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  • I’m going to suggest

    1. social media
    2. cloud sourcing
    3. what’s trending

    … and hello from Australia this morning!

  • Since I’m not a computational linguist, this assignment was really challenging. I played with the SketchEngine for a couple of hours, and I think it could be either “thank you” or “The Prisoner”. When you post the results, please do let us know how to write such a query.

  • By their very nature (i.e. in quotation marks) they would have to be words or expressions that seem to denote the real which is then called into question, so the commas subvert the word’s meaning. I’m not sure that I can come up with five, but ‘real life’, ‘genuine’, ‘just friends’, ‘guarantee’, ‘real gold (/ silver etc), ‘ínstant celebrity’, ‘the real thing’ would be possibilities. More to follow if I think of them!

  • Others might be ‘save’ or ‘resuce’, ‘sick’ / ‘unwell’ / ‘under the weather’, ‘common sense’, ‘famous’, ‘speak for itself’,

  • Dear John

    Your article has really motivated me towards a personal informal language research… The headline question can lead us to a diversity of fields in the real world. Let me suggest the following, and I hope they may entertain yourself and be accepted. 🙂

    * real picture
    *crystal clear
    *financial debt

    Thanks for your attention.


  • Hello from Portsmouth and thank you for all your comments. Some promising competition entries… So far no-one has got 5 of the top 20, but both Caroline and Alexander have notched up at least one point. Lisa-Gaye and Maria have got the right general idea, but no hits as yet. Jean and Caroline – remember I’m looking for *two*-word expressions!

    Alexander: I wasn’t able to generate the list entirely from within SketchEngine. I’m not a computer specialist, but I did use some additional computational tools that are in the public domain. It took me a while to think it through. I’ll release the algorithm once the competition is over.

    Keep ’em coming!


  • Curiouser and curiouser! (no, it’s not one of my answers). Logically thinking, this two-word expression must be very recent (to justify double quotes) and be talked about a lot, or it could be a proper noun (like “Big Brother”), or it is some phrase which is extremely common when used ironically. Not sure whether it could be some expression which is common in direct speech (like “good morning”). Anything else missing?

    New suggestions from me: “hands on”, “best practice”, “at risk”, “regime change”.

    John, I’m not a programmer, either. Just a language teacher here.

  • “family values,” “gold standard,” “intelligent design,” “clean coal”, “hot spots” are up there with “real world” and “regime change” in COCA.

  • Hmmm you have me intrigued now!
    How about
    “google it”
    “reality TV”
    “crowd sourcing”

  • Hello John

    Thanks for your feedback so far! This is really challenging. Well, I’m suggesting these today:

    * cutting-edge
    * state-of- art
    * debt crisis
    *stock market
    * tech savvy

    Please let us know of any points… 🙂

    Enjoy the competition everyone!


  • My guess will be that these words might be fairly recent, but not necessarily so. And mostly used ironically, and in a variety of contexts, not only business and politics. Your article has prompted me to do some search in COCA, I admit, but some of the suggesions have already been made, so let me make some different ones:
    1.common sense
    2.good job
    3.big picture
    4.high risk
    5.real life
    By the way, I’m only a humble English teacher, not a liguists either, let alone a corpus linguist.

  • Hello John

    Upon further reflection I’ve thought of submitting these two word expressions so trendy in the real (contemporary) world:

    * bail out
    *cash withdrawal
    *peak stuff
    *mobile apps

    Bye for now


  • Excellent entries from everyone. In addition to the people I mentioned last week, Jean and Monika have also now scored points. And I think you all have pretty much the right idea – the expressions concerned tend to be recent entrants into the language and/or have contested meanings. At some level, the speaker/writer is not accepting the expression, or its face value.

    As for the prize, in principle we have a winner, but I am awaiting a ruling from the “bearded sage”. (Remember I said *predicts* not *counts*.) As soon as all this is settled, I will publish the list and the search algorithm.

    I’ll be back very soon with some more contested meanings from the ‘real world’.