Category: English in use


What Katy wrote: terms for left-handed people on Left Handers Day

As my fellow mollydookers will know, the world is a tough place. From can openers (talk about can’t openers) to scissors, and hockey sticks to spiral-bound notepads, some things are just plain awkward. Left itself comes from the Old English lyft, ‘weak’ (the left-hand side being regarded as the weaker side of the body) and, […]

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Words in the news: ‘a swarm of people’

Is the phrase ‘a swarm of people’ automatically pejorative and insulting? Or is it merely a harmless metaphor? That is the issue this blog explores. The many critics of David Cameron’s use of the phrase in a TV interview certainly found it insulting (fuller context is at the end). Labour’s acting leader, Harriet Harman, stated […]

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Ten things you might not have known about the English language

Hey, English speaker! Congratulations. You speak a language that straddles the globe like nothing before. Statistically, English is unlikely to be your first language and you are likely to be from an educated background. Again, congratulations. Here are ten things that you may not have known about this wonderful language of ours: 1. It is […]

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Quiz: how well do you know the language of seafood?

Consider yourself a bit of an oyster aficionado or a sushi connoisseur? Clams to crayfish, scallops to salmon: if you take pride in your knowledge of all things seafood, now’s the time to prove yourself. Take this quiz to determine how well you really know your seafood terminology!

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Stacks of books

10 unusual words for book lovers

9 August is National Book Lovers Day in the USA, which is pretty much the best holiday ever. Not only do we get to celebrate books, but we get to celebrate the people who read books. Whether you’re reading at the gloaming (i.e. the best time of the day to read) or dawn, or in your […]

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Not French

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“Soon can mean in one second, Soon can mean in one year. Soon is a terrible word.” - Heinrich Böll

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Reflections on language by… David Foster Wallace

The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus included sections labelled ‘reflections’ by some notable writers, including Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, and Joshua Ferris. In the second of an occasional series looking at these reflections, we’ve excerpted David Foster Wallace’s thoughts about various words. All the extracts below are by David Foster Wallace, and can be found in […]

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