Words that win spelling bees

Words that win spelling bees

So, you think you’re good at spelling do you? How would you fare with autochthonous, appoggiatura, Ursprache, serrefine, guerdon, Laodicean, stromuhr, cymotrichous, and guetapens? If you can successfully spell words like these, then maybe you should consider entering the annual Scripps Spelling Bee. From 27 to 29 May, 281 spellers from across the United States, […]

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cookies

Biscuit vs. cookie: a transatlantic debate

“England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” So said George Bernard Shaw (allegedly). Much has been written about words that are chiefly used in one country or the other (for example, eggplant in the US and aubergine in the UK), but there are also words that exist in both countries but […]

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cat fiddle

Nursery rhymes: time capsules of language

It’s uncanny: when most of us hear the lines “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” or “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”, we find our brains mysteriously capable (how many years after our youth?) of reciting the full nursery rhyme, as if on autopilot. These are rhymes many begin to learn in the cradle from parents who […]

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puffin

5 (more) words you didn’t know were acronyms

In 2013 we offered you a list of acronyms which you might not have known were acronyms, from scuba to care package. We even called Robert Pattinson ‘R-Patz’ along the way, for which we’re still feeling a little bit ashamed. To atone, we’ve delved back into the dictionary, and come up with another five acronyms […]

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flowers

In an English country garden

What could be nicer on a sunny Sunday afternoon in spring, than a spot of gardening? Though the language of horticulture proper can seem somewhat bewildering and full of complicated Latin names, growing plants is an activity that people have undertaken for thousands of years– whether for pleasure, or simply for food – and so it […]

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spanish

Loving Latin

Have you ever wondered just how far your language GCSE will get you in the wild? I set out to road-test my dusty Spanish qualification last year by travelling through Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, sometimes alone and sometimes with fellow English speakers, with a short stop-off as a classroom assistant in darkest Peru. My (lack […]

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shutterstock_169796804

Oxford Dictionaries update May 2014

The latest quarterly update to Oxford Dictionaries sees a wide range of words, definitions, and senses added to the dictionary. The words originate in spheres as different as cycling (bikeable) and finance (cryptocurrency), from food (white pizza) to online slang (a very new type of ship). Here is a selection of some of the new […]

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real tennis

The language of real tennis

This month, in Melbourne, Australia, saw 46-year-old Rob Fahey successfully defend his Real Tennis World Championship title, which he has held since 1994. Real Tennis is the king of racket sports and a game of kings – its best-known royal exponent was undoubtedly Henry VIII, whose passion for the game led to the construction of […]

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