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

Category: English in use

cough syrup

Ahem, ahem: the language of coughing

The language of coughing is not, on the face of it, a particularly expressive one. Most usually associated with colds and winter mornings, it isn’t a medium that lends itself to communication – indeed, it is more likely to disperse a crowd than attract eager listeners. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring the […]

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beyonce

The many B’s of Bey: a Beyoncé appreciation post

When the Queen Bey herself gave a momentous performance at this year’s MTV VMAs, so close to her 4 September birthday, we knew that no self-respecting Beyoncé fan would let these two celebratory occasions go by unappreciated. So how does one (namely this Oxford Dictionaries editor) go about delving into the language of Beyoncé? With […]

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Bill and Ted

The bodacious language of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Keanu Reeves a linguistic icon? That would be an impressive achievement for Reeves, who turns fifty this month — when I turned fifty, no one said I was the icon of anything, let alone a linguistic one — and I’m a linguist! — but at fifty you have more important things to worry about, like […]

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Facekini

Word in the news: facekini

The latest fashion trend to hit beaches has been raising eyebrows – but you wouldn’t know it, since the eyebrows (along with the rest of the face) can’t be seen behind the facekini. First reaching popularity in 2012 in China, this balaclava-like stretchy nylon mask is intended to protect the face from tanning and UV-rays […]

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Poe and Lovecraft

The inventive words and worlds of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft

To celebrate this week’s birthday of H.P. Lovecraft, one of Gothic horror’s most acclaimed authors, here is a brief look into the contributions H.P. Lovecraft and fellow Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe have made to the English language. Poe’s words Though Edgar Allan Poe, the progenitor of the modern day horror genre (across all mediums), […]

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money coins

How did bread, cheese, and dough come to mean money?

Back in the day, the hip-hop duo OutKast released a song called “Aquemini” that goes: Street scholars that’s majoring in culinary arts, you know, how to work the bread, cheese, and dough from scratch This is a little André wordplay, talking about hustlers out to earn their pay. When I heard this and clocked the […]

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geekfest

Finding geeky words at Nine Worlds

Catherine Sangster is head of pronunciation for Oxford Dictionaries. This week she went to Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014 to talk about conlangs, host a dictionary corner, and generally get her geek on. Nine Worlds is a London-based event which embraces a broad spectrum of geekery and makes a particular effort to bring groups which are […]

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bangarang

Word in the news: bangarang

You may have heard the word bangarang in the tribute paid to Robin Williams by US President Barack Obama, after the sad news of Williams’ death yesterday, and wondered what it means. Barack Obama said that “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, […]

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