bric-a-brac english


In VOCABULARY on November 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

Since bric-a-brac is what this blog is about, I thought I’d start with this lovely word.

Pronunciation: brik-uh-brak

It’s also spelt bricabrac and bric-à-brac (which betrays its French origin). It means, various objects, usually of no great value, like the ones sold in the shop in the photo. They could be interesting or attractive little things, and people might have collections of them.

Here’s how Oscar Wilde used the word:
“The mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.”

Oh, and it’s uncountable, so don’t use it in the plural (a shop that sells antiques and bric-a-brac). And, oh, don’t forget the final ‘c’, because then it would seem like a collection of lingerie.

If you want to talk about various little things of different types, you can also call them odds and ends, bits and pieces, this and that.


Grammar snobs

In usage on April 20, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Real Grammar, by the Macmillan Dictionary

In LEARNING STRATEGIES & TOOLS, VIDEO on March 27, 2015 at 8:58 am

Everyone has an opinion about grammar. Some people get upset about what they regard as bad grammar, and believe we must all ‘follow the rules’. But where do these rules come from? And are they all valid?

In this new feature, Real Grammar, Macmillan Dictionary offers a series of videos and blog posts about grammar questions, such as split infinitives, who vs. whom, dependent prepositions, etc. There are 8 videos so far, with the Dictionary’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael Rundell, each accompanied by a blog post. There’s also a quiz you can do to check your ‘real grammar’ knowledge.

The introductory video (above) discusses the two approaches to grammar – prescriptivism and descriptivism, and explains how analysing corpora is a more reliable way of finding out how the language is really used.

Keep an eye on Macmillan Dictionary’s YouTube page for new videos coming soon!

If you’re interested in ‘real grammar’, follow the hashtag #realgrammar for more information.

For more information about ‘real grammar’, follow the prescriptivism and real grammar series on the Macmillan Dictionary Blog.