The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Sunday, May 31, 2009

World No-Tobacco Day

Today, the 31st of May, is World No-Tobacco Day. This day was created back in 1987 when The Member States of the World Health Organization decided to come together to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.

If you are a non-smoker or an ex-smoker you may find it interesting to read the World Health Organization's website for this year's No-Tobacco Day. If you are a smoker you probably shouldn't read it.

For everyone I have some vocabulary that you can learn related to smoking:

The colloquial names for a cigarette in British English are a cig or a fag. (Be careful with the last word in the US because in American English it is an impolite way of referring to a homosexual male). You need a lighter to light your cigarette and an ashtray for you to deposit your ash and cigarette butts in. You ask someone for a light (not a fire) when you need to borrow someone else's lighter! When you put out your cigarette you are stubbing them out. If you ever wish to stop smoking completely then you can quit or give up! If you enjoy puffing on a cigarette when you have a drink in your hand then I will give you a piece of advice for if you are ever in Britain or in the presence of British smokers. Never ask someone you don't know to give you a free cigarette. In Spain this happens all the time, but in the UK tobacco is extremely expensive and people will think you are rude and cheap if you ask to bum a cig!

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Friday, May 29, 2009

What's the Difference ? - 5

economic / economical

Both these words are adjectives and they look very similar but they are quite different in meaning.

The first adjective refers to things which are associated with the economy as a system. We talk about the current economic crisis and the economic policy of a country or government.

The second adjective, however, refers to something which does not use a lot of fuel or cost a lot of money. We should try to buy cars that are more economical and look for more economical ways of heating our buildings in order to help the environment through wasting less!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

British Cuisine - English Trifle

A trifle is a typical British dessert made from sponge, fruit, alcohol -usually sherry, custard and cream. It is often eaten at Christmas or parties in general. The secret to a trifle is in its many layers and colours which add to its beauty. It has been enjoyed in Britain for over three centuries. You can check out a trifle recipe on Delia Smith's website (this woman is a cooking institution in Britain).

For a very bizarre trifle recipe you should watch Friends Series 6 Episode 9 when Rachel tries her hand at making this British dessert for Thanksgiving with some interesting results. It is one of my personal favourite episodes!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Word of the Week - 52


This week's word is another adjective which is used to describe somebody who is slightly rude and shows a lack of respect towards another person, but sometimes in a funny way.
He has a cheeky grin!
Don't be so cheeky young lady!
The noun from this word is 'cheek' it refers to the fleshy part of the body located on the sides of your face and also to rudeness and lack of respect - but not in a funny way!
She's got some cheek to take your car without asking!
He had the cheek to ask me to pay for his girlfriend too! (tener morro / cara dura)
What a cheek! (Qué morro!)

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Word of the Week - 51


This week's word is an adjective which is used to refer to something which is available because it is extra. You have probably heard people talkng about their spare time which is another way to refer to one's free time. Other uses of this word include the following:

I have a spare room in my flat so you are welcome to come and stay with me while you find somewhere more permenant to live. I have a spare key too so you can come and go as you like.

Have you got a spare pen I could borrow? This one isn't working.

Do you want this cake?
Yes, if it's going spare. (i.e no-one else wants it)

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Word of the Week - 50


This week's word is an adjective which is used in informal English to mean dishonest, risky, not to be depended on or likely to break and cause pain. I thought of this word because I use it quite a lot and my students never know what I mean.

They got involved in a dodgy deal and lost all their savings.
(The deal was risky and didn't work out)

The weather might be a bit dodgy at this time of year in Cantabria.
(So you can't be sure that the weather will be good, it could be very varied with rain)

Be careful, that chair is a bit dodgy.
(It isn't very safe, I'm worried it might break if you sit down too hard on it)

I don't trust that man, he seems a bit dodgy to me.
(I think he looks dishonest)

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

British Cuisine - Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie is a typical English dish. It is not like the pies that we saw in the last British Cuisine entry as it has no pastry whatsoever. The 'pie' top is instead made from mashed potatoes. The contents of the pie include minced beef or lamb, carrots, peas and a gravy style sauce. It is very simple to make and tastes delicious. For me it is a real comfort food! Some people also sprinkle grated cheese on the top before putting it in the oven.

To see a recipe for this dish and an über-short video (1.46 mins) of one of Britain's most famous celebrity chef's making a pie go to this link.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Portmanteau Words

A portmanteau word is a mixture or blend of two other words to create a new word with a meaning related to the two original parts. The word portmanteau is French for coatstand and is in itself an example of such a word since it is formed from the French 'porter' meaning to carry and 'manteau' meaning coat / cloak. In English the word `portmanteau' is used to refer to a type of bag with two sides (as shown in the picture). It is said that the famous author Lewis Carroll first coined the expression 'portmanteau word' in his book 'Through the Looking Glass' in 1871.

Some common Portmanteau words include the following;

BRUNCH (breakfast - lunch)
INTERNET (international - network)
CHOCOHOLIC ( Chocolate - alcoholic)

Look at the following word amalgamations and see if you can work out the two original words and the meaning of the new Portmanteau word. Post your answers in the comments box.


The English language is constantly evolving and new words appear all the time. You could even try to come up with your own portmanteau word in English or in Spanish and post that in the comment box too telling us how you came up with the idea and what it means!


Monday, May 4, 2009

Word of the Week - 49


This week's word is an adjective which is used to describe a person who is not easily satisified or who has high standards and fixed ideas about how things should be.

My father is a very fussy eater, he won't try anything new when we go on holiday and he is always picking at the food on his plate.

My wife is very fussy about the house, everything has to be just right, in the correct position and at the correct angle. It drives me mad!

In informal English you can say that you are not fussy or not fussed to say that you have no preference between two options and that you would be satisfied with either.

"Would you like tea or coffee?"
"I'm not fussy - whichever is easiest for you."

"Red or white wine?"
"I'm not fussed, whichever you prefer."

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

2nd of May