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

Category: Other languages

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 1)

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (Part 1)

On March 31 this year, Gustave Eiffel’s tower – arguably the most iconic symbol of France – celebrated its 124th birthday. Incidentally, the world’s most visited paid-for tourist attraction is the same age as other famous French creations such as the Moulin Rouge and Herminie Cadolle’s first modern bra… – anyway, with all things français […]

Music to my ears: 5 composers and how to pronounce them

piano

How many foreign languages can you Handel? Shall we make a Liszt? Ok, ok, we’ll stop before you start Chopin our heads off. All punnery aside, clicking through the pages of a music dictionary like Grove Music Online, one is presented with a wide selection of head-scratching-inducing names. Here are some of our favorites: Camille […]

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The oink on the page: pig idioms and expressions

The oink on the page: pig idioms and expressions

27 March is Dick King-Smith’s birthday and, although his name might not immediately be ringing bells in your head, there’s a strong possibility that you’ve come across one of his creations. Of the dozens of children’s books he wrote before his death in 2011, perhaps the most famous is The Sheep-Pig (1983), published in the […]

Horseplay: horses in idioms and proverbs

Horseplay: horses in idioms and proverbs

Horses have been in the news recently and, as with anything topical and a little bit scandalous, would-be comedians have been riffing on horse-related puns and quips to their hearts’ content. The English language is not new to this sort of play with the word ‘horse’. Horseplay, if you will – which is a case […]

Some Chinese wisdom for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

10 February is an important date this year because it is the first day of the new lunar year, marking the first day in the Chinese New Year. The Chinese calendar names each of the years (in a twelve year cycle) after an animal, and 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year, also […]

The challenges of learning a language as an adult

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Ah, my teenage years! Spandex-clad 1980s rockers on 7-inch vinyl records, Senna and Mansell winning Formula One races, learning to code on a Sinclair Spectrum, and watching The A-Team, Dempsey and Makepeace, or Cagney and Lacey on the TV. Imagine, only four channels! And school. I can’t say I liked school a lot, being a […]

Appointment with Words: where does Agatha Christie feature in the OED?

Appointment with Words: where does Agatha Christie feature in the OED?

Tomorrow sees the anniversary of the death of Agatha Christie, a doyenne of the whodunnit, or as the celebrated humourist Ogden Nash put it, a murdermongress. In a career spanning 50 years, she wrote over 60 detective novels, as well as collections of short stories and plays. In addition, she indulged her romantic side by […]

Christmas in Spain: Kings and caganeres

Christmas in Spain: Kings and Caganeres

With every passing year, British Christmas seems to start earlier. As soon as the high street is finished with Halloween, Christmas gets going, with all the Slade and tinsel that that entails. Things are done differently in Spain. Navidad (from the Latin nativitas, also the root of the English nativity) officially kicks off with the […]

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