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English Detective #81 Frugal innovation 4-4-17
April 04, 2017

#81 Frugal innovation 4-4-17


This week: some reading (and listening) selections on frugal innovation, and vocabulary practice with related words.

I’ve wanted to do a newsletter on frugal innovation (designing useful products that are also more affordable) for a long time. s pointed out in several of the following selections, it’s an idea whose time has come. First developed in India and other parts of the developing world, it’s needed in the developed world just as much.

The first three selections have a lot in common. You probably won’t want to read/listen to them all, but all are excellent discussions of the idea.

The CNN article is a good summary (with a great illustration.) The TED talk has more.

the TED ideas article (The Genius of Frugal Innovation-- by the TED talk speaker) is quite similar in content to the talk. I’m including all three because some prefer both a talk and a written transcript, and others have trouble accessing TED talks.

I also want to include a 6-minute TED talk by a very young man about a product he and a team of friends developed to turn Styrofoam into usable carbon—turning an environmental nightmare into a benefit. He and his friends illustrate the potential of creative innovation to solve problems we’re just beginning to understand.

Root Vocabulary: Nov (new)


innovate means to bring in or introduce something new.

Renovate is to fix up or renew (literally make new again) a building or business.

Novel can be an adjective meaning something new and different, (as well as a noun for a type of new story. (Novelty is the noun for something new and especially interesting or different.)

Renew and renewal are more general than renovation—which is mainly for houses; we renew vows, passports & permits, and can have renewed strength & purpose. Urban renewal is a government plan for fixing up a run-down area of a city.

Adjectives for Ways of Dealing with Money and Resources:


If people are very careful with money (reluctant to spend it) we can call them frugal or thrifty (good) or cheap, tight, or miserly (all with bad connotations: we think they are overly careful and will not share.)

If people spend freely, we may call them generous (if they are spending on gifts or to help other people—a compliment.) On the negative side, people ho pend TOO freely may be called careless, extravagant, spendthrift, or wasteful.

“Lavish” spending may be considered admirable (assuming the person can afford it) or vain and extravagant.

Vocabulary Practice


Here is acrossword to practice some of this vocabulary.

Its answers are here.


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