Category: English in use

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011: ‘squeezed middle’

Squeezed middle

You’d think that choosing the standout word of the year would be a contentious affair. So many possibilities, you’d guess, and so many linguistic loves, hates, and indifferences to deal with amongst those who debate it. The truth is that, normally, choosing the word of the year is a slam dunk. Take ‘bling’, the obvious […]

Squeezed middle, hacktivism, Occupy, or facepalm: what makes a Word of the Year?

What makes a Word of the Year?

Every year, the dictionaries teams at Oxford University Press in the UK and the US put their heads together and come up with a Word (or Phrase) of the Year. And this year has been no different, although for the first time ever, the UK and US dictionaries teams have agreed on a global Word […]

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The language of fandom: from Twihards to Tolkienites

The language of fandom

As Breaking Dawn, the film adaptation of the fourth and final Twilight novel is released, we take a look at the language of fandom. Fandom and cultural discourse What is it about fan culture? Why does it seem like ‘Team Edward’ vs ‘Team Jacob’ has become the biggest cultural divider since Coke vs Pepsi? How […]

Hungerful and dee-do – the invention of language

The invention of language

As a publicist, I spend a lot of time writing: pitch letters, press releases, emails, they take up the large part of my day. Then on rare occasions, when I unchain myself from my desk and get out into the world to have live conversations with people, it can feel like all sense of spoken […]

The language of Downton Abbey: what is a ‘weekend’?

The language of Downton Abbey

As some of us still dry our tears and reel from the shocking cliffhanger ending to the second series of Downton Abbey, others have been doing a double take at the supposed anachronisms of language being uttered by a number of the characters. A few seemingly modern phrases that have been singled out in the […]

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Remember, remember… pyrotechnic displays that amaze (and terrify)

Bonfire Night

It’s a custom peculiar to Britain, but for school children (and some adults) all over the country, as November begins, the following words march round and round. Remember remember the fifth of November Gunpowder, treason and plot Confession time.  I have an uneasy relationship with fireworks, something which became apparent in early childhood. As a […]

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 […]

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