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

Category: English in use

Pencil, walrus, or handlebar? A guide to words for moustaches

mustache title image

As November begins, many a man’s thoughts turn to facial hair. Millions all over the world consign the razor blades to the bathroom cupboard and attempt to grow a moustache for a very good cause. But moustaches come in many varieties, so whether you are barely capable of bumfluff or have designs on the soup-strainer, […]

Read more »

10 medical words you thought you knew

medicine

For many, thoughts of October immediately wend to visions of changing leaves, warm sweet beverages, and costumed children plying neighbors for candy. But October can make a further claim on our interest: it’s also known as Health Literacy Month. As anyone who has taken an anatomy class or tried to read a prescription may attest, […]

Read more »

Of Cabbages and Kings: five ways to talk about translation

King_Alfred

Translation has been a crucial part of Anglophone culture from its very beginnings. The earliest English writers knew that the state of learning in England, with knowledge of Latin far from universal, meant a need for translations. Everything necessary for a rounded education was written in Latin, and so King Alfred the Great introduced a […]

Read more »
baking

The winner bakes it all: the language of the Great British Bake Off

In 2010, when I started watching a BBC2 programme about baking sponge cakes, I assumed it would be one of the many things which marked me out as a social pariah, along with talking to cats and preferring books to people. Yet this evening the fourth series of the Great British Bake Off is coming […]

Read more »

A slice of apple’s linguistic history

apple

October is National Apple Month. To celebrate, we’ve got an extract from The Diner’s Dictionary looking at the linguistic life of this humble fruit. The apple was probably the earliest of all fruits to be cultivated by human beings. Its wild ancestor was a sharp, mouth-puckering little thing, like today’s crab apple, and this abel-, […]

Bromance

The rise of the portmanbro

How an abbreviation of brother became a word-forming dynamo For most of its existence in English, the word bro led a quiet and unassuming life. For centuries, it was merely a graphic abbreviation of brother (properly bro.), occasionally put to colloquial use, like sis, to refer to a person’s male sibling. It wasn’t until the […]

Read more »

Beltway buzzwords – inside the jargon on Capitol Hill… and beyond (part 2)

Washington DC map

Following on from yesterday’s blog post looking at the language used to describe the people of Washington D.C, from staffers to POTUS, Lorna Shaddick continues to explore the jargon of the Hill with lame ducks, slug lines, and Beltway Bandits. Filibuster: from pirates to politics With so many people on the Hill involved in the […]

Read more »

Beltway buzzwords – inside the jargon on Capitol Hill… and beyond (part 1)

Capitol building

A move to Washington D.C as a journalist requires several things. Alongside your plane ticket, map of the city, and Congressional press pass, you’ll also need a knowledge of the myriad terms used on ‘The Hill’ (as all locals call the Capitol), where staffers and wonks mingle with lobbyists and of course the lawmakers themselves… […]

Read more »

Tweets