Season 2 Episode 11

Welcome back to Ethos English, the go-to podcast for advanced English learners and the people who teach them. Don’t forget that you’ll find a full text version of the show including links to all of the readings I mention in the show notes at EthosEnglish.com/podcast. As I go along I paraphrase vocabulary you might have trouble with. At the end of the episode I go over each item with a full definition and an example. 

You may notice that my voice sounds a bit off. I’ve been at home nursing a cold these past few days and have been generally feeling a bit low. But here I am with this week’s episode. 

Every week I read articles in different newspapers and magazines to get ideas for the podcast, and last week I came across a particularly newsworthy story in the Financial Times entitled Fusion energy breakthrough by US scientists boosts clean power hopes. As always, you’ll find the link in the show notes at EthosEnglish.com/podcast. Here’s the introduction to that article:

“US government scientists have made a breakthrough in the pursuit of limitless, zero-carbon power by achieving a net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time, according to three people with knowledge of preliminary results from a recent experiment.

Physicists have since the 1950s sought to harness the fusion reaction that powers the sun, but no group had been able to produce more energy from the reaction than it consumes — a milestone known as net energy gain or target gain, which would help prove the process could provide a reliable, abundant alternative to fossil fuels and conventional nuclear energy.

The federal Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which uses a process called inertial confinement fusion that involves bombarding a tiny pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world’s biggest laser, had achieved net energy gain in a fusion experiment in the past two weeks, the people said.”

Let’s take a look at the sentence “Physicists have sought to harness the fusion reaction that powers the sun.” If you seek to do something you try and achieve it – it’s more formal than saying try to do something. And harness means control and use the natural force or power of something. Harness is used metaphorically. A harness is a set of leather bands used to control a horse or to attach it to a vehicle it is pulling. According to Sketch Engine, the nouns that collocate, that is, go with the verb harness are energy, power, potential, creativity and talent.   

I wanted to include this news story in today’s episode to strike an optimistic note at the close of the year. Reading the news can be pretty depressing so seeing this headline cheered me up a bit. As I started looking into this news story a bit more I found an article in The Economist entitled Controlled fusion is little nearer now than it was a week ago, which strikes a more cautious note than some of the over the top news stories on the recent fusion breakthrough. 

Notice how I used the phrase strike a note two different ways. I first mentioned wanting to strike an optimistic note, that means express optimism, and then I mentioned The Economist striking a cautious note, that is expressing caution. Similarly, we often talk about striking the right note to mean express yourself effectively or appropriately, as in the example: I find it really difficult to strike the right note when I’m writing job applications. 

At the beginning of today’s show I mentioned that this story about fusion was newsworthy. If something is newsworthy it is important or interesting enough to be reported in newspapers, on the radio or on television. And it occurred to me that there are actually loads of compound adjectives formed with -worthy. Can you think of any other examples? Pause the podcast for a moment and see if you can come up with any more examples of your own.

So here are some other adjectives formed with -worthy. Bear in mind that these adjectives are all considered quite formal.

trustworthy: able to be trusted and depended on, as in the example “People don’t tend to consider politicians to be trustworthy.”

praiseworthy: something that deserves praise, as in the example: “Honesty is a praiseworthy quality.”

blameworthy: deserving blame or disapproval, as in the example: “blameworthy conduct/behaviour”

noteworthy: important or interesting enough to deserve your attention, as in the example “a noteworthy achievement”

creditworthy: considered to be able to pay debts, as in the example “creditworthy borrowers”

We also use worthy to describe vehicles. 

If we describe an airplane as airworthy we ​​mean that it is considered safe to fly.

Similarly, if we describe a ship as seaworthy it is in a suitable condition to sail.

And a car that is considered roadworthy is in good condition and safe enough to drive.

And don’t forget that adjectives ending in worthy can be turned into nouns by changing the ending to -worthiness.

So, trustworthiness refers to the quality or fact of being trustworthy.

Creditworthiness refers to the state of being creditworthy, that is, having enough money for banks to be willing to lend you money.

Now, here’s today’s vocabulary. Don’t forget that you can sign up to my newsletter at EthosEnglish.com/podcast to receive a monthly Quizlet flashcard study set of all this vocabulary. If you want more regular content follow me on Instagram at EthosEnglishWithSean. 

nurse an injury/a cold: If you nurse an illness or injury, you rest until it gets better. We usually use this in the present progressive.

Example: Robert’s in bed nursing a back injury.

seek to do something: (formal) to try to achieve or get something

Example: The government has sought to reassure investors that the country is a safe place to invest. 

harness something: control and use the natural force or power of something

Example: We can harness the power of the wind to generate electricity.

strike a happy/cheerful/cautious/etc. note: express a particular feeling or attitude

Example: The article struck a conciliatory note.  

strike the right note: express yourself effectively

Example: Moderate Republicanism appeared to strike exactly the right note with the voters (= that is, it was what the people wanted).

newsworthy: important or interesting enough to be reported in newspapers, on the radio, or on television.

Example: Very little that was newsworthy was said at the conference.

trustworthy: able to be trusted and depended on

Example: We got the information from a trustworthy source.

praiseworthy: Giving blood is regarded by most people as something praiseworthy.

blameworthy: But the behaviour of the far-left groups behind the protests seem to be just as blameworthy as that of the police.

noteworthy: important or interesting enough to deserve your attention

Example: It is noteworthy that one third of students do not pay any tuition fees.

creditworthy: someone who is creditworthy has enough money or property for banks and other organisations to be willing to lend them money.

Example: The bank refused to give him a loan, saying that he wasn’t creditworthy.

airworthy/airworthiness: a plane that is airworthy is safe to fly 

Example: The plane’s airworthiness was called into question when the mechanics found a crack in the engine.

seaworthy: the state when a ship is in a good enough condition to travel safely on the sea

Example: The authorities investigating the oil spill discovered that the accident may have been due to the tanker not being fully seaworthy.

roadworthy: a vehicle that is roadworthy is in good condition and safe enough to drive

Example: Dozens of police motorcycles have been taken off the road in London after routine inspections found them not to be roadworthy.

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