Category: English in use

sax

How the saxophone got its name: an A-Z of instruments

6 November is World Saxophone Day, apparently. It’s the anniversary of the day the inventor was born – we’ll share his name a little later. We thought it was a good opportunity to produce an alphabet of interesting instrument names, from accordion to zither. As far as possible, we’ve tried to stick to common instruments […]

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political insults_edit

How to insult your political opponents like an American

In the run-up to today’s mid-term election, observers of American politics have lamented that the nation’s political landscape is more divided than ever. A Pew Research Center report released this year concluded that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines—and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive—than at any point in the last […]

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texting

Definitely versus defiantly – is there a difference?

The simple answer to that question: yes, there’s definitely a distinction between these words, but it’s most unlikely that there’s anything defiantly different about them! A slight spelling digression…  Up till now, I’d always reckoned that the main trouble people had with the word definitely was that they tended to misspell it as definately or […]

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Africa

Doris Lessing: another world of words

Doris Lessing (22 October 1919 – 17 November 2013) was an astonishing wordsmith, as any reader of her many novels, stories, plays, and poems would attest – and the genesis of this talent can be seen in her upbringing and surroundings. Childhood memories She was five years old when her family emigrated in 1925 to […]

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prison

Fresh fish in stir: The Shawshank Redemption and prison slang

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, the prison drama following the lives of prisoners Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). Overshadowed by Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction in the year of its release, the film has demonstrated an incredible staying power over the past […]

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christ church

Battels and subfusc: the language of Oxford

Now that Noughth Week has come to an end and the university Full Term is upon us, I thought it might be an appropriate time to investigate the arcane world of Oxford jargon – the University of Oxford, that is. New students, or freshers, do not arrive in Oxford but come up; at the end […]

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Ghost town

How to talk about zombies: walkers, lurkers, geeks, and more

12 October 2014 marked the return in the US of AMC’s The Walking Dead, the zombie drama that follows several groups of survivors as they navigate a post-apocalyptic Georgia. Now in its fifth season, the show (and its comic book source) has made a mark in the world of zombie fiction thanks to a gritty, […]

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tennis

Video: anyone for tennis? Oxford Dictionaries staff tackle tennis terms

In the last OxfordDictionaries.com update, we added new words like binge-watch, side-eye, and amazeballs. At the Connecticut Open, Nick McCarvel asked various tennis stars including Caroline Wozniacki and Genie Bouchard if they knew what these words meant, and we think they did a pretty great job with the answers (which you can see in the […]

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