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

Category: English in use

Heists and mayhem: the language of crime

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There has been a lot on British minds recently, with horsemeat and obesity coming high on the list of preoccupations. But amid the furore over such unpalatable subjects, it was a different headline altogether that caught my eye. ‘Diamond heist at Brussels airport nets gang up to £30m in gems’, was the Guardian’s version, while […]

Horseplay: horses in idioms and proverbs

Horseplay: horses in idioms and proverbs

Horses have been in the news recently and, as with anything topical and a little bit scandalous, would-be comedians have been riffing on horse-related puns and quips to their hearts’ content. The English language is not new to this sort of play with the word ‘horse’. Horseplay, if you will – which is a case […]

Genes and genetics: the language of scientific discovery

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It is sometimes the case that a scientific field experiences such dramatic progress that the rate at which new discoveries are made outpaces the language needed to describe them. How would it be if there were no words to describe the results of your latest experiment or the structures you see using your new microscope? […]

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Unpresidential presidential quotations in the OED

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The Oxford English Dictionary is founded upon millions of quotations, which trace the history of each word starting with its earliest recorded use. America’s presidents are well represented among the authors of those quotations; after all, they are influential speakers and writers whose words are painstakingly recorded and preserved. Presidential quotations often turn up in […]

5 words you didn’t know were acronyms

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Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to say a whole word. That’s why the good British public have taken abbreviations to their hearts so willingly. Many people talk about ‘quotes’ instead of ‘quotations’, ‘info’ rather than ‘information’, ‘R-Patz’ in place of ‘Robert Pattinson’. . . yes? Anyone? And then there is the […]

The language of courtship

The language of courtship

Both my parents have been gone for many years now, but I sometimes have to jolt myself into remembering just how long it has been. Today is one of those times because it’s soon after the turn of the new year that I used to be making anniversary plans with my siblings. As what would […]

If Obama had been Lincoln: 10 lines from Obama’s Second Inaugural Address that wouldn’t have been used in 1865

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When writing his screenplay for the film Lincoln, playwright Tony Kushner used his copy of the Oxford English Dictionary to check for possible anachronisms, seeking to impart the flavor of 19th-century English to the script. How much has the vocabulary of English changed since Abraham Lincoln’s presidency? About 25% of the OED’s entries are for words […]

Tackling the language of Super Bowl Sunday

Tackling the language of Super Bowl Sunday

Imagine with me for a moment. It is February 3, 2013. A Sunday. But not just any Sunday, oh no. It is Super Bowl Sunday. And this year, the party’s at your place—with all the excitement, stress, and post-game cleaning-up that hosting these parties entails. So here you are, at home, ensconced by family and […]

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