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

Category: English in use

The lexical legacy of Occupy Wall Street

The lexical legacy of Occupy Wall Street

Monday, September 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which spawned a movement that spread from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to public spaces around the US, the UK, and the world. Although the Wall Street encampment was cleared out only two months later, it had already left a mark on the […]

From sock puppets to astroturfing: the language of online deception

From sock puppets to astroturfing: the language of online deception

Who am I? It’s a question I often ask myself when waking up. This isn’t (to my knowledge) because I’m trapped in a high-concept thriller when my brain is wiped every night when I fall asleep. It’s more because I’m not really a morning person. Personal identity is not just a problem for me before […]

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Java, C, and Python: the etymology of programming languages

Java, C, and Python: the etymology of programming languages

As a software developer for most of my adult life, I have a CV that is covered in acronyms and initialisms representing technologies I have mastered. Well, to be more honest, some technologies I have mastered, others I have used a lot, and a few I’ve had brief exposure to but which look good on […]

Pride, prejudice, and an obsession with Colin Firth

Tenderly flirting

A look at Jane Austen’s life and how it influenced Pride and Prejudice, with a detour into the world of Bridget Jones, wet shirts, and Colin Firth. Austen’s early life: Birth and boarding school Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 at the rectory in Steventon, near Basingstoke, Hampshire. She was baptized at Steventon […]

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Does ‘decimate’ really mean ‘destroy one tenth’?

Roman soldier

Most people have a linguistic pet peeve or two, a useful complaint about language that they can sound off about to show other people that they know how to wield the English language. Most of these peeves tend to be rather irrational, a quality which should in no way diminish the enjoyment of the complainer. […]

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May the odds be ever in your favour: the language of The Hunger Games

The language of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a trilogy of books set in a post-apocalyptic country in which the Capitol holds hegemony over the rest of the nation. Within that world, the Hunger Games are an annually-televised bloodbath in which 24 children from outside the Capitol fight to the death in penance for the rebellion […]

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Why is something that is the very best known as ‘the bee’s knees’?

The bee's knees

This curious expression is one of many similar sayings for something that is the acme of excellence. We are all familiar with the cat’s whiskers (or the cat’s pyjamas, the cat’s meow, and the cat’s nuts), which originated in the roaring 1920s and which might well have been the first of its kind—it is said […]

The language of cooking: from ‘Forme of Cury’ to ‘Pukka Tucker’

The language of cooking: from 'Forme of Cury' to 'Pukka Tukka'

The earliest surviving English-language recipes came from the kitchens of kings and their great nobles. Richard II’s Master Cooks boasted that their Forme of Cury contained only the ‘best and royallest viand of all Christian Kings’, and, what’s more, had been approved by the king’s physicians and philosophers. Healthy eating issues and celebrity endorsements are […]

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