Malie Lalor

Articles by Malie Lalor


Old Gramophone

My Fair Lady: simple phonetics and pygmalion words

My Fair Lady, a musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion, was first performed on Broadway in 1956, and has been in performance somewhere in the world almost ever since. Telling the tale of how London phonetics professor Henry Higgins gives cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle speech lessons in order to pass her […]

Wodehouse

By Jove! The language of P.G. Wodehouse

My dad introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse when I was a teenager. Not for a moment did it occur to him that a 14-year-old girl whose first language was Afrikaans and who had never left the African continent might not find immediate resonance with Bertie Wooster, Lord Ickenham, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, Gussie Fink-Nottle, and co., or […]

Plain English

Plain English in practice: writing instructions

In a previous piece, I looked at some guidelines for writing plain Engl­­­ish: that is, the kind of English that will get your intended meaning across most clearly. Here, I take you through an example. Warning: Instructions may contain lethal sesquipedalian lexemes There are times when clear writing can make the difference between life and […]

nerd

Embrace your geekness

The Oxford Dictionaries blog has looked at the word geek before. Of course it has: we openly admit to being word geeks here at Oxford Dictionaries, after all. To recap: geek has seen a transformation in meaning over the last couple of decades. Formerly a cruel label attached to clever but socially awkward people, geeks […]

Plain English

Keep calm, and say it plainly

Ever since I first read an ancient edition of Ernest Gowers’ book on plain English about fifteen years ago, I’ve tried to put his guidelines into practice whenever I write. I don’t always get it right – I’m sure you’ll catch me out in this piece of writing – but I always try. What is […]

Dr Seuss

A poetic tribute to Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss, the pen-name of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904–1991), was an American writer of hugely successful books for children. And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937) introduced Seuss’s iconic visual and verbal style. This was further extended in the ‘Beginner Book’ series, of which The Cat in the Hat (1957) was […]

What is the meaning of Mrs? How does it differ from Ms and Miss?

What are ‘Mrs’ and ‘Ms’ short for?

The abbreviations Mr and Mrs are in common use, and are straightforward to pronounce when we see them written down:  an approximation would be ‘mister’ and ‘missus’. But what are they abbreviations of? We seldom, if ever, write them out in full – and most of us probably never stop to think what the full versions […]

Days of the week

All in a day’s work: the days of the week

The Latin days of the week in imperial Rome were named after the planets, which in turn were named after gods. These names were adopted in translated form by the English and other Germanic peoples. In most cases the Germanic names have substituted the Roman god’s name with that of a comparable one from the […]

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