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

Category: English in use

vintage_rose

If roses were called stench-blossoms, would they smell as sweet?

In reference to the family name of her soon-to-be beau, 13-year-old Juliet Capulet once told nobody in particular that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. But would it? As the Simpson men convincingly rebut: Bart: Not if you called ‘em stench-blossoms. Homer: Or crapweeds. Marge: I’d sure hate to get a dozen […]

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What do you call your grandparents?

grandparents

When Prince George of Cambridge was born on 22 July 2013, much of the press speculation centred around what name would be given to the 3rd in line to the British throne. Once that matter was settled, discussion moved on as to what familiar names might be given to the grandparents, fuelled partly by Camilla, […]

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Fearfully great creeping reptiles: the naming of dinosaurs

dinosaur

The names of dinosaurs seem to resonate, almost magically, with youngsters. Once they have seen a skeleton in a museum, or a vivid reconstruction of one of these animals in a book, even a three year old rapidly learns to identify each one pretty reliably (much to their parents or grandparents amazement and occasional befuddlement). […]

Virtual reality: can a PDF be a hard copy?

Computer code

Recently I was asked to “send a hard copy” of a document to a colleague in New York. I am in Oxford, and knew they didn’t want me to send it by Airmail, but instead just wanted the PDF forwarding. This, however, struck me as strange—a hard copy is usually specifically a paper version of […]

Bagel, bisque, and grill: the delectable language of tennis

tennis

While many people in the Northern Hemisphere are mourning the end of summer, to a certain set of folks in America and around the globe, this is the most wonderful time of the year – time for the U.S. Open! The fourth and final Grand Slam tennis tournament to occur in a calendar year, it […]

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Relational logic: removing the confusion from the naming of cousins

family tree

It would always throw people when we told them. The four of us – my sister and I, and the two boys – spent all our school holidays together, and we all had dark hair. So when people asked if my “brothers” wanted an ice cream too, I’d have to take a deep breath and […]

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Beefcakes and Barbarians: the language of the macho man

strongman

Today marks the birthday of Chris Pine, the actor who took on the role of Captain Kirk in the two most recent Star Trek films. Captain Kirk is the quintessential man’s man, whilst also being a bit of a ladies’ man. He is a rugged, handsome fighter who finds time to charm and seduce even […]

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Should we be happy that the English language is changing?

Once upon a time

‘When you come to those parts of the body which are not usually mentioned,’ C. S. Lewis once said, ‘you will have to make a choice of vocabulary. And you will find that you have only four alternatives: a nursery word, an archaism, a word from the gutter, or a scientific word. You will not […]

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