Hello and welcome to News Review from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil. Joining me today is Tom. Hi Tom. Hi Neil and hello to our audience. Today’s story is about the new Covid-19 strain, which is rapidly spreading in the UK and this has led to new travel restrictions, both inside and outside the country. Don’t forget that if you want to test yourself on the vocabulary you learn today, there’s a quiz on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. OK.
Let’s hear some more about that story from this BBC Radio 4 news report: So, the story is about a new strain of Covid-19, which is rapidly spreading in the UK. This is important because it basically means that Christmas is cancelled for millions of families in London and the South East of the country. This is because of travel restrictions put in place by the government.
Now, other European countries, such as France, are also imposing travel restrictions on all travel to and from the UK. OK. Well, you’ve been looking at the headlines connected to this story. You’ve picked out three words and expressions, which are really useful. What are they? Really useful indeed. They are: ‘mutant’, ‘amid’ and ‘to follow suit’. ‘Mutant’, ‘amid’ and ‘to follow suit’.
So, let’s start with your first headline and that word ‘mutant’, please. First headline, Neil, is from Metro. It says: ‘Mutant’ – different from others of its kind due to a genetic change. Now, this word is possibly easier to understand if we start with its verb form: ‘to mutate’. Yeah. So, ‘mutant’ is an adjective. The verb form is ‘to mutate’ and when you ‘mutate’… Excuse me. When you ‘mutate’, you change genetically so your genes or your DNA changes. Now, we see this word ‘mutant’ used a lot in, sort of, comic books and sci-fi and fiction, don’t we? Used so much in comics and sci-fi and fiction. You know, I’m a big comic-book fan, Neil.
‘Mutant’ – the word ‘mutant’ – is actually six times more popular now than it was in 1980. It’s six times more common, which probably is a result of all the famous mutants that you see in the comics. Would you like me to tell you some? Yes please. So, some of my favourite mutants from comics and fiction films: Godzilla is a mutant; Deadpool – mutant; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are also mutants; and probably the most famous are the X-Men. The X-Men are mutants as well. OK. Well, it’s interesting that we’re talking about fiction and comic books, because this word contains an element of drama in it, doesn’t it? Absolutely, yeah.
If you look at the headline they say: ‘Mutant Covid’. They don’t say, ‘New Strain of Covid,’ because ‘mutant’ sounds a lot more exciting and dramatic and will, sort of, grab the reader’s attention. You know, ‘mutant’ – you get this idea of like a Godzilla kind of virus: it’s very strong and dramatic, as you said. Yeah. Despite the fact that what they’re saying at the moment is that it’s no more dangerous than the previous strain, but still, as you say, ‘mutant’ gives it… it makes it more appealing to read. It does; it makes you want to read that headline and that’s probably why they’ve used it. OK.
Let’s have a summary: We have been talking about comic books and if you want to watch another News Review on the same topic we have the perfect one for you, haven’t we Tom? We do. It’s about the death of Marvel Comics legend, Stan Lee, two years ago and you can find it by clicking the link. OK.
Let’s have your next headline. My second headline, Neil, is from the Evening Standard – the headline: And there’s that word ‘mutant’ again. Yes. ‘Mutant’ that we looked at in the last headline, but the word we’re looking at here is ‘amid’. ‘Amid’, which means in the middle of or surrounded by. It does, yeah. And yeah, for once on News Review we are looking at a preposition. The reason I chose this word – the thing that for me, I think, is most interesting – is the register, which is how formal it is. Yeah.
Because, as I said in the definition there – in the middle of or surrounded by – why don’t we just say that? Why do we need this word ‘amid’? Because it’s actually – it’s really formal, isn’t it? It is very formal. So, I think there’s two reasons. If you look at the headline, it looks like it’s quite a serious subject; you know, they’re actually going to go into detail about the flights and so forth. Also – ‘in the middle of’ – how many words is that? That’s going to take up a lot of space in the headline. So, ‘amid’ is perfect here. Yeah.
And there’s actually a clue in the word itself: you can see if you take off the ‘a-‘ you have that word ‘-mid’, which is the same meaning as ‘middle’. Or ‘midst’ – ‘in the midst of’, but we will come to that in a moment. So, ‘amid’ – it can be physical. It can be physical or it can be, sort of, figurative. Physically – in the middle of – I could say, ‘I am filming amid all of the chaos in my living room.’ You can see that there’s wires and cameras everywhere. Chaos is a good collocation with ‘amid’. Yeah. Or you might want to say that, you know, we had the BBC Learning English Christmas party on Friday. It was a virtual party, of course and… It was – it was a good time. …’amid’ the party, Rob told a really rude joke. I mean you could say that, but it… that’s quite an informal context to use it. I could say, ‘During the merriment of the Christmas party my colleague Rob told a joke.’ But why would we speak like that on a day-to-day… day-to-day level? It’s too formal so we normally use it for more serious things.
So, it can be figurative as well, this preposition ‘amid’: if you look at what the headline’s talking about, it’s talking about an announcement to stop flights, which was made ‘amid’ an alarming rise in cases. So, an alarming rise in Covid cases – very serious. Rob’s joke at the Christmas party – not that serious. Not that serious…
OK. let’s get a summary: We mentioned that the last word ‘amid’ is a preposition and we have more on prepositions, but it’s not serious, is it Tom? No we have a… you can see prepositions in probably the least serious context, a very silly one on The Grammar Game Show, by clicking the link. Very entertaining though, so do check that out. OK. We have another word for you – another headline. OK.
My next headline is from The Independent and the vocabulary is actually in the subheading. It says: ‘To follow suit’ – meaning to do the same thing. ‘To follow suit’ means to do the same thing. Before we continue, Neil, I will point out that there is a typo in this headline: the subject is ‘five EU countries’ – it should be ‘look poised’, not ‘looks poised’. That’s right. So, the headline has got a mistake in it… but it’s still useful for us. It happens… it happens to the best of us. OK.
So, how about this word ‘suit’? I thought a ‘suit’ was something you wore: the matching jacket and trousers and tie for a formal occasion. It is! This is another definition of ‘suit’ – is a formal attire that you wear, you know: jacket, tie. We can also have ‘suits’ in cards, in games… like in card games. There are 52 cards, I think, and there are four ‘suits’ that are the same colour. And it’s this idea of being the same: if you look at businessmen wearing suits, suits are very much the same, right? Kind of like a uniform. That’s right. You could have a blue suit… yeah, you could have a blue suit or you could have a black suit but basically they’re… they’re the same. And it’s this idea of being similar or being the same thing.
Now, no doubt your plans for Christmas have changed, Tom? Yes, I have. Well… Can you tell us about that? …I will tell you about my Christmas plans, Neil, and then perhaps maybe you can ‘follow suit’ – maybe you could do the same thing. OK. So, my original plan was to go to the countryside, get some fresh air, see my family, but now those plans have been cancelled so I will be spending my Christmas right here in my living room where you can see me. Maybe not with the camera on though. Hmmm… I could live stream my Christmas dinner, but probably not. How about you? OK. So, I’ll ‘follow suit’ now…. Please ‘follow suit’. …I’ll follow suit now and I’ll..
Yeah, I’ll tell everyone that I’m doing exactly the same as you. I won’t be traveling anywhere to see anybody. I’ll be here, because we can’t leave and millions of others in the South-East of England will ‘follow suit’. Exactly. OK. Let’s have a summary: Time now, Tom, for a recap of the vocabulary please.
A recap of today’s vocabulary. we have: ‘mutant’ – different from others of its kind due to a genetic change. ‘Amid’ – in the middle of; or surrounded by. And ‘to follow suit’ – means to do the same thing. If you want to test yourself on this vocabulary, please go to our website: bbclearningenglish.com – there’s a quiz there that you can take and don’t forget we are also all over social media. Thanks for watching and we will see you next time. Take care and goodbye. Bye everybody! Happy Christmas!