Category: English in use

paper cut figures

Clarity about ‘the gay thing’

Sometimes, we say what we don’t really mean. ‘You look really tired’, for example, when we mean to be caring rather than disparaging of appearance. ‘I thought you were older than that!’ when we mean to applaud maturity rather than further disparage appearance. And so it is with the gay thing. The accidental difference between […]

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foreign life

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2013 oscar winners

How to ‘Thank the Academy’: making a successful Oscar acceptance speech

It’s Academy Award time, and lucky winners will be accepting their Oscars and thanking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, their families, mentors, and colleagues. In linguistic terms, what makes an acceptance speech succeed where others fail? Thanking is a speech act—a way that we use words to do as well as say. Such speech […]

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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 […]

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camera

Words in the news: revenge porn

Last week, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 made the sharing of what has become known as ‘revenge porn’ illegal in England and Wales. We’ve heard a great deal over the last three or four years about the growing problem of disgruntled former partners distributing revealing or sexually explicit photographs or […]

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Book quiz: Go Set a Watchman and other Biblical titles

The news that a second novel by Harper Lee is to be published this year has caused excitement around the world. Her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird has long been considered a modern classic, and soon readers will be able to read about Scout as an adult…

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two solitudes

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light_large

Light, bright, and sparkling: the language of light

The UN has declared 2015 to be the ‘International Year of Light’, so we thought that was a good opportunity to look at the language of light. Unsurprisingly, light is a very old word. It appears at the beginning of one of the oldest texts in English – Aelfric’s translation of Genesis – in the […]

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