Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Poetry quiz

Poetry quiz: can you match these first lines to their poem titles?

Many of us have memorized a poem in our day—and may even be able to call it quickly to mind right now. However, even if it’s difficult to recall at will the verses you had recited carefully in school, often all it takes is the first line or two for the entire poem to come […]

Read more »
sundial

A bibliographic mystery: can you find a copy of Mathematick Rules?

From time to time, we like to ask your help with some Oxford English Dictionary (OED) research – the OED has been crowdsourcing long before that word entered the dictionary! The OED Appeals is a section of the OED website where the editors ask if any readers can find antedatings or additional evidence for some […]

Read more »
Henry James books

Henry James, or, on the business of being a thing

It is virtually impossible for an English-language lexicographer to ignore the long shadow cast by Henry James, that late nineteenth-century writer of fiction, criticism, and travelogues. We can attribute this in the first place to the sheer cosmopolitanism of his prose. James’s writing marks the point of intersection between registers and regions of English that […]

Read more »
Scrabble

Scrabble: a logophile’s view

National Scrabble Day was on 13 April, and it feels like a good opportunity to celebrate the wordiest of all games. Even if you’ve never played it – and, let’s face it, we’ve all played it – you’ll be familiar with the concept: players use seven letter tiles to create words on a board, intersecting […]

Read more »
jeans

Can -core survive normcore?

What do President Obama, Steve Jobs, and the Toyota Camry have in common? In recent weeks all three have been described as “normcore,” a supposed fashion trend in which the sartorial elite eschew their usual sui generis styles for dowdy clothing of the type ordinary people wear. The concept may have originated as satire, but […]

Read more »
shutterstock_137388731

Remembering the language of Seamus Heaney

When Seamus Heaney’s death was announced last year the prevailing mood was one of sadness; a feeling that the world had not only lost a great poet but a kind and humane man. Thinking about Heaney, as we near what would have been his 75th birthday, I was prompted to revisit his first full-length collection […]

Read more »
1920s

20 words that originated in the 1920s

The 1920s wasn’t just a period of decadence and flappers in a post-war haze of happiness. While The Great Gatsby drew attention to a world of insouciant pleasure-seeking, the 1920s also saw plenty of words enter the language. Some seem apt for the era, some might surprise, and all twenty selected below have survived for […]

Read more »
golf

Birdies, bogeys, and baffies: the language of golf

Tomorrow sees the opening of the annual US Masters golf tournament – the first of the four major golfing contests of the year, hosted by the Augusta National Club in Augusta, Georgia. Golfing jargon can seem rather arcane to the uninitiated, so here is a short guide to enable you to enjoy this wonderful event. […]

Read more »

Tweets