clothes cat

12 nouns that are always plurals

If you, like me, are a half-ashamed watcher of various fashion reality shows, you might be familiar with phrases like I’d like to pair this with a navy pant or Maybe a smoky eye and a red lip. There is an assumption of an implied plural when the singular versions of these words are used […]

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“Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those that other people have lent me.” - Anatole France

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polling station

WordWatch roundup: penny dreadful, psephology, cock-a-hoop, and bafflegab

Penny dreadful, noun: With the debut of the second season of the British-American television show Penny Dreadful on 3 May…

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sixties TV

16 words from the 1960s

As the television show Mad Men draws to a close, we thought it might be fun to reflect on the contributions to language made by the turbulent decade of the 1960s. The legacy of the 1960s on language is not surprising, given the huge shifts in culture, including the Civil Rights movement, the apex of […]

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fishing trawler

What is the difference between ‘trolling’ and ‘trawling’?

Are you ‘trawling through’ or ‘trolling through’ that online archive? Did you have a successful ‘trawl’ or ‘troll’ of that dictionary? It’s easy to understand why these words are often confused: not only do they sound similar (trOHl and trAWl), but both are loose synonyms for search. Trawl typically means to ‘sift through as part […]

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antlers

OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of the word jackalope?

Can you help us? OED Appeals is a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English. Part of the process of revising words and phrases for the OED involves searching for evidence of a word’s first recorded use in English, […]

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graduation

How to write a great graduation speech

It’s graduation time at many of the nation’s schools and colleges. The commencement ceremony is a great exhalation for all involved and an annual rite of passage celebrating academic achievements. Commencement ceremonies typically feature a visiting dignitary who offers a few thousand inspirational words. Over the years, I’ve heard more of these speeches than I […]

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light bulbs

6 punctuation marks you might be using incorrectly

Punctuation is the art of clarifying how a group of words falls together into contractions, clauses, and sentences. Unfortunately, it is not at all clear how some punctuation marks should be used! Let’s take a look at several popular, though confusing, punctuation marks. Even if you think you’ve got the topic all sewn up, it’s […]

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