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 writes a blog at Spelling Trouble.

Articles by Simon Horobin


croquet

Death roll, leapfrog, and dambuster: the language of croquet

Now that spring and sunshine have reached Oxford, the croquet season has begun in earnest in college quads. Its reputation as a civilized, gentle pastime is confirmed by some of the terms used by players of the game: tea lady, dolly rush, trundle, and pirie poke. But the game has a nastier side too, witnessed […]

golden compass

The language of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Northern Lights (published in the US as The Golden Compass), the first novel in Philip Pullman’s hugely successful His Dark Materials trilogy. In the preface, the author tells us that the story is set in a universe ‘like ours, but different in many ways’. One […]

horse racing

The language of horse-racing

2 May sees the running of the Kentucky Derby, one of the most important races in the American horse-racing calendar, in which 21 riders compete over the two kilometers of the famous Churchill Downs racecourse in Louisville, Kentucky for a total prize fund of $2,000,000. The race is also sometimes known as ‘the most exciting […]

cricket

Playing with a straight bat: the language of cricket

The Cricket World Cup is in full swing, so it seems like a good time to turn attention to the language of cricket. With its long history and central place in English sporting culture, it is hardly surprising that cricketing idioms have been widely adopted into colloquial speech. The traditional association of cricket with fair […]

crosswords_large

Clues, code-breaking, and cruciverbalists: the language of crosswords

The recent release of The Imitation Game has revealed the important role crosswords played in the recruitment of code-breakers at Bletchley Park. In response to complaints that its crosswords were too easy, The Daily Telegraph organised a contest in which entrants attempted to solve a puzzle in less than 12 minutes. Successful competitors subsequently found […]

christ church

Battels and subfusc: the language of Oxford

Now that Noughth Week has come to an end and the university Full Term is upon us, I thought it might be an appropriate time to investigate the arcane world of Oxford jargon – the University of Oxford, that is. New students, or freshers, do not arrive in Oxford but come up; at the end […]

dinner

Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U

The release of The Riot Club, a fictionalized version of the Oxford University Bullingdon Club, based on Laura Wade’s 2010 play Posh, seems a fitting moment to consider how to talk posh. In 1954 the linguist Alan C. Ross published a study of ‘Linguistic Class-Indicators in Present-day English’, which first introduced the concept of ‘U’ […]

snooker

The language of snooker

Snooker is a nineteenth-century development of the much older game of billiards, which dates back as far as the sixteenth century. Billiards gets its name from the French word billard ‘cue’, a diminutive form of bille ‘stick’. Once adopted into English the word was pluralized, on the model of other games such as draughts and […]

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