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

Summertime: socks, sandals, and strawberries

Strawberry

As those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying our summer, thoughts inevitably turn to those things we associate most strongly with Britain in that particular season. Strawberries and cream Of all the quintessential features of a British summer perhaps the most linguistically English of them all is the strawberry. Croquet and socks Croquet […]

Let’s just “call a cat a cat”

Cat

Just a few weeks ago Christine Lindberg explored phrases and idioms that revealed the somewhat surprising way in which the English language describes man’s best friend. But what about that equally popular household pet – the beloved, fluffy, crazy cat? (Those three adjectives are among some of the most popular in the English language to […]

Unspellable words? Impossible!

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s phrase ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’ points us to the un- words, an unexhausted yet unassuming and unexplored group of words which stand as a challenge to Napoleon. The Emperor once said ‘the word impossible is not in my dictionary’. Dictionaries have got a lot better since Napoleon’s day and impossible […]

Anyone for tennis?

Tennis ball

We are now well and truly into the first week of Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam event of the tennis calendar, and provided the weather holds, a feast of tennis beckons, with a plentiful supply of the traditional strawberries and cream of course. Keeping it real The modern game has its origins in real tennis, a […]

Father’s Day words

dad

Father’s Day is that day of the year on which fathers are particularly honoured by their children, usually with greeting cards and gifts. It was first observed in the state of Washington in 1910. In the US, South Africa, and Britain, it is usually the third Sunday in June; in Australia, the first Sunday in […]

Rulers and monarchs in ancient and modern times

Crown

The second Saturday in June sees the birthday parade of Queen Elizabeth II. This annual display of pomp and pageantry on London’s Horse Guards Parade is known as trooping the colour, and marks Her Majesty’s official birthday – while her real birthday is on 21 April. The Queen’s official birthday is celebrated in many Commonwealth […]

Bawways and smellsip: James Joyce’s English

Bloomsday

‘Bloomsday’ is commemorated throughout the world on June 16, celebrating the day, in 1904, on which the action of James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel Ulysses takes place. The word cloud above showcases just a few of the contributions to the English language made by James Joyce in all of his works, not just Ulysses. From dreck […]

Let’s take a butcher’s at rhyming slang

Pork pie

Smile goggle-eyed at them and blow raspberries at them. Jo was chatting to me on the dog We would urge people to use their loaf when parking and make sure they don’t leave anything of value on display. Rhyming slang, although almost 200 years old, is alive and kicking today: all the above examples are […]

Tweets