Friday, October 9, 2009

Light bulb moments

'Eureka!' I'm familiar with, as a Greek expression of discovery. It is supposedly what Archimedes said as he realised that water = body mass is displaced when you hop in the bath. But 'Aha, Erlebnis' was a new one to me when I came across it in a book today.

Definition from Wikipedia = An insight that manifests itself suddenly, such as understanding how to solve a difficult problem, is sometimes called by the German word Aha-Erlebnis. The term was coined by the German psychologist and theoretical linguist Karl Bühler. It is also known as an epiphany.

The German definition of Aha Erlebnis, linked on Wikipedia, eludes me in details, but I did recognise the phrase light bulb moment. I like the idea of a light going on in my thinking and certainly we do talk about 'aha' moments! Erlebnis is the philosophical word for experience.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I decided that I really should get my head round Twitter and at least understand how it works. Discovered that this entails learning new vocabulary!

  • tweet - this is a posting on twitter - like a blog posting
  • twitter search - can look for trends, which is the word for common themes on tweets
  • hashtag - a way of connecting tweets - working with other people (like at a conference) and choosing a keyword with a # at the beginning to allow you to find tweets round the same topic eg. #ALANZ
  • RT at the front of someone else's name means you are quoting them = retweet, OH means overheard where you don't want to give the reference
  • if you start a tweet with @someone's twitter name - then it will be reply to that person. But if you put @someone else's twitter name anywhere else in your tweet then everyone will see it
And I really must acknowledge CommonCraft and the way that they present things so simply so that even I can understand! Also found Twitter FAQ useful for clarifying some of the above.

Monday, August 10, 2009

global English and language change

I just came across blog by Macmillan's Dictionary which describes itself below.

This blog discusses global English, neologisms and language change. We explore a wide range of topics related to English today – slang, etymology, new words to improve your English and common errors in English – as well as posting a weekly review of language and words in the news.

We are interested in English as a living language and how it is spoken around the world by the international community of English speakers. We welcome contributions from guest authors and comments from readers.

A fascinating place to browse...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Favourite words

I asked my family the other day what their favourite words were. Which ones of the words below do you know?

My youngest liked the words rhythm and harrowing. He liked rhythm because the spelling is so complicated! My eldest said she has always liked the word gumption. My middle child came up with heaps of words eg. quintessential, spurious and pragmatic. My husband said he likes auspicious, while I opted for serendipity.

Is it the sound or the meaning that we like about words? Or is it just that we like to feel clever using new words, or words that we think are difficult? What are your favourite words?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trendy vocab

Slang is obviously one example of trendy vocab. Slang changes over time and is often specific to a particular place as well. My teenagers say 'My bad' when they make a mistake for instance. They use 'sick' or 'mean' for something that is really good. 'That was a sick performance.' Five years ago they were more likely to say something was 'wicked' or 'awesome' to mean really good.

But other words come in and out of vogue as well. Often these relate to the area that you work in. At the moment one of the buzz words in language learning is 'literacy'. In educational technology there is a lot of talk about m-learning (mobile learning).

I found a site on trendy vocabulary called Word Spy - and NONE of the words/phrases had I heard before. But I liked these two...

adj. Preoccupied by reading or sending text messages, particularly while driving a car.
intexticating pp.
intextication n.

Wikipedia kid
n. A student who has poor research skills and lacks the ability to think critically.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

test your knowledge of idioms and slang phrases

It's always difficult for students to understand idioms. And there are just so many idioms round that it is hard to actually learn enough to be of use.

Certainly, understanding idioms is a more useful goal than actually trying to use them yourself. It's difficult to use idioms because if you get them wrong, no-one will have a clue what you are talking about. And they are often so 'fixed' that it is easy to make a small mistake. For example, you wouldn't say 'I don't have any clue what you mean'. The usual idiom is 'I don't have a clue what you mean'.

So this site might be of value to you as a way of learning/recognising the meaning of a few idioms at a time. Suggestion: even 10 a day might tax your learning ability.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

spelling bee

I've always liked the site Visual Thesaurus - it shows you how one word relates to others of similar meeting in a nifty visual way. Enter a word in the box and then check out synonyms. Make sure you mouseover on the red dots for the meanings.

This new site from them Spelling Bee is a spelling game which is quite fun - and might develop your vocabulary in a very random way!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


You can create your own wordles using any piece of text at This wordle is using the words in our course booklet. The size of the words is relative to their frequency.
  Wordle: SEIP

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

learning vocab never stops

I recently was tidying up the noticeboard above my desk, and came across the list below, which is of new vocabulary for me. I added to the list over several months last year, and I am sharing it as a way of reminding you that no matter how much vocab you think you know, or what advanced level you feel you are at, you can always learn more to help improve your speaking and writing.

brown nosing (one of my friends used this a week later and I knew what it meant!)
contingent on (checking on meaning), contingent thinking
act up = act out in the USA
hegemony (checking pron)

checked spelling of

What is interesting for me looking back at this list, is that the words that I actually still know the meaning of are the ones that I have come across a number of times since I first met them. So I feel quite comfortable now with the word epistemology, but I haven't got a clue as to what stickle might mean. And there are quite a few words that I think I might recognise the meaning of if I came across them in context!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Available in our library on campus, this book is very useful for advanced students, who want to extend their current vocabulary. There are several chapters that look at collocations and what they are etc, and then the remainder of the book looks at different topics such as work and study, and the collocations that might be useful to know in relation to these topics. I liked the chapters at the end as well, under functions. These consisted of useful phrases and chunks in relation to things that we need to say and write.

There are answers to exercises in the back, so the book could be used for self-study, and the index is a handy reference point.

Where did the title of this blog come from?

One of the first quotes from Shakespeare that I ever learnt - from Hamlet.

Polonius: What are you reading my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words!

The purpose of this blog is to share my enthusiasm for vocabulary and words. I love word games - Scrabble is an essential on our family holiday, and I would be only too happy to teach you to play Squabble and Take 2. One of my Christmas presents was a travel version of Scrabble called Scramble, which has been fun to learn. There are lots of other word games too that I enjoy - Boggle, for instance, or UpWords. And then there are crossword puzzles - one of my favourites is in the Listener each week and is a cryptic puzzle. Rather than straight-forward clues, the clues contain hints to the word in all sorts of puzzling ways. I love holidays - a great time to drink coffee, play games and do puzzles.