’ve realized there’s no point in putting long articles on my own website. It’s all about music, and I can see from the views and hits that people will watch the video, but just about nobody reads the equivalent article.” Read more…

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Language in Peril (the other one)

September 16th, 2008 No comments

A RECENT headline in [The Irish Times] read “Grealish speculation upsets PDs”.
An alien with good English picking up The Irish Times and seeing this declaration could reasonably wonder, what sort of speculation is that? Something between grisly and relishing? Used in this way the name of the PD’s wandering star comes across as something out of Lewis Carroll, oh frabjous day, oh slithy tove, for we had come over all grealish.

The perplexed alien would assume that this was another new word, perhaps a mutant, and if he tuned in to a), a radio business forum, or b), some trendy indie blogger, he would soon come across grealish and maybe, just maybe, be able to work out its meaning. For we live in a world where not only is language subject to fantastic bursts of fashion, but tech talk and, most vitally, US-speak direct us along peculiar cul-de-sacs of communication. Read more…

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