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

Category: English in use

Scarecrows: those anthropomorphic (not avian) symbols of the season

Scarecrow

The vestiges of Halloween linger in various front yards and on the occasional porch step, but mostly by now the skeletons and witches have retreated into storage along with the gossamer spider webs, howling mummies, and detached body parts that adorned our neighborhoods so cheerfully in our annual salute to October 31. A contraction of […]

Are you sitting comfortably?

Furniture

Regular readers of this blog may remember a recent poll in which we posed the following question: What do you call the piece of furniture pictured below? Sofa Couch Settee Other The results were as follows: 58% were in favour of sofa, 29% plumped for couch, settee was chosen by 9%, and 4% of respondents […]

A Trojan Horse in the Tardis: it’s all an allusion…

Tardis

At the beginning of October the Guardian newspaper published a survey of the best independent bookshops in the UK. Two were described in strikingly similar terms: ‘A Tardis among bookshops, [it] appears narrow at first glance, but packs a lot inside’ in one case, and ‘The Tardis-like bookshop is beautiful, with a stained-glass window depicting […]

Wednesday’s child is full of woe, and Thursday’s child is … who knows?

Pile of words

Corpora studies – what they can and cannot tell us Corpora studies (examining large bodies of text for evidence on how language is used) are a relatively recent thing, born in the 19th century. Small corpora were used early in the century, but one of the first to use a significant number of words was […]

‘The Real Thing’? The language of advertising slogans

The language of advertising slogans

‘The Antidote to Civilization’ – so stated the famous Club Med advertising slogan. The highly educated always claim to be immune to the blandishments of advertising slogans. At best they are clever word and image manipulations for the masses; at worst, they are a torture rack for grammar and language. Great literature they are not. […]

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Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball is one the oldest professional sports played in North America today. The first recorded baseball game took place in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1845; the first televised game between professional teams pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939; and this year marks the 107th Major League Baseball (MLB) Championship, more commonly […]

The rise of the app

The rise of the app

With Apple’s latest iPhone released today, and its Google rival reportedly soon to follow, there will soon be more ‘apps’ in use than ever before. For the increasing number of us who own a smartphone or tablet, apps have become a part of 21st century life. And they’re big business: the market in apps is […]

Seventy years young

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Borrowed words We all find at times that we reach for the words of others to express just what we want to say. Gleaming red berries through the fog of a September morning may remind the more literary of John Keats’s ‘season of mists, and mellow fruitfulness’. The Indian summer of 2011, on the other […]

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