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Strictly speaking | Ruburb

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The concept of suburbia may seem a contemporary one. In fact, the word suburb, literally meaning ‘below the city’, goes back to the 14th century, and is mentioned in one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as a hiding place for robbers ...

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Strictly speaking | BOOMLET

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In the wake of the Brexit referendum and economic pessimism in Britain, an optimistic commentator in the EU-based Politico was forecasting a boomlet for financial consultants and lobbyists in London and Brussels. A boomlet? Is that a ‘real’ word or ...

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Strictly speaking | Yummy

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New terms are constantly being created to label demographic groups, often by marketers wanting to target them. These terms are commonly formed using acronyms – as in the examples dinky (dual income no kids yet), kippers (kids in parents pockets ...

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Strictly Speaking | Zenware

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The distractions that tempt us whenever we turn on a device with an internet connection are boundless. We’re immediately bombarded with an array of apps, email and Facebook notifications, advertising pop-ups and clickbait. This sensory overload is the motivation behind ...

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Strictly speaking | bokeh

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This unusual word was borrowed from Japanese less than 20 years ago for a special out-of-focus effect that up-to-date photographers may strive to achieve rather than avoid. In Japanese, the word is written as boke, but said with two-syllables (bow-kay) ...

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Strictly speaking | Patch

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Patches have been put to many purposes over the centuries of the word’s use, so that they may “repair, strengthen, protect, or decorate” a surface (Oxford English Dictionary online). In the 17th and 18th centuries, they could be a form ...

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Whether you’re cis or trans is all a matter of perspective

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Prefixes in English often come in complementary pairs, such as ante-/post- (antemeridian/postmeridian), in-/out- (inside/outside), et cetera. A less well-known pairing is trans- (‘across’, ‘beyond’) and cis- (‘on this side of’), as in transmontane/cismontane – referring to something situated either beyond ...

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Strictly speaking | Emoji

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It’s the time of year when people start creating ‘Best of 2015’ lists and dictionaries put out their ‘Word of the Year’. The Oxford Dictionaries’ choice has caused something of a furore, as it isn’t actually a word. It’s an ...

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Strictly speaking | KELP

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Kelp is an old word for seaweed, especially for the biggest in the family, the so-called giant kelp found on the Pacific coasts of America. Over the centuries, it was used in agriculture as a fertiliser, and as a pre-industrial ...

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Strictly speaking | BOOKANEER

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Bookaneer looks like a modern coinage – a word invented to make reading more attractive to small children by associating it with pirates. Indeed, an episode of the popular TV show for young learners, Sesame Street, has Elmo joining the ...

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