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Strictly Speaking | Anthropause

It’s hard to imagine that Covid-19 has had any benefits, but one that is sometimes suggested is the potential healing effect on the natural world of human withdrawal from it. Scientists have given a name to this pandemic-induced slowing of ...

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Strictly Speaking | Dai gou

Dai gou pronounced “die go” means “surrogate shopping” in Chinese. It refers to an informal kind of supply chain by which trusted individuals buy and/or transport quantities of selected goods to resell in China or elsewhere, and avoid commercial taxes ...

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Strictly speaking | Exco

Acronyms are handy expressions for those who know what they stand for, and impossible for those who don’t. Exco encountered in a brief news report gives little away. Could it be a shortened form of excon (-vict/-fidence man)? Try making ...

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Strictly speaking | Hygge

The Danish word hygge, meaning ‘a sense of comfort that engenders  contentment’ has had various waves of popularity in the English-speaking world.  It was first recorded in the US in the 1960s to describe a general feeling of wellbeing. ‘Mindfulness’ might be a ...

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Strictly speaking | Get-up

This informal word has multiple senses – not all overlapping – depending on which dictionary you consult. They do agree on get-up being an unusual costume or outfit which draws attention to the wearer. “Get-up nights” are a suburban extravaganza ...

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Strictly speaking | Furlough

Lexicographers and linguists like to make graphs to show how the usage of words ebbs and flows. It’s a trivial comparison to make, but some of these charts showing recent trends have similarities to the graphics we’ve been seeing of ...

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Strictly speaking | Frugal(ista)

In its sense of “sparing”, frugal is not a new word, and it often works as a negative when applied to the amount of food on the table, as in a frugal meal. But Samuel Johnson’s C18 observation on the ...

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Strictly Speaking | Fomite

Covid-19 has spawned a new vocabulary, from lockdown to social distancing to super-spreader, that has quickly become familiar. We’ve also had to learn technical terms like pandemic and coronavirus, and drug names like Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir. Another medical word that ...

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Strictly Speaking | Magpie, hamster, squirrel

In a recent article on words that the COVID-19 crisis is adding to English (and other languages), columnist David Astle mentions magpie as a verb, meaning to swoop on supermarket shelves and clear them (Sydney Morning Herald, 3.4.20). The aggressiveness ...

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Strictly speaking | Infocalypse

This obscure and tongue-challenging word captures what some regard as the most destructive threat to 21st century society. It’s not COVID-19 but the information apocalypse, with fake news and falsified facts flooding through social media, fostering overcredulity in some people ...

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