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

Category: English in use

Shrapnel, Plimsoll, Joule, Boole: eponyms in science and invention

Leylandii

You have to feel sorry for Christopher Leyland. Having inherited his father’s Northumberland country estate in 1889, Leyland dedicated his life to its improvement, paying particular attention to the gardens and the cultivation of trees. By his death in 1926 the estate boasted (among many other things) a palm house, an arboretum, and a menagerie […]

Plain unlucky! From hapless hunters to unfortunate accidents

Four-leaf clover

Dog Shoots Man: … Man Recovering from Gunshot Wound Caused by Pet … The hapless hunter was setting up decoys in the water when the mishap occurred. The above Huffington Post story caught my eye for two reasons: after I’d stopped smiling at the image of a dog shooting his master in the posterior (no […]

What makes Christmas merry? A brief history of yuletide adjectives

What makes Christmas merry?

From Happy Easter to Happy Halloween to countless Happy Birthdays, our felicitations hardly vary from one celebration to the next. Christmas is the notable exception, with the dominant descriptor being Merry. We wish our friends a Merry Christmas but a Happy New Year. Is there any difference? Not everyone’s Christmas is merry. Happy Christmas has […]

Sing a song of Christmas

Sing a song of Christmas

A change is not as good as a rest Christmas brings out the conservative in us all, especially in children. This summer we dismantled a ridiculously large stone clad shelf that was built in the sixties to support a weighty cathode ray tube. Now there’s a space beside the fire which would be, I suggested, […]

Cheers, slainte, bottoms up… the language of beer

The language of beer

I have a school friend who follows Arsenal F.C. wherever they go. His devotion to the team takes him on a yearly tour of the English Premier League, but has also sent him to football-crazy cities all over the world. He has a simple philosophy with respect to learning foreign languages that would probably shock […]

The lexicon of consumerism and America’s Christmas season

Christmas shopping

For those of us immersed in preparations for Christmas, the time remaining feels insufficiently brief, and the few weeks since Thanksgiving seem more like a few days. As fleeting as time is between Turkey Day and December 25, we in the US possess a peculiarly American interpretation of when the Christmas season “begins.” My British […]

Ka-ching – all you need is money

Ka-ching – all you need is money

David Mamet once wrote “Everyone needs money – that’s why they call it money”, although he wrote this in a screenplay, and so the words were uttered by a fictional character. Even though this quote of Mamet’s is not overburdened with clarity, it is amusing, and serves as a useful reminder to look at some […]

How to amuse friends and bamboozle people without even knowing it – reflections of a Scot down south

Reflections of a Scot down south

When people ask where I am from, the answer “Scotland” is not what they are expecting – that much is evident from my accent, which I haven’t lost after 14 years down south. For the most part, people find it easy enough to understand me – my Scots brogue isn’t all that impenetrable. Yet on […]

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