Category: English in use

Words for wafflers

20 wonderful words for wafflers

Rather aptly, there are many wonderful words to describe someone who tends to think that silence is anything but golden. If you know a talkative soul, but tire of using the same old adjectives to describe them, then today is your lucky day. We’ve delved into the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary to […]

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America’s pastime: sabermetrics and rotisserie leagues


Baseball fans, whether casual or diehard (such as sabermetricians), know that October means one thing: the World Series. First played in 1903, this “Fall Classic” series of games (which, this year, begins on 23 October) determines the World Champion of the professional sport. While its name implies an international contest, the competition actually only includes […]

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Puppets, peaches, and other womanly words

Last month, we took a tour around the world of the macho man, taking in some words in the grand tradition of beefcake on the way. We also discovered that the term beefcake, referring to muscular male physique, was formed on the model of cheesecake, a sexually alluring image of a woman. Sugar and spice […]

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Interactive map: places that shaped the English language

Wordsmiths and Warriors_map

‘If you love history, on your holidays you can visit museums and castles. If you love plants, you can visit botanical gardens. But if you love language, what do you visit?’ In the summer of 2012, supreme language-lovers David and Hilary Crystal set off on a tour round Britain, visiting 57 sites associated with key […]

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‘Intelligence’, the CIA’s expanded definition


The launching of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on 18 September 1947 signaled an American addition to the customary use of the word ‘intelligence’. In the past, as well as referring to mental capacity, the word had carried one of two principal meanings. The first, by 1947 archaic, simply indicated news. The second meaning covered […]

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Words with Friends: the language of a sitcom

New York skyline

Having been one of the most-watched programmes on television for 236 episodes over ten years from 1994-2004, it was inevitable that Friends would leave its mark on the linguistic landscape, both in its native USA and elsewhere. From Chandler’s distinctive vocal inflections – “could I be any more sorry?” – to Joey’s “How you doin’?” […]

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Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: notes on the anniversary of America’s anthem

American flag

On September 13th, 1814, an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key dined as a guest on a British warship, where he had been sent to negotiate the release of American prisoners. The ship, the H.M.S. Tonnant, was moored in Chesapeake Bay, off Baltimore, which the British forces intended to attack later that day. Key was […]


If roses were called stench-blossoms, would they smell as sweet?

In reference to the family name of her soon-to-be beau, 13-year-old Juliet Capulet once told nobody in particular that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. But would it? As the Simpson men convincingly rebut: Bart: Not if you called ’em stench-blossoms. Homer: Or crapweeds. Marge: I’d sure hate to get a dozen […]

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