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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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Strictly speaking | Ngangkari

A lot of words have come into Australian English from Aboriginal languages. Think of billabong, corroboree, kookaburra, mia-mia, and of course kangaroo – which was famously misinterpreted by Captain Cook and his crew. It’s true of most of these words ...

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Strictly Speaking | Wussification

Words which can only be defined in negative terms are not the most constructive in our vocabulary. Wuss is one such, usually defined as “a weak or ineffectual person”, i.e. not strong, lacking courage, indecisive, not on top of things, ...

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Strictly Speaking: Black Friday

You may have been a little confused when bombarded with advertising for ‘Black Friday’ sales in the lead-up to Christmas last year. In the US, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving (always the fourth Thursday in November) when shops ...

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Strictly Speaking | Flexitarian

This late 20th century invention finds a word for the diet-conscious individual who likes to vary their food, rather than align with prescriptive practices on the dietary spectrum. Flexitarianism gains traction with people not fully in sync with either of ...

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Strictly speaking | Nutraceuticals

A balanced diet has always been the pathway to good health. Yet anxieties about it have fuelled the unstoppable growth of complementary medicines and “functional foods”, called nutraceuticals (the standard spelling) – rather than nutriceuticals, as you might expect, if ...

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Strictly speaking | Wokeness

The adjective woke, in the sense of “being alert to social injustice”, has had a meteoric rise in the last two years. It originated in African-American slang in the phrase stay woke, first recorded in the 1970s. But its usage ...

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Strictly speaking | Gammon

Britain’s agonising over Brexit has spawned a lot of new vocabulary. One of the most evocative of these words is gammon, used to describe “white men of a certain age who become pink in the face when working themselves into ...

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