Monday, 8 November 2010

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The difficulties of English

Spend a penny

Foreign nurses are receiving a crash course in euphemism after bewildered patients expressing the wish to "spend a penny" found themselves being escorted to a hospital shop. Norfolk's Queen Elizabeth hospital has organised special "adapting to life in Norfolk" sessions for Portuguese staff whose otherwise excellent English results in too-literal translations of everyday expressions. Patients, particularly the elderly, face being met with incomprehension when complaining of "feeling under the weather", suffering "pin and needles" or experiencing problems with their "back passage".

Local expressions such as "blar", meaning to cry, and "mawther", meaning "young woman", are also likely to see mystified nurses flicking in vain through conventional phrasebooks. The distinct Norfolk brogue provides another linguistic obstacle for the recruits hired by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS trust. "One of the things people from overseas had difficulty with was our euphemisms such as 'spend a penny'," said a hospital spokesman. "In the past some of the new recruits from abroad, when patients used the expression, were taking people to the hospital shop."

"They all speak exceptional English, but that doesn't necessarily cover the type of English spoken in Norfolk. We have many different phrases and sayings in this part of the world. A lot of patients are elderly and use what can only be described as quaint phrases and descriptions, especially for body parts and common illnesses." The hospital has organised two-hour induction courses in dialect, idiom and colloquialism, covering phrases such as "spick and span", "higgledy-piggledy", "la-di-dah" and "tickled pink". Other useful terms on the agenda are "jim jams", "a cuppa" and "elbow grease". Nurses are being asked to write down any confusing phrases they hear on the wards so they can be discussed in follow-up meetings.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients' Association, said the training would ensure "safe service" in hospitals. "Anyone working for the NHS - nurse, doctor, other healthcare professional, healthcare assistant - must be able to be understood by the patient and must demonstrate that they are safe to treat patients," she said. But Fiona McEvoy, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, resorting to idiom herself, said it was "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut". It made more financial sense for foreign nurses to pick up local phrases "from hearing them used and being advised by peers", she said.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Monday, 23 August 2010

The language of Starbucks

There's a nice language-related article on the BBC about the language of ordering in coffee shops and Starbucks in particular.
Click here .....

Friday, 30 July 2010

The Famous Five for the 21st C.

housemistress = teacher
awful swotter = bookworm
tinker = traveller
(etc, etc)

The language in the Famous Five books is being updated so that today's children can understand them.

A jolly shame or a bally good thing?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Buzz words

Denture Venturer is a great new term. Click here to go to the whole article to find out what it means and how to use it.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The World Cup

In this video from the University of Nottingham's website you can watch a rather eccentric-looking professor explainng why he believes the world cup cannot possibly be made of solid gold.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Volcanic language learning quiz

Business Spotlight - up to date as always - has written an article (with vocabulary help) follwed by a related language quiz.
Click here

Saturday, 13 March 2010

listening practice

This website may at first look slightly unserious, but the listening quizzes are really worth trying out.
elllo listening practice

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Have you any idea what these acronynms stand for in the business world (and whether it is appropriate to use them)?
Read a short article to find out here

Acronym acrimony: The problem with Pigs

Thursday, 4 March 2010

HR vocabulary

Here's a pretty good website for Human Resources related vocabulary.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Marketing with animated characters

A British price-comparison website has had phenomenal success with Aleksandr Orlov, an animated meerkat.
Go to the website see how it is done, and to see what all the fuss is about.
And don't forget to compare the meerkats and watch the videos too :-)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Spoken poetry

The 21st Century Flux

English. The new disease?
It pours out of television speakers and computer screens
Disregarding Babel with its very cocky fluency
Sticking on its labellings at every opportunity.
Nothing’s safe; it won’t stop when it begins to spread
it dominates the airwaves and reigns/rains on the internet
leaving cultures altered and confused as to what’s what
turns the dialecting of the youths to a hotch-potch
rag-tag scrabble bag; everyone’s affected
the little languages will not survive unprotected.
So hold your own, but get a firm hold of English
and every last one of us shall be a multilinguist:
sing it!
Shampoo juggernaut moolah hullabaloo
ad infinitum, pow-wow, kudos, déjà vu
Won ton, billabong, beef, potato, hobo, dream
Wha gwan with the wigwam boogie
mr Chimpanzee?
Welcome to the twenty-first century flux
for now, English is the language of choice
And when it dies, as every tongue eventually must
let it be said you added your voice
The professor said, “Pif! What language is this?
Degenerate slang isn’t standard English!
We at the top must establish limits.”
I said “Prof! Language is the people that live it.”
Get loose, give it some vision and foresight
and juice; we can fling the dictionary door wide.
I live in a city where it seems like
every single idiom is intermingling stream-like,
Like streams, that know no barriers
No matter what dams and channels are established –
they are irrelevant. What matters is the message that is put across,
and the passion that’s invested in it. Nothing’s lost
it merely mutates, and lets the people speaking it
tweak it in new ways.
Meaning that meaning is whatever you say
Jilly, Jack, Hussain, in Iraq to the UK …
to all corners; through all twists and bends
Six billion personal versions of events
It’s thrilling when you think of all the tongues on a jostle
to express their puzzle in the best words possible.
The more words we have, the more ways we have
to express the world we have to co-exist in.
And if the English language is the lingua franca of this planet,
never say that it should be a closed system.
Welcome to the twenty-first century flux
for now, English is the language of choice for the performers
But when it dies, as every tongue eventually must
let it be said you added your voice to the chorus
Cos English isn’t English; it’s an elastic patchwork
A fantastically insane confederation
a very strange tapestry of foreign vernaculars
borrowed from Norse kings, and fettered slavemen
So if language is linked to the land which it springs from
English is linked to the globe in entirety
With fragments of every language you’ll think of
Roots in every type of society:
Welsh, French, Jamaican, Indian, Italian
Dominican, Hispanic, Germanic, Norse, African,
Norman, Dutch, Latin, Greek, Japanese, Yiddish,
Native American, Antipodean and Finnish…
The list could continue till my tongue went blue;
what I’m saying is the owner is you.
It lives as it’s spoken, and it mirrors the truth
And there isn’t any owner but you…
Welcome to the twenty-first century flux
for now, English is the language of choice
But when it dies, as every tongue eventually must
let it be said you added your voice

written by Dizraeli