Category: English in use

Centre Court Wimbledon

Wimbledon, Shakespeare, and strawberries

It’s time to dust off your racket and wrestle the tennis balls from your dog’s mouth. Wimbledon 2013 is upon us! Wimbledon is now as much a feature of the British summer as barbecues, Henley Royal Regatta, and summer rain. Whether you grew up shouting ‘Come on Tim!’ or ‘Don’t cry Andy!’, Wimbledon seemingly captivates every generation of the […]

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Seinfeld

Sein-Language

Unarguably one of the most influential TV shows of all time, Seinfeld played a major role in shaping the social culture of the ‘90s. Famously self-defined as a “show about nothing,” Seinfeld’s insistent concern with the mundane often manifested itself as an obsession with the ultimate, universally-relatable everyday practice: language. Since the show had no […]

Little green men to the men in black: alien words in the OED

Little green men to the men in black: alien words in the OED

When responding to the argument that extraterrestrial life cannot exist because humans have not found it yet, Neil deGrasse Tyson—the well-known American astrophysicist—retorted: “That’s like going to the ocean, taking a cup of water, scooping it up, and saying, ‘There are no whales in the ocean.’” It is clear we earthlings have a complicated relationship […]

Whisky galore! The language of the distillery

Whisky galore! The language of the distillery

When I started working in the wine trade, the first thing I learnt was that anything more than a superficial understanding of wine takes time, and quite a lot of drinking, to master. A reasonably good understanding of whisky however can come quite quickly and blind tastings are far less daunting knowing that there are […]

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Bridesmen and best maids: surprising facts about wedding words

Bridesmen and best maids: surprising facts about wedding words

Brides weren’t always female While the oldest recorded sense of bride is the familiar one referring to a woman, there is some evidence of the word being used in a gender-neutral manner (like spouse) from the 15th to the early 17th century:  “Sweet Daughter deer…Isis blesse thee and thy Bride, With golden Fruit” (Joshua Sylvester, […]

The language of the summer solstice

The language of the summer solstice

It’s hard to believe, with spring only just about sprung here in Britain, but 21 June is midsummer. This is also called the summer solstice, from Latin sol “sun” and stitium “standing still”, because seen from the earth it looks like the sun halts in its tracks going northward, and moves back south. Because of […]

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surfing

Surf’s up at the OED

As International Surfing Day takes place on 20 June this year, it is a good time to put on a favourite ‘Hawaiian shirt’ (currently first recorded in 1955) and take a look at some of the surfing terms in the Oxford English Dictionary. Early surf reports The vocabulary of surfing in the English language has […]

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From ‘transpired’ to ‘toothless’ and ‘tot’… the journey of journalese

From ‘transpired’ to ‘toothless’ and ‘tot’… the journey of journalese

‘Floral tributes have been pouring in, as loved ones pay fulsome homage to their slain tot. All eyes are on concerned local residents, and debate rages, as a last-ditch probe to solve the crime that made world headlines draws to a close. At the end of the day, only time will tell who did it.’ […]

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