Category: English in use

The Riot of Spring: music and madness in the beau monde

The Riot of Spring: music and madness in the beau monde

On 27 May 1913, fashionable Paris was scandalized by the premiere of a new ballet. Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, as it is usually known in English), with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, depicted pagan ceremonies for the coming of spring, culminating in the sacrifice of a young […]

Do we need the apostrophe?

Do we need the apostrophe?

“The apostrophe is the most troublesome punctuation mark in English, and perhaps also the least useful. No other punctuation mark causes so much bewilderment, or is so often misused.” R.L. Trask, The Penguin Guide to Punctuation The recent decision by Devon County Council to drop the apostrophe from its road signs was met with dismay and anger […]

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alksjdf;lksfd: the language of Tumblr

alksjdf;lksfd: the language of Tumblr

In the world of social media, nothing remains static for too long. The same is true for language, so it’s not surprising that Internet language is ever evolving. In the case of the microblogging platform Tumblr, their community of users employs a special set of terminology to describe various actions and features on the site, […]

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The language and influences of the early Bob Dylan

The language and influences of the early Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, celebrates his 72nd birthday on 24 May 2013. The singer-songwriter, music producer, and writer has been one of the most influential figures in popular music and culture since the release of his first album in 1962. There is no systematic way of analysing Dylan’s song lyrics or poems; they […]

Le Geek, C’est Chic

Le Geek, C'est Chic

The Glorious 25 May, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, is a day for wearing lilacs to celebrate the People’s Revolution. The 25th is also Towel Day, commemorating the life and works of Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy celebrated the towel as ‘the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have’. Furthermore, the […]

Peppers, particles, pain, and the weird words that measure them

Peppers, particles, pain, and the weird words that measure them

For many people, the following two statements probably apply: 20 May is just another day, and You can’t remember the last time you took a moment to contemplate, gratefully, all the varying words that enable us, more-or-less concisely, to understand and efficiently communicate measurement. Yes, measurement. And although 20 May is in fact World Metrology […]

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Beam me up, dictionary: Star Trek in the OED

Star Trek is one of the most successful science-fiction franchises of all time: since the original TV series first aired in 1966, there have been four further live-action TV shows (plus an animated series), twelve films, and innumerable books. Only Star Wars and (particularly for the British) Doctor Who have achieved a comparable level of […]

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Apple Corps to Beatlemania: the language of the Beatles

Apple Corps to Beatlemania: the language of The Beatles

The Beatles are regarded by many – including me – as the greatest band of all time, and few would doubt the significance of their impact on popular music. Their impact on the lexicon is less clear, though, since using the word ‘na’ 217 times in the lyrics of Hey Jude really doesn’t count. (Incidentally, […]

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