bycicle

Did you know that James Murray… rode both bicycles and tricycles—but not always very well?

2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life […]

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paper cut figures

Clarity about ‘the gay thing’

Sometimes, we say what we don’t really mean. ‘You look really tired’, for example, when we mean to be caring rather than disparaging of appearance. ‘I thought you were older than that!’ when we mean to applaud maturity rather than further disparage appearance. And so it is with the gay thing. The accidental difference between […]

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foreign life

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beer types

How well do you know the language of beer?

Do you distinguish between beers and lagers? Do you know your Weißbier from your Schwartzbier? If you think that you’ve got a fair grasp on the language of beer (or bier), then try out our quiz and see how you do!

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2013 oscar winners

How to ‘Thank the Academy’: making a successful Oscar acceptance speech

It’s Academy Award time, and lucky winners will be accepting their Oscars and thanking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, their families, mentors, and colleagues. In linguistic terms, what makes an acceptance speech succeed where others fail? Thanking is a speech act—a way that we use words to do as well as say. Such speech […]

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Latin RIP

Requiescat In Pace, Latina

Readers of a certain age—and I would count myself among them—regard Latin as a noble thing of antiquity. The language is not nearly as widely studied as it once was. Indeed, Latin was once taught in grammar schools and familiarity with it—if not mastery of it—was a prerequisite for university admission. Today, even those who […]

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Photo via Flickr/Jason Persse

Dr. Dre and the language of gangsta rap

The hip hop world knows Dr. Dre as one of its most skilled producers and as a significant mentor to other prominent rappers – including Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and 50 Cent – but not as one of the genre’s most significant wordsmiths. However, Dre’s influence on the vocabulary of English is enormous even despite his […]

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cricket

Playing with a straight bat: the language of cricket

The Cricket World Cup is in full swing, so it seems like a good time to turn attention to the language of cricket. With its long history and central place in English sporting culture, it is hardly surprising that cricketing idioms have been widely adopted into colloquial speech. The traditional association of cricket with fair […]

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