October 14, 2011
by wordplei

Playing with words, word/plei/’s way

A cozy corner to relax in with a cuppa - here you can read some (hopefully) interesting morsels about English and related topics wordplei thinks might be of interest to you…well, it is of huge interest and fascination to us, at least!

Yes, the blog is in English – it is for lovers (wherever they may come from) of the English language and culture, and perhaps you’ll use it as a chance to practice your English reading or to get a bit of a feeling of what word/plei/ stands for.

We hope that you learn something new and that you leave with a smile on your face!

Feel free to post comments, add your opinions and never be worried about your level of English – this should be a safe place for you to practice your writing as well. word/plei/ knows exactly how intimidating it can be and we promise to be gentle with you.

If there are any related topics, links, ideas that you think that word/plei/ needs to cover and add to the blog (with our thoughts, of course!), then simply drop us an email at: blog@wordplei.com

Ta very much and take care,

P.S. IMPORTANT! word/plei/ is professional, but we also have a sense of humour and we believe that swearing is simply a fact of life and language.

We’ve stated our thoughts on swearing on the main website, and how we deal with the topic when blogging will reflect this. We are not going to spend all of our time here on the blog justifying writing about the topic. If you see a posting with ** in the title, then please be aware that it might include swear words. If you are under 16, or easily offended, then please simply read something else. We do, of course, keep things within the realms of deceny. Ta!

April 13, 2012
by wordplei

**Du darfst….aber muss es sein?**

Better late than never, we finally add our two cents to the discussion surrounding the new “Du darfst…” marketing campaign.

It seems that Unilever, the company behind the brand, “Du darfst”, wants to send out a positive message to the women in Germany that they shouldn’t have to count calories and have their lives shackled to various diets anymore. Whether or not eating food ONLY from the “Du darfst” (translated: you may / you’re allowed) range, and as much of it as you want, will lead to any weight loss, is a scientific discussion far beyond word/plei/’s remit. What interests us, is the marketing slogan: “Fuck the diet!”.

We see this as a wonderful example of how wrong someone can get it, when it comes to swearing.

In the UK, where the word “fuck” is, admittedly, used rather freely (in certain social situations and contexts), its not seen on the television until the watershed (which begins at 21:00 on terrestrial TV), so imagine our surprise when the “Fuck the diet!” campaign graced our TV screens as early as 15:30. Much as the word is fairly common in the UK, the user is still seen as being, well, rather common for using it. Its doubtful that, in the UK, this wouldn’t have even gotten past the Advertising Standards Agency.

The TV ad has generated plenty of complaints – not only for the use of foul language at such an early time of the day (we can already imagine the amount of toddlers now running around yelling “fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck” whilst parents anxiously try to get them to shush – no doubt making the little ones even more keen to say it!), but also for using English words in an otherwise German-language ad, aimed at Germans – German is a lovely language and it certainly isn’t lacking in words which could have been used!
One simply can’t assume that everyone will understand the English, and people DO also tend to translate a foreign language phrase and when you say “fick die Diät”, using the German equivalent, well, it just would never happen. So what makes “fuck” kind of cool, and “ficken” still taboo? Perhaps there is a lack of emotional connection to the word “fuck”, and it has a wider usage and meaning, making it somehow softer then the German equivalent (which is only really ever used as a verb and to denote sexual intercourse)?

Language has always changed, morphed, adapted, flowed, but much as we here at word/plei/ are against sanitised language and pretending that swearing doesn’t happen, there is, and should be, a balance. And if you’re going to swear, at least make sure that you hit the right tone and are fully aware of who you’re talking to! The biggest danger in trying to be hip or cool, is when the person tries too hard and it results in that feeling you had when you were 14 and your Dad started dancing in front of your friends (English doesn’t have a word for “fremdschämen” – see, it is a great language!).

All in all, the message behind the marketing campaign seems to be a healthy one, just a shame that the marketing guys seemed to have really fucked it up and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth – not necessarily a good thing for a food brand. Mind you, they might well be patting themselves on their backs for all the coverage.

Ta very much and take care,


March 30, 2012
by wordplei

word/plei/ news – Selling Ourselves Workshop (for trainers/schools)

ELTABB (English Language Teachers’ Association Berlin-Brandenburg) is one of a network of English Language Teachers’ Associations throughout Germany and the world. The premise of the association is “teacher helping teacher” and in this spirit, Zoe Carruthers will be running a workshop in June.

Selling Ourselves

Don’t just be better, be more business-minded!

We spend a lot of time developing our teaching skills. But how much time do we invest in becoming professional marketeers?
Companies devote a significant portion of their budget to sales and marketing, and for good reason. Obviously, freelancers and schools don’t have that kind of money, but we do have at least some time. What ideas can we take from the business world to improve our sales?
The bottom line: How can we become more visible to potential customers and win more contracts?

This workshop is aimed at freelancers, schools and agencies working in all fields of English teaching.It will focus on:

Your company:
You’re not only a teacher / trainer, you’re the chairman of your own company. A successful “company”, even if it is a one-person show, has different “departments” for a reason.

Your marketing mix:
Mind your Ps! The first steps: Product and place! What are you actually selling?
The elephant in the room: Price! What do you need to earn, and what are your services worth?
Back to basics: Promotion! Effective marketing is not (just) about flyers and mailings (aka spam), it’s also about professional networking.
The missing P: Perception is everything!

Your sales pitch:
It really isn’t about selling ice to the eskimos: Practical tips for researching potential customers / Types of decision-makers
The pitch: Giving them the solution to their problem
Dealing with gatekeepers / PA’s
The Pitch
Making a date
Handling objections
Closing the deal
Doing market research and business development

Date: Saturday, 2nd June 2012, 14:00 – 17:00
Location: GLS Sprachenzentrum, Kastanienallee 82, 10435 Berlin (Directions)
Contact: Please register for this workshop at events@eltabb.com
Entrance: Entrance: €15. ELTABB members free of charge

You can find other ELTABB events here.


January 26, 2012
by wordplei

We all have them…

…stereotypical ideas of what people from other countries are like.

The Guardian took part in a lovely little exercise where 6 national papers (from the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Poland), as part of the Europa Project, were asked to stereotype one another. Commentators in each country then assessed the views to see if, and how far, commonly-held views held true. You can take a look here.

With the current European crisis, European Cup and the Olympics either upon us, or rapidly approaching, these national stereotypes will be trotted out, with more or less humour, more frequently.

The interesting – and silly – thing about these kinds of stereotypes is although there seems to be some basis of truth in them, how many of us actually identify with them? And of all the people who you know personally from a particular country, how many of those come anywhere close to the stereotype? Not a lot, would be our guess.

We think that being aware of these “differences” is all well and good, but being able to deal with others on a personal level is far more important.

Ta very much and take care,

January 19, 2012
by wordplei

It ain’t just about the money!

word/plei/ just saw a fantastic presentation posted on Richard Branson’s blog on how to motivate / incentivise senior management (its worth looking at his blog from time-to-time anyway):

Not only is the presentation wonderfully done, well…drawn, but it should also hopefully give some food for thought – money is not the only thing to make the world go round.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bring ideas like this more into the workplace and work together with partners who also worked “intelligently” and with conscience?

Ta very much and take care,

January 19, 2012
by wordplei


No, not obviously a swear word, but Countdown (one of the world’s longest running game shows, and a firm fixture in British culture) hit the headlines yesterday for the above letter combination.

Contestants have 30 seconds to come up with the longest word from the letters….

And what did one come up with? 

No, no answers on a postcard needed - here is the answer: “wanker*”.

Maybe we should have written “bleep”? Mind you, The Guardian wrote the word 5 times in the article, so we think that we’re doing alright.

Ta very much and take care,

*The word, along with several others, can also be used as a kind of compliment too – we’ll be blogging about this at some point, as this way of using swear words or slang is full of danger if you don’t know how to do it properly! Until you know how and are fully and utterly confident to do so, never use a swear word and then tell the other person that it was meant as a compliment! word/plei/ accepts absolutely no respsonsibility!

January 4, 2012
by wordplei

The History of English in Ten Minutes (by The Open University)

An amusing and rather sweet 10-minute long video on the history of the English language from The Open University, showing the origin of several phrases and words.

Enjoy and feel free to ask questions if any of the references are too English and need explaining – Hobnobs with that cup of coffee, anyone?

(The text is rather quickly spoken and may be tricky for some to understand. Transcripts of each chapter are available individually – here is the link to chapter one and the rest can be found by clicking through the individual chapters here.)


Ta very much and take care,


December 21, 2011
by wordplei

You say tomato, I say tomahto…

“You say eether and I say eyether,
You say neether and I say nyther,
Eether, eyether, neether, nyther,
Let’s call the whole thing off!
You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto,
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let’s call the whole thing off!”

(Lyrics – Louis Armstrong – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off)

or…language coaches and the “right” answer.

English is a very odd language – grammar rules which have more exceptions than the rule and pronunciation which often has nothing to do with the letters you see written… Added to this, you can get a room full of English trainers and ask what something means or how it is pronounced and get a variety of answers.

Rules and definitions are good, but we always need to bear in mind context and culture, amongst other things. English is evolving constantly due to business and the internet and it is becoming harder to say what is exclusively BE (British English) or AE (American English), or any of the other, many, types of English we have floating about. Or even if this actually matters anymore.

No doubt we’ll be blogging more on this topic in the future, but do you have any initial thoughts? Do you have a love for a particular type of English? When looking for an English language trainer, do you look at where they come from? Are you a purist, or do you see language as only one part of communication?

Ta very much and take care,