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Teaching Tips 73

Get hip to chav
To sit or not....

Get hip to chav Tip
Get hip to chav

Have a look at this. What is being talked about?

It was hip in 1904, wizard in 1922, pissed off in 1943, sexy in 1956, awesome in 1961 and ghetto fabulous in 1996. This year it's chav.

They are the buzzwords from the different years in British society which come from an article published by the Guardian this week. Have a read:

David Ward, Tuesday October 19, 2004, The Guardian

It was hip in 1904, wizard in 1922, pissed off in 1943, sexy in 1956, awesome in 1961 and ghetto fabulous in 1996. This year it's chav.

Every year has its buzzword ("a word or expression from a particular subject area that has become fashionable by being used a lot, especially on television and in the newspapers") and a new book lists 101 of them, one for every year from 1904 until now.

Some, like tiddly-om-pom-pom (1909), have gone into a tailspin (1917), while cheerio (1914) has largely been demobbed (1920) from hip (1904) conversations.

Others live on, having turned up surprisingly early: mobile phone in 1945, sacred cow in 1910.

The list has been compiled by Susie Dent, a regular on Channel 4's Countdown, for her new book Larpers and Shroomers: The Language Report (Oxford University Press).

Ms Dent wants to provide a snapshot of today's language and has included words she admits may not stand the test of time.

"It is taking a fairly detailed look at what is happening to language now without worrying too much about whether these changes will make an impact in six months' time," she said.

Chav is the noun which describes young men who wear cheap gold jewellery and baseball caps and hang around in shopping centres all over Britain.

The word is thought to have come from the mid-19th century Romany word chavi, meaning child, a explanation that seems unlikely if undeniably cool (1948). "I think it's a really horrible word, but it is quite a good example of a word that has burst out on to the scene," Ms Dent commented. "It is quite surprising in a way. It is one of quite a few social class labels that have emerged."

The business world breeds buzzwords. You can almost hear David Brent from The Office drone on about dropping his pants (lowering the price of a product to close a sale), moose on the table (an issue no one wants to address in a meeting), and a prawn-sandwich man (a corporate freeloader).

Ms Dent also predicts that suave metrosexual man will be replaced by the scruffy retrosexual, defined as spending as little time and money as possible on his appearance.

Buzzword scholarship now has its own website, managed by buzzwhackers (people "who receive some degree of pleasure in bursting the bubbles of the pompous") who maintain up-to-date listings.

A larper, by the way, is someone involved in the art of live action roleplaying and a shroomer experiments with hallucinogenic fungi, whose effects can sometime be psychedelic (1957) and may be seen as a recreational alternative to a spliff (1936).

Buzzwords from 1904 to 2004

1904 hip

1905 whizzo

1906 teddy bear

1907 egghead

1908 realpolitik

1909 tiddly-om-pom-pom

1910 sacred cow

1911 gene

1912 blues

1913 celeb

1914 cheerio

1915 civvy street

1916 U-boat

1917 tailspin

1918 ceasefire

1919 ad-lib

1920 demob

1921 pop

1922 wizard

1923 hem-line

1924 lumpenproletariat

1925 avant garde

1926 kitsch

1927 sudden death

1928 Big Apple

1929 sex

1930 drive-in

1931 Mickey Mouse

1932 bagel

1933 dumb down

1934 pesticide

1935 racism

1936 spliff

1937 dunk

1938 cheeseburger

1939 Blitzkrieg

1940 Molotov cocktail

1941 snafu

1942 buzz

1943 pissed off

1944 DNA

1945 mobile phone

1946 megabucks

1947 Wonderbra

1948 cool

1949 Big Brother

1950 brainwashing

1951 fast food

1952 Generation X

1953 hippy

1954 non-U

1955 boogie

1956 sexy

1957 psychedelic

1958 beatnik

1959 cruise missile

1960 cyborg

1961 awesome

1962 bossa nova

1963 peacenik

1964 byte

1965 miniskirt

1966 acid

1967 love-in

1968 It-girl

1969 microchip

1970 hypermarket

1971 green

1972 Watergate

1973 F-word

1974 punk

1975 detox

1976 Trekkie

1977 naff all

1978 trainers

1979 karaoke

1980 power dressing

1981 toyboy

1982 hip-hop

1983 beatbox

1984 double-click

1985 OK yah

1986 mobile

1987 virtual reality

1988 gangsta

1989 latte

1990 applet

1991 hot-desking

1992 URL

1993 having it large

1994 Botox

1995 kitten heels

1996 ghetto fabulous

1997 dot-commer

1998 text message

1999 Google

2000 bling bling

2001 9/11

2002 axis of evil

2003 sex up

2004 chav

Compiled from Susie Dent's Larpers and Shroomers: The Language Report (Oxford University Press)

A wonderful list of words, isn't it? It really does show a slice of the socio-cultural development of Britain over the last hundred years. So what to do with it in class?

With upper intermediate & advanced classes, the text would provide an ideal reading lesson.

Begin as I did with the introduction, the students guessing what 'it' is. If needed a quick review of the language of present & past deduction would be relevant. Then you could move to the first part of the article, not the list of words. After verifying their predictions, they could identify all of the buzzwords in the text, with dictionaries on hand if needed.

Then on to using the list of words & their dates. You could give a selection of words that the students will probably know the meaning, ask them to discuss the meanings in groups, clarifying for all in their group, discuss when they might have appeared in British life & then in the feedback compare their ideas with the original list in the article.

Students could be asked if any of the words are similar in their languages, which could provoke a discussion on the internationalism of words & the cultural events surrounding them.

Ask the students to think of any buzzwords in their own languages with the year approximately they appeared, they present them to the group, giving a translation into English, & discussing why they appeared then & if other language groups in the class had similar buzzwords around the same time.

You could give some interesting culturally relevant teacher talk by telling the students about some of the vocabulary & why they came about at that particular time. I'm sure it would make very interesting listening practice for your students. This could be with quite low levels, you telling them about the article & giving out some of the obvious ones to discuss & the go on to telling them about some others.

If you have any more ideas for dealing with the text & the list of words, please post for all in the Forums at:

(Talking of 'chav'...since coming across this article, the following link popped up. It is clearly for the chav in you. Without the neighbours noticing, you can 'pimp your ride' - repaint the chav machine in gaudy colours to attract other chavs, I presume. If you've got way too much time on your hands... )


It's Halloween soon & a link to a selection of classroom ideas:

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A classic approach to dealing with sound problems in class is to help students with problems they have with 'minimal pairs'. These are words in a language that differ from each other by only one distinctive sound - one phoneme - & which also differ in meaning. eg. 'pit & 'pete', 'fit' & feet', 'hat' & 'hot'. Different nationalities have different problem sound pairs, for example the Spanish learner finds 'berry' & very' difficult.

As with any aspect of phonology , the learner needs to actually hear the sound & then discriminate, before going on to production. Here are some activities to help your students tackle minimal pairs:

1. Say one of the pair & move the sound into the other pair - i:i:i:i:i:i:i:i:i:i:IIIIIIIII - when the students hear the change they react by knocking on their desks, raising their hand, raising their partner's hand etc..

2. Dictate words & students categorise:

/i:/ - eat, feet, sleep, beat....
/I/ - fit, bit, sit, hit.....

3. Students think of a story containing words with the minimal

/i:/ - lean, been, seen, keen....
/I/ - drink, think, fish, sin....

4. You read out sentences & the students decide which of the minimal pair was in the sentence.
e.g 'They wanted to go out to eat.' Choice: it/eat

5. Using dialogues with lots of examples of specific pairs.

6. Bingo - the cards consist of minimal pairs instead of numbers. You read the first one until someone shouts 'bingo!' & then hand the activity over to the students.

7. Tongue twisters - 'She sells sea shells on the sea shore' - 'nuff said.

8. Information gap maps - find a simple map & tippex out the road names & then fill them in with names containing the minimal pairs: Ship St, Sheep St, Sheet St, Chat St, Chit St etc... Students then ask & give directions.

9. Hear/Say activity - see activity no 7

A lot of phonology work in the classroom seems to be directed to working on minimal pairs & although this is a useful area for some students, I feel that now & then is a useful rule of thumb. Prominence, tone units & tonal movement get my vote as worthy of more attention.

Here are a few links to sounds on the site:
The phonemic chart
Some common sound problems & techniques
Sound activities 1
Sound activities 2
Sounds in combination
An introduction to the phonemic chart

Online practice for your students from

If you have any more ideas for dealing with minimal pairs, please
post for all in the Forums at:


It's United Nations Day on October 24th & there are some lesson
ideas from a previous Tip at:

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To sit or not...

If you have just begun a course, you might be wondering if a public exam might be suitable for a particular group you are teaching. Students that you have been with you for a while, younger learners (& parents) who need to see the next step or those that seem to be 'stuck' at a level are ideal candidates for the exam that may add interest & motivation to the lessons & their learning.

Here are a few advantages to taking up an exam:

  • the exam provides a common purpose to the group, all are working together towards the same outcome, healthy for the group dynamics.
  • the exam usually provides a clear syllabus to follow - good for the advanced course where it is more difficult to design a clearly defined course to include all of the students.
  • a good exam will prepare students for the outside world. Exams are much better designed these days to fit into what happens in the classroom & what the students are expected to do in the real world.
  • autonomy & independence are part & parcel of the process as homework needs to be completed & exam practice carried out regularly. It is clear to all that the students themselves will be ultimately responsible for passing the exam.
  • the exam may have a good effect on the teaching, what is known as the 'washback effect'.

And here are a few problems you may come up against:

  • you may find yourself with a group that is really enthusiastic about the exam as a whole but one or two students who have no interest in the exam. Tricky, as you may have to persuade them of the usefulness of the exam-based lessons.
  • you may find only one or two interested in the exam. You could give them extra work to do outside the classroom but this would mean more work for you as exam marking can be time-consuming.
  • you may be unsure as to whether the majority will actually pass the exam you have in mind. Get someone with experience of the exam to assess the students before you make any decision. For some exams, the lower level ones, there should be no doubt as to whether they will pass or not as it would be very demotivating for a low level student to fail an initial exam. For higher levels you need the balance of challenge & success.
  • some students genuinely do not have time to study outside of class time.
  • the students & the teacher may feel the fun & creativity has gone from the lessons. The negative connotations of an exam; boredom, silence, struggle - come to play. Of course it does not have to be this way - exam preparation can be lots of fun.

Whether you are teaching younger learners, the general adult course or business English students, there is a suitable exam for them but be careful you don't rush into a hasty decision that you might regret half way through the course.

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