Category: English in use

Cole Porter: the tinpantithesis of poetry

Cole Porter: the tinpantithesis of poetry

Cole Porter was one of the few songwriters of his era who wrote both music and lyrics. Another was his friend Irving Berlin. The two men shared a private joke. Whenever a songwriting team–such as Ira and George Gershwin, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, or Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern—had a hit, Porter and Berlin […]

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Chasing the rainbow connection

Chasing the rainbow connection

Reflect and refract When was the last time you looked out the window and said, “Oh look! There’s a many-coloured refraction of light from drops of water!”? Well – OK, if you said that last week then feel free to skip the next paragraph, but most of us refer to the sudden splash of colours […]

You Can Say That Again: On Poetry Reading(s)

You Can Say That Again: On Poetry Reading(s)

Invite someone to a poetry reading and, even in today’s verse-enlightened times, they’ll generally say ‘No, you’re alright’ – meaning ‘I would rather shoot myself.’ And you understand because you know how it can be, trapped in the audience of a bad reading. Now and then people are obliged to faint and the whole row helps […]

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Roosting on your laurels: chickens, champions, and the Pulitzer Prize

Roosting on your laurels: chickens, champions, and the Pulitzer Prize

“In 1957, Eugene O’Neill won a Pullet Surprise”. I read this recently in a book of classroom howlers, a collection of humorous mistakes that students have made in their schoolwork. It’s easy to laugh, but perhaps it signifies that not everyone is familiar with Pulitzer Prizes. It turns out that 4 June is a good […]

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette If you had aspirations of being a disaffected youth in the mid-1990s, chances are you had a copy of Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill. That’s not quite fair; you might, after all, have been the sort who dealt with angst by listening to Black Sabbath, or […]

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The Riot of Spring: music and madness in the beau monde

The Riot of Spring: music and madness in the beau monde

On 27 May 1913, fashionable Paris was scandalized by the premiere of a new ballet. Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, as it is usually known in English), with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, depicted pagan ceremonies for the coming of spring, culminating in the sacrifice of a young […]

Do we need the apostrophe?

Do we need the apostrophe?

“The apostrophe is the most troublesome punctuation mark in English, and perhaps also the least useful. No other punctuation mark causes so much bewilderment, or is so often misused.” R.L. Trask, The Penguin Guide to Punctuation The recent decision by Devon County Council to drop the apostrophe from its road signs was met with dismay and anger […]

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alksjdf;lksfd: the language of Tumblr

alksjdf;lksfd: the language of Tumblr

In the world of social media, nothing remains static for too long. The same is true for language, so it’s not surprising that Internet language is ever evolving. In the case of the microblogging platform Tumblr, their community of users employs a special set of terminology to describe various actions and features on the site, […]

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