Guest blogger

Simon Horobin

Simon Horobin

Simon Horobin is Professor of English at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Magdalen College. He is the author of Does Spelling Matter? and How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language, and writes a blog at Spelling Trouble. He is on Twitter @SCPHorobin.

Articles by Simon Horobin


The language of Lewis Carroll was highly innovative, and his books are full of neologisms and nonce words.

Alice Day and the language of Lewis Carroll

Alice Day is an annual celebration held on 4 July to mark the anniversary of the ‘golden afternoon’ in 1862 when Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematics tutor at Christ Church, Oxford, took Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating picnic up the river Thames. During the trip he amused the sisters by telling the […]

The language of skateboarding

The language of skateboarding

Skateboarding began in California in the 1940s, invented by surfers looking for excitement when the waves were too flat to surf; the earliest skateboards were devised by adding roller skate wheels to wooden boxes. Over the following decades the boards became more sophisticated, as did the variety of manoeuvres that skaters attempted to carry out. […]

The language of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Don’t Panic: the language of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally written as a radio script, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 in 6 episodes described as fits – a term used for a section of a poem that goes back to Old English. The Hitchhiker’s Guide appeared in book form in 1979; since then it has […]

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling and The Jungle Book in the Oxford English Dictionary

“I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”  Rudyard Kipling’s linguistic legacy is apparent from the more than 2500 quotations from his works that appear in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED); the term Kiplingism even has its own entry. This turns out to […]

shipping forecast

‘Rain later. Good, occasionally poor’: what does the shipping forecast mean?

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 have a strange affection for its shipping forecast. Although it is basically just a weather forecast, the hypnotic sounds of its intoning, occurring at the same extremely precise four times every day, recalls the chanting of the monastic hours. Its lyrical qualities have been the inspiration of poets such as […]

Child reading a book in a garden

Enid Blyton in the OED

Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968) was an English writer of children’s books published from 1922 until her death in 1968. Among her literary creations are Noddy, The Naughtiest Girl in the School, The Faraway Tree, school stories set at St Clare’s and Mallory Towers, and the adventure series featuring the Famous Five and the Secret […]

football team names

The origins of British football team names

Where do British football (or soccer) clubs get their names? The answer may seem straightforward enough, since most clubs are named after the city in which they play: Manchester City, Southampton, Liverpool. But there are exceptions, such as Arsenal, named after the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, whose workers formed the club in 1886. The Royal […]

rugby

What is the language of rugby?

While watching a game of rugby, you are likely to hear all kinds of bewildering jargon, some of which – foot-up, hand-off, head-up, put-in, knock-on – makes rugby sound more like a choreographed dance routine than the bruising sport it really is. So, if you’re puzzled as to why a throw-in requires a line-out, or why […]

Tweets