The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Monday, June 23, 2008

Word of the Week - 24

This week's football inspired word of the week is a familiar word to most students. Today we are going to look at the meaning of this word when it is employed as a verb. Some of you will have used this verb to mean 'reserve' as it is often found as a collocation with a hotel, a flight or seats. But today's meaning is to 'make a record' and it is used when a person in authority takes down your name in an official record because you have done something wrong.

Last night the German referee booked Villa for fouling Toni.

The man was booked for drink-driving.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 20, 2008

National Idioms -4

Today we are looking at Greece and the Greeks and the expressions that exist in the English language relating to them.

First of all there is a fixed idiom that is used to say that something doesn't not make any sense to you. In Spanish people tend to say that something looks Chinese, but in English we say "It's all Greek to me!".

Secondly, there is a proverb which comes from Virgil's Aeneid and relates back to the time when the Greeks tricked the people of Troy with their gift horse. The actual wording in Virgil's work was “Whatever it is, I fear Greeks even when they bring gifts.” (Spoken by Laocoon, “Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.”) In English we have simplified this and say 'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". The expression is used to remind people that they should not trust their enemies.

Finally for today we have an expression that comes from Greek mythology to talk about a small fault or weakness in somebody or something that could lead to their destruction or failure. The expression is of course 'Achilles Heel' in reference to the great Greek hero who was killed when an arrow was shot into his heel.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

National Idioms - 3

Today we are going to look at expressions containing the word' turkey' (more as a reference to the homonym of turkey as a bird and not to the country.) Then we will go on to look at some compound nouns with the adjective 'Turkish'.

The first expression is 'cold turkey.' This is slang and it describes the period of extreme suffering when a person suddenly stops taking a substance to which they have become addicted, such as drugs. You can also say to 'go cold turkey' to emphasise the fact that somebody has given something up without any help such as nicotine patches or substitute drugs.

Another expression is 'to talk turkey'. This is an Ametican saying and it means to talk honestly and frankly about something. If somebody says to you "Let's talk turkey", they either want you to be honest with them, or they are warning you that they are going to be quite direct.

Now for some compound nouns. Have you ever had a Turkish bath? They are supposed to be very relaxing. Sit back and chill out in steam and let someone massage away all your troubles. After having a Turkish bath, you may feel like indulging your sweet tooth, so how about some Turkish delight? This is a typical sweet from Turkey and was so named by an unknown British man who brought some of these sweets back to the UK after a trip to Turkey.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 16, 2008

Word of the Week - 23

This week we have another football inspired word which can also be used in other contexts. We are going to look at the uses of this word as a verb but if you check out the link to the dictionary you will see that it can be used as a noun in other cases too.

In a football context the verb tackle means to try to take the ball from your opponent.

A fight broke out on the pitch between players when David Beckham was tackled from behind. (This is true! Watch the video)

In a business context the verb tackle means to try to deal with something or someone which / who is sometimes problematic.

The first item on the agenda is how we should go about tackling our sudden drop in sales.

Labels: ,

Friday, June 13, 2008

National Idioms - 2

There is one expression which includes the word 'French' which is quite old-fashioned, although it is still commonly said today in a humourous way. When someone is talking and they use a swear word and want to pretend that they are sorry for using such bad language, they may say " Pardon / Excuse my French!"
More than idioms related to French, we have a great number of borrowings from the French language. Some common words that English has borrowed from French are;
These are just a few, of course there are many, many more.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

National Idioms -1

I thought that this month we could look at some idiomatic phrases that are related to the countries or nationalities of the teams that are participating in the Euro Cup. Today we are going to look at idioms containing the word 'Dutch' which, if you remember from Saturday's entry, is the name given to the people from the Netherlands and their language.

The first expression is 'Dutch courage' Sometimes when people have to do something frightening, they like to have a strong alcoholic drink to steady their nerves and calm them down. The confidence that comes from having this drink is what is known as Dutch courage.

The second expression is 'double Dutch'. One of the Words of the Week a couple of months ago was 'gibberish' and this expression has a similar meaning. If somebody is talking nonsense and you cannot understand them, you can say that they are speaking double Dutch.

The final idiom is 'to go Dutch'. Traditionally, when a man and a woman went out for a meal together on a date, the man would usually pay for it. Nowadays, it is more common for people to share the bill equally. When you do this it is known as going Dutch.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 9, 2008

Word of the Week - 22


This week's word is both a noun and a verb and it came to mind because of the Euro Cup Football Tournament which has just kicked off.

As a verb it describes the action of forcing air to pass through your lips resulting in a high-pitched sound. You can whistle to catch somebody's attention, as is common of some workmen who have a tendency to wolf-whistle at pretty women as they walk by the worksite. You can also whistle a tune or melody.

As a noun it is the name of the small metal instrument that is used by people such as referees to begin, interrupt and end a game of football or other types of contest.
The referee blew the whistle when he saw Reyes hand the ball.
The seven dwarves whistle while they work.

There are two nice idioms including the word 'whistle'. The first is 'to blow the whistle on somebody' which is what you do if you report someone for doing something wrong (similar to the meaning of the referee sentence above). The second is 'to wet your whistle' which is an old-fashioned way of saying 'have an alcoholic drink'.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Football Mania

Today the Euro Cup 2008 kicked off in Switzerland and Austria. If you would like to follow the tournament and the players, you can check out the UEFA website in English and learn lots of football and sport related vocabulary!
The Euro Cup also gives us a perfect opportunity to revise the names of some European countries which students often forget! So here, in alphabetical order, are the competing countries in this year's tournament.

(The) Czech Republic
(The) Netherlands

Do you know what the people from these countries are called? To check your answers go to the comments box at the end of this post. Then if you would like to test yourself further, do this online quiz!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Good Luck!

Just a little message to wish lots of luck to everybody who is sitting a Cambridge exam either this week or the next!

Hope you do well!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Word of the Week - 21

This week's word is a suffix which is added to words to mean that someone is unable to stop doing or taking something. Most students are familiar with the word 'alcoholic' which describes somebody who has a dependency on alcohol, but they are not aware that the same suffix can be added to other words. For example;

My mother is a shopaholic! She spends all week window shopping on her lunch break and then she spends a fortune at the weekend on new clothes and accessories.

This cake is perfect for chocoholics! It is made up of layers of chocolate sponge sandwiched together with chocolate spread and then smothered in chocolate icing!

My father never stops working, he is at the office for twelve hours a day and then he comes home and goes straight to his study to continue working. My mother says he's a workaholic.

These are the most common and accepted words using this suffix but new words are being coined all the time. On Google I found hits for danceaholic, sleepaholic and readaholic!

Labels: , ,