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

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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golf

Birdies, bogeys, and baffies: the language of golf

Tomorrow sees the opening of the annual US Masters golf tournament – the first of the four major golfing contests of the year, hosted by the Augusta National Club in Augusta, Georgia. Golfing jargon can seem rather arcane to the uninitiated, so here is a short guide to enable you to enjoy this wonderful event. […]

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wolf

9 words you need to know to win the Game of Thrones

With the return of George R. R. Martin’s epic series to TV screens it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. For the full story on the language of Game of Thrones read our blog post. Whether you have nefarious designs on the Iron Throne itself, or you’re just too […]

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duckling

What impact did Hans Christian Andersen have on children’s literature?

An extract from the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, available on Oxford Reference. Although Andersen considered himself a novelist and playwright, his novels, dramas, and comedies are almost forgotten today, while his unquestionable fame is based on his fairy tales. He published four collections: Eventyr, fortalte for børn (Fairy Tales, Told for Children, 1835–1842), Nye […]

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theatre

From early doors to blood-tub: language relating to theatre

The lure of the greasepaint has long attracted people, from Mrs Worthington’s daughter to the latest contestants on reality shows to pick the next star of a West End remake. So on World Theatre Day, await the swish of the curtain, don’t let the super troupers blind you, and get ready to tread the boards […]

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Jane Austen letters

Jane Austen and the art of letter writing

No, the image to the left is not a newly discovered picture of Jane Austen. The image was taken from my copy of The Complete Letter Writer, published in 1840, well after Jane Austen’s death in 1817. But letter writing manuals were popular throughout Jane Austen’s lifetime, and the text of my copy is very […]

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