marijuana

Hashing out the language of marijuana

With Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia passing measures on 4 November to legalize recreational marijuana, joining Colorado and Washington as US regions where the sale of the drug is (or will be) legal, I thought it might be worth taking a look at the language surrounding the contested cannabis plant. Not unlike other much-discussed […]

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sax

How the saxophone got its name: an A-Z of instruments

6 November is World Saxophone Day, apparently. It’s the anniversary of the day the inventor was born – we’ll share his name a little later. We thought it was a good opportunity to produce an alphabet of interesting instrument names, from accordion to zither. As far as possible, we’ve tried to stick to common instruments […]

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political insults_edit

How to insult your political opponents like an American

In the run-up to today’s mid-term election, observers of American politics have lamented that the nation’s political landscape is more divided than ever. A Pew Research Center report released this year concluded that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines—and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive—than at any point in the last […]

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Reuben sandwich

5 tasty sandwich etymologies

You may well be familiar with the origin of the sandwich. The story opens in mid-18th-century England with John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, and a particularly distracting run at the gaming table. In fact, the distraction proved so great that Montagu forewent formal meals and refreshments, and instead requested the simple snack of […]

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books

Book quiz: how well do you know literary characters?

Quite a lot of literary characters are better known by the title of the book in which they appear. Many people will recognize the name Lady Chatterley’s Lover, not least due to the obscenity trial that ended on 2 November 1960, with Penguin Books found not guilty. Rather fewer will know the name of the lover […]

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eu

5 language facts about the European Union

The European Union was established on 1 November 1993; in order to mark this anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the languages spoken in the EU. 1. There are over 200 languages spoken in the countries of the EU, but only 24 official languages. You can see the full list of these 24 […]

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Halloween Pumpkin

Quiz: how well do you know Mischief Night?

As we all know, Halloween is really more about treats than tricks. The “tricking” half of the holiday has come to be celebrated by practical jokesters on a different date altogether–Mischief Night. Think you’re a master prankster? Take our quiz and find out! Quiz: how well do you know Mischief Night? Game Over Mischief Night […]

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crying

Skrike, lachryme, and water-cart: the language of crying

Crying is one of the first things that any of us do in our lives. It tends to happen again at the most important moments in life – whether as a sign of happiness or sadness – and some of us find it’s an involuntary reaction to anything from pieces of music to absorbing stories. […]

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