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"Go ahead, make up new words!" - by Erin McKean



"Go ahead, make up new words!" - by Erin McKean

1) Work in pairs.

Discuss the questions.

•    Which dictionaries do you use? Why?

•    Do you know how dictionaries are made? How?

•    Do you like learning new words in English and in your own language? Why? / Why not?

•    Have you heard / seen any new words recently? Where? What do they mean?

•    Have you ever made up a new word? What was it? What does it mean?

4) Look at these notes about six ways to make new words.

Watch Part 2 [03:07- 05:49] of the talk. Complete the notes. 

Erin gives six ways to create new words in English:

1  : using words from another language, e.g. kumquat and caramel.

2 Compounding: putting two words together,  e.g.  .

3  : putting parts of two words together, e.g.  .

4 Functional  : e.g. using a noun as a verb, e.g.  .

5 Back formation:  a part of the word  to create a new one, e.g.  .

6 Acronym: taking the first letter of several words,  e.g.  .


2) Watch Part 1 [00:00-03:06] of the talk. Match the extracts (a–e) with these notes (1–3). 

1 New words

2 The unconscious natural grammar rules that live inside our brains

3 The grammar of ‘manners’, known as usage


a ‘Because grammar!’

b ‘This is a wug, right? It’s a wug. Now … there  are two …’

c ‘… take a hoodie, don’t forget to obey the law  of gravity.’

d ‘Can you wear hats inside?’

e ‘No! No. Creativity stops right here, whippersnappers.’


3) Work in pairs.

Compare your ideas in Exercise 2 and explain the point Erin was making in each extract.


5) Watch Part 3 [05:50-end] of the talk.

The purpose of her talk is to  

a explain her job and what is important about it

b argue that words are more important than grammar

c encourage people to create words and contribute to her online dictionary

d argue that it is important to break rules to be  more creative

e explain different ways new words are formed  and disappear from use

 6) Work in pairs. Discuss the questions.

•    What did your parents teach you about manners?  Do you think good manners are important?

•    Why might someone be heartbroken? What would you do or say to him or her?

•    What do you do to edit your essays before you hand them in? Do you get anyone else to help?

•    Give an example of a time when it was difficult to get your meaning across. Did you succeed?

•    What films or books grabbed your attention right at the beginning? How? Did they keep your attention?

7) Work in groups. Discuss the questions.

•    Why do you think these groups of people might invent new words? Is it always to help communication?

poets     politicians     scientists     teenagers

•    Why do you think some words disappear from use?

•    If you are learning English, do you think it’s OK to create new words? Why? / Why not?

•    How might knowing how to make new words help you to develop your English?



















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