Street in Dublin

An American in Dublin

It’s Bloomsday. I am strolling the streets of Dublin just as the celebration’s namesake, Leopold Bloom, did on this date nearly 100 years ago in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Like him, I am taking in the many sights and sounds of Ireland’s storied old capital. As a word nerd and language writer, I’m especially listening out […]

Read more »
Names for food in British and American English

Names for food in British and American English

You say tomato, I say tomato… but sometimes we say completely different things depending on whether we’re eating in the UK or America. We’ve put together some US and UK variants for common foods, along with a bit of history – so we won’t just help you out when ordering from a foreign menu, we’re […]

Read more »

Why English is so hard to learn: silent letters

Read more »
The usage of ‘thing’ to mean ‘generally known phenomenon’ has become remarkably popular in recent years.

When did ‘thing’ become a thing?

In May 2014, this blog briefly noted the rise of a new usage of the word thing to mean ‘generally known phenomenon’. This usage has been remarkably popular in recent years. Comedians, always alert to niceties of language, have called attention to the word’s new connotation. Recently, John Oliver introduced a new segment, titled ‘How […]

Read more »
football terminology quiz

How well do you know football terminology?

Are you man of the match, or merely watching from the sidelines? Click through those eight questions to find out how well you know the language of the beautiful game.

Read more »
swear words abbreviations

Do we still swear? Analysing the f-word and its abbreviations

Swear words occupy a unique role in language: the same word can often be used to express anger, to offend, to emphasize, and even for comedic effect. Although all words have a register dictating how appropriate they are for a given situation

Read more »
Words beginning with wl-

11 words beginning with wl-

You might have thought that there aren’t any words in English that begin with the letters wl-. And, if you were thinking of those in common use today, you would be right. However, as a historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) also contains lots of words which are now obsolete – including a surprising […]

Read more »
Which Harry Potter character are you?

Which Harry Potter character are you?

The Harry Potter universe keeps expanding, with 2016 seeing both a film of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and a stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  J.K. Rowling is nothing if not a linguistic innovator, and we’ve already explored the Harry Potter books’ linguistic innovation and use of Latin. Given Rowling’s love of language, both […]

Read more »

Tweets