There are certain words in English, as well as the other languages I speak with varying degrees of fluency, that I find absolutely irresistible.
Be it the sound or the meaning, I fall in love with them and, even if it’s not a very commonly used word and I don’t often get a chance to use it myself, my inner linguist rejoices every time I encounter one of my favourites in conversation or writing.
So I thought I’d like to share these beloved lexical gems of mine with you.
And the word I’d like to start with is gobsmacked. It’s pronounced /ˈɡɒbsmækt/ and means so surprised or shockedthat you can’t speak.
This UK slang word is made up of gob, meaning mouth, and the past participle of the verb smack, meaning hit.
Here’s an example of how it’s used:
I was absolutely gobsmacked when a distant relative I’d never met had left me a fortune.
Hope you like this word as much as I do. And even if you don’t, try to memorise and use it in conversation – that’ll make you sound more native-like.
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Thank you is probably the most frequently used word in the UK. Britons pepper their speech with thank-yous so generously that the word has lost much of its meaning having turned into a sort of verbal smile, as in the following example, which is a typical dialogue between a cashier and a customer you’ll hear and get involved into a lot in this country.
– Do you need any bags?
– No, thanks.
– Would you like to pay in cash
or by card?
– Please insert it into the card
reader and enter your PIN. Thank you. Here’s
– Thanks a lot.
– Have a lovely day! Bye-bye!
You too. Bye!
It may sound ridiculous but, if you
care what others think about you and your manners, you’d better
overuse rather than underuse the magic word. Luckily, there’s
actually more than one, so take your pick.
The very first thing you learn to say in any new language
is, without doubt, how to greet people. And there’s a good reason for that –
you can’t possibly strike up (=start)
a conversation without saying hello first. Well, technically speaking, you can,
but we don’t do that in polite society
(=educated and well-mannered people).
Hello is a
universal greeting – it works at any time of day and in any situation, especially
with people you don’t know well and older people.
Hello Mrs Smith. How are
It’s also the word we use when answering the phone.
Hello. – Hi Jenny, it’s
Katy. – Oh, hi Katy!
Hello there can
be used to address either one person or a group of people.
Hello there! It’s ages
since I last saw you. How have you been?
We also use it rather informally when writing to someone
whose name we don’t know (or can’t remember!). For example, you want to buy
something on Ebay but have questions to ask the seller. Hello (or Hi) there is a perfectly acceptable way of starting your
Then, there’s hi,
which these days is by far the most popular greeting among native English
speakers as it’s friendlier and less formal than hello. It’s used both in conversation in informal writing, i.e.
emails and text messages, with family and friends, colleagues and clients,
people who do things for us, such as shop assistants and waiters, and so on.
The only restriction in its use is the age difference – don’t say hi to anyone who’s much older than you,
unless you’re on intimate terms with them as I am with my parents-in-law, for