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

Category: English in use

Red and yellow and pink and green…

Red and yellow and pink and green

Many of us learn the colours of the rainbow from an early age, but have you ever wondered where the names for the different shades we see around us come from? The origins of many of the words for the colours of the visible spectrum go back far in time, and are ultimately unknown. But […]

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Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?

Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?

In the last fortnight, the Oxford English Dictionary saw a massive spike in searches for the verb ‘medal’.  Searches for ‘medal’ on our free Oxford Dictionaries Online site also increased dramatically at the end of July and have remained high for two weeks. While we at Oxford Dictionaries couldn’t possibly comment on the reason for […]

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09 Aug - Collective nouns- Large

Who decides on the right collective noun for something?

  The short answer is no one. While some languages, such as Spanish, French, and German, are ruled by committee there is no academy or governing body that decides on how English should evolve. Indeed English has never been under the administrative rule of a language academy. A keeper of English, according to the eighteenth-century […]

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German loanwords in the English language

German loanwords in the English language

Cockroach, lantern, algebra, sabbath – these are only a few of the loanwords that we use in the English language without them striking us as being particularly unusual. Appropriately, ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation (a so-called calque) of the German Lehnwort (Lehn from leihen = ‘lend’ + Wort = ‘word’). Throughout history, English has […]

The Great British Summer of sport: 6 topical posts you won’t want to miss

The Great British Summer of sport: 6 topical posts you won’t want to miss

Regardless of heat or sunshine, the Great British Summer has now truly arrived. If you’re outdoors playing sports, or indoors watching them, here are a few of our game, set, or match-related blog posts to keep you full of fun facts. 1.  Anyone for tennis? Whether you were on team Murray or team Federer, this […]

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

We all strive to leave a legacy. We remember history’s greats through plaques and monuments, books and movies, songs and works of art. Another (often overlooked) way we pay homage to people of the past is through language. We might name a place, a theorem, or even a disease after the person who first visited […]

Five Shades of Grey? Colours and their connotations

Five Shades of Grey? Colours and their connotations

There used to be nothing erotic about grey. Until E. L. James it was, for me, the colour of John Major’s underpants because that’s how Steve Bell always drew them in his cartoons for the British newspaper The Guardian. Grey is the colour of brains (grey matter) but I don’t think that’s the point of […]

Anyone for Quidditch?

Anyone for Quidditch?

Looking for an alternative to the games that shall not be named? It’s J.K. Rowling’s birthday, so why not give Quidditch a go? Quidditch is a sport created by Rowling in the Harry Potter series of novels, which have now sold over 450 million copies and have been translated into 67 languages. The global popularity […]

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