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Give thanks… for Native American loanwords!

Since I’ve only been in the US a year and a half, so far I’ve only experienced one Thanksgiving – but I must say that given it’s a holiday seemingly mainly devoted to eating delicious food and enjoying spending time with family and friends, it’s one I especially enjoy. The atmosphere in the days before the […]

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Video: what is the origin of ‘posh’?

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basketball

14 basketball terms you should know

Now that we’re a month into the 2014-15 season, we thought it might be a good idea to pull together a quick basketball glossary, defining some of the trickier terms. While not a complete list, the following terms should help you navigate some of the sports announcers’ patter. alley-oop By far the most amusing basketball term […]

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Two words or one?

Is there a space between a and lot, or is the spelling alot OK? What’s the difference between away and a way? If you’ve ever pondered over questions similar to these, the dilemma of ‘two words or one?’ is one which you’ll have grappled with when putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. On […]

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Cult films in the OED

Cult films are slippery customers. One person’s cult film is another’s mainstream hit, and both would probably be prepared to fight to the death to defend their opinion. For some a film can only be described as ‘cult’ if just a handful of people have seen it. For others it is a film that did […]

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The advantage of ‘trans’

In the late 1990s, I attended a conference focused on “those who identify at the male end of the gender spectrum.” At the end of the conference, organizers asked each participant to fill out an exit poll, intended to capture demographic information about conference attendees. In addition to the usual geographic/age-related questions, organizers asked about […]

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From muggle to whizzpopper: invented words in children’s literature

When Roald Dahl invented words such as lickswishy, which describes the way English boys taste to giants in The BFG (1982), and whizzpoppers, the enjoyable propelling farts produced by the same giants after they drink frobskottle, he was following in a tradition among children’s writers of coining neologisms that dates back at least as far […]

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berliner

The day JFK did NOT call himself a jam doughnut

On the (in)significance of the indefinite article Earlier this month, on 9 November, Germany celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (initially called antifaschistischer Schutzwall, or ‘anti-fascist protective barrier’ in 1989; a momentous occasion in German history and a crucial milestone hailing the end of the GDR, which had been founded […]

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