Video: what are the ides of March?

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How well do you know the language of cookies?

We all love cookies (or biscuits, as British speakers would say), so we thought that it would be fun to take a tour of the language of cookies. The language of sweets is an international one, including cookie names derived from German and Italian roots. In fact, the American English word cookie even comes from […]

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bookstore beat

The origins of beat and beatnik

Beat was the first term used to describe the artists, writers, and members of the pre-hippie counterculture of the 1950s. The term beat generation was coined by Jack Kerouac in a conversation with writer John Clellon Holmes in 1948. Holmes wrote in his journal on December 10, 1948: ‘Kerouac speaks to Harrington about ‘the beat […]

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Red postbox

Did you know that James Murray… had a pillar box installed outside his house in Oxford because of the volume of his correspondence?

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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Background checks: everyday words with legal records

Absolute privilege, ad hoc, aforementioned, affidavit, arraignment, arbitrage: the language of law can be dense, demanding, and downright intimidating, and these are just a few of the words and phrases that begin with the letter a. For all the difficulties of legalese, a great number of common words have a surprisingly legal record, so to speak. Mayhem Dating back […]

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Chicago skyline

How well do you know your US city nicknames?

Lots of cities in the United States have nicknames, ranging from monikers largely rejected by their populace (New Yorkers are famously impatient with the nickname ‘the Big Apple’) to those nicknames shouldered with pride – Pittsburghers, for example, proudly claim the nickname ‘The Steel City’, which references the city’s major role in the Industrial Revolution […]

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Video: is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

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