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

earth

Earth Day: a world of words

This 22 April, Earth Day will have been celebrated internationally for 24 years. This famous annual event has contributed to global recognition of our shared responsibility to protect the Earth’s natural environment. As we continue to work to “cherish our green inheritance”—poignant words from the noted naturalist Sir David Attenborough—we can celebrate the impact Earth […]

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Wild West

From cottage-garden to Wild West: Charlotte Brontë and the OED

Charlotte Brontë is renowned around the world for her 1847 novel Jane Eyre. With an intelligent and impassioned heroine, a handsome and ruthless hero, and (spoiler alert) something unexpected in the attic, the book has captured the imagination of readers for generation after generation. Less widely known, but still much-loved by many readers, are her […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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