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

Category: English in use

surveillance

Orwell’s Newspeak: a doubleplusgood language

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four astounded the literary world when it first was published in 1949, and its significance and cultural impact have only grown stronger in the years since. Orwell’s warnings against totalitarian authority and omnipresent surveillance are as relevant as ever. Beyond the familiar message that “Big Brother is always watching you,” what many […]

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Coffee

Americano to zarf: a list of coffee words

To celebrate International Coffee Day, we thought we’d set aside our mugs and cups to take a look at some words every coffee-lover needs to know… Americano or café Americano: a drink of espresso coffee diluted with hot water. Arabica: mild-flavoured, high-quality coffee obtained from beans of the Coffea arabicai tree (the most widely grown […]

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feminism

Feminist language: 5 terms you need to know

The film star Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations this September to launch “He For She” — a campaign asking men to get involved in the fight for gender equality. The speech drew approbation and ire in equal measure. Vanity Fair called it a “game changer” but fourth wave feminists were less […]

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dinner

Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U

The release of The Riot Club, a fictionalized version of the Oxford University Bullingdon Club, based on Laura Wade’s 2010 play Posh, seems a fitting moment to consider how to talk posh. In 1954 the linguist Alan C. Ross published a study of ‘Linguistic Class-Indicators in Present-day English’, which first introduced the concept of ‘U’ […]

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Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things

Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things

In Words in Time and Place, David Crystal explores fifteen fascinating sets of synonyms, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve turned selections from six sections of Words in Time and Place into word clouds, arranged in a shape related to the topic in question. Take a look at the images below to see […]

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snooker

The language of snooker

Snooker is a nineteenth-century development of the much older game of billiards, which dates back as far as the sixteenth century. Billiards gets its name from the French word billard ‘cue’, a diminutive form of bille ‘stick’. Once adopted into English the word was pluralized, on the model of other games such as draughts and […]

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cough syrup

Ahem, ahem: the language of coughing

The language of coughing is not, on the face of it, a particularly expressive one. Most usually associated with colds and winter mornings, it isn’t a medium that lends itself to communication – indeed, it is more likely to disperse a crowd than attract eager listeners. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring the […]

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beyonce

The many B’s of Bey: a Beyoncé appreciation post

When the Queen Bey herself gave a momentous performance at this year’s MTV VMAs, so close to her 4 September birthday, we knew that no self-respecting Beyoncé fan would let these two celebratory occasions go by unappreciated. So how does one (namely this Oxford Dictionaries editor) go about delving into the language of Beyoncé? With […]

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