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

Category: English in use

8 gaming words

8 words every gamer needs to know

You may play a round or two of Tetris on your phone to fend off boredom from time to time (in fact, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t given this game a go). You might even be pretty good at it. But it seems safe to say that you probably won’t […]

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10 tricky pronunciations

10 tricky pronunciations

Recently we learned – if we were in any doubt – that Nike want their name pronounced Nikey (or, to put it in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), ˈnʌɪki). Those of us familiar with our Greek deities already knew that the company’s namesake and goddess of victory pronounced her name that way, but opinion differed […]

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The language of Thomas Hardy

The language of Thomas Hardy

Writing about Hardy’s poetic language, Edmund Blunden, one of his most perceptive critics, noted that it is ‘sometimes a peculiar compound of the high-flown and the dull. If he means “I asked” he is liable to say “I queried” or rather “Queried I”; he is liable to “opine” instead of think. … He goes his road […]

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Maya Angelou quote

Maya Angelou’s legacy encompasses poetry, essays, and autobiographical writing. With a distinctive voice and a love of language, it is unsurprising that she is currently quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as supporting evidence for 42 entries. These range from make-believe to maternal, poetess to privacy. She also appears several times in Oxford Essential Quotations, including the quotation above.

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Words that win spelling bees

Words that win spelling bees

So, you think you’re good at spelling do you? How would you fare with autochthonous, appoggiatura, Ursprache, serrefine, guerdon, Laodicean, stromuhr, cymotrichous, and guetapens? If you can successfully spell words like these, then maybe you should consider entering the annual Scripps Spelling Bee. From 27 to 29 May, 281 spellers from across the United States, […]

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cat fiddle

Nursery rhymes: time capsules of language

It’s uncanny: when most of us hear the lines “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” or “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”, we find our brains mysteriously capable (how many years after our youth?) of reciting the full nursery rhyme, as if on autopilot. These are rhymes many begin to learn in the cradle from parents who […]

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flowers

In an English country garden

What could be nicer on a sunny Sunday afternoon in spring, than a spot of gardening? Though the language of horticulture proper can seem somewhat bewildering and full of complicated Latin names, growing plants is an activity that people have undertaken for thousands of years– whether for pleasure, or simply for food – and so it […]

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real tennis

The language of real tennis

This month, in Melbourne, Australia, saw 46-year-old Rob Fahey successfully defend his Real Tennis World Championship title, which he has held since 1994. Real Tennis is the king of racket sports and a game of kings – its best-known royal exponent was undoubtedly Henry VIII, whose passion for the game led to the construction of […]

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