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Words in the news: Looting

In our semi-regular feature on the blog, we take a look at interesting vocabulary in the news. As well as explaining what the key words mean we'll also fill you in on the background to the story. This week, we’re looking at the recent riots and looting in London and the reasons behind them.

There has been a lot of debate into the causes of last week’s disturbances.  I use the word disturbances because they have been referred to as riots, looting and acts of criminality.  The trigger for the events was a shooting of a man by police in Tottenham.  This caused outrage in the local community and there was a peaceful protest.  This unfortunately turned nasty and led to violence towards the police and acts of arson.

What followed on the evening of Monday 8th August caught many people off guard, including the police.  There were acts of looting in several parts of London and in other English cities.  Many disaffected youths broke into shops, stole the contents and in some cases set fire to the buildings.  Although these events did not happen near either of our schools, there was looting close to where I live. 

There has been a lot of head-scratching as to why people acted the way they did.  Some people say it is a result of the growing gap between rich and poor.  Others argue that it is because of the liberal policies of previous governments in terms of education.  Some people like to blame the problem on bad parenting.  There is probably an element of truth in all of these theories.  Whatever the reason - and nobody is really sure why the looting happened -  the events of last week were very sad for London and the majority of Londoners.

The resilience of Londoners has shone through in the aftermath of the riots.  Many people took to the streets with brooms and brushes to help the local authorities clean up the mess left by the looters.  The police have made hundreds of arrests in the past week, and those who caused the trouble are being brought to justice.

London has been through much worse and has always bounced back. I love London and have lived here for almost 15 years.  It’s a big city and sometimes bad things do happen, but in general it is safe.  You have to accept the bad with the good sometimes.  It certainly won’t put me off living here.

I’ll leave you with the words of Samuel Johnson: “By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.”

By Andy


riot - (n.) a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group of people

looting - (n.) an act of carrying off something from a shop or public place 

criminality - (n.) unlawful behaviour

trigger - (n.) cause, reason for something to happen

arson - (n.) to deliberately burn another's house or property

to catch someone off guard - (idiom) to be unprepared for something to happen

disaffected - (adj.) unhappy and disloyal towards the government or authorities

to break into - (phr.v.) to get into a building by breaking a window or door

head-scratching - (n.) confusion

liberal policies - (adj.+n.) laws desgned to give people freedom to act and say what they want

an element of truth in sth - (fixed expression) partly true, containing some truth

resilience - (n.) the ability to recover from difficult situations

to shine through - (phr.v.) if a good quality or feeling shines through, it is very noticeable

aftermath - (n.) the results of an event, especially a negative event

to take to the streets - (fixed expression) to gather together in the public streets of a town or city to show communal solidarity in either celebration or opposition

to bring sby to justice - (fixed expression) to punish a criminal

to bounce back - (phr.v.) to recover

to put sby off - (phr.v.) to make you not want to do something

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