Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

The Twihard Years: the language of the Twilight Saga

The Twihard Years: the language of the Twilight Saga

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has been one of the most successful franchises of the decade. On the back of her four incredibly successful books, there have been four box office hits (the fifth being released in the UK this month), a spin-off book, extensive fan fiction – indeed the mummy-porn sensation, Fifty Shades of Grey […]

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In a nutshell, cutting the mustard by the skin of your teeth: popular idioms explained

In a nutshell, cutting the mustard by the skin of your teeth: popular idioms explained

Why do good things ‘cut the mustard’? The word mustard has been used to mean something excellent or superlative for almost a hundred years—the phrase ‘keen as mustard’ draws on the same idea of added piquancy and zest. ‘Hot stuff’, in other words. In America, to say something was ‘the proper mustard’ in the early […]

The Ladies’ Paradise interactive text analyser

The Ladies' Paradise Text Analyser

The final episode of The Paradise – a major drama series on BBC 1 – aired last night in the UK. Adapted from Émile Zola’s novel The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) and set against the backdrop of the spectacular rise of the department store in the 1860s and 70s, the story follows the fortunes […]

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In pictures: 10 Word of the Year runners-up

In pictures: 10 Word of the Year runners-up

Oxford Dictionaries last night announced that ‘omnishambles’ (UK) and ‘GIF’ (US) are their Words of the Year for 2012. Here, appropriately, we’ve GIFed ten of the other words the judging panels were considering. Definitions Mobot: a characteristic gesture as performed by the British long-distance runner Mo Farah on winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres events […]

Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012: ‘omnishambles’

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2012: 'omnishambles'

Today, OUP announced their Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year for 2012. Fiona McPherson was one of the lexicographers on the judging panel, and here are her reflections on the shortlist. A common misconception about the work of a lexicographer is that we sit around in the manner of a cabal each week and […]

Oxford Dictionaries USA Word of the Year 2012 is ‘to GIF’

wordoftheyear-2012-GIF-final (1)

Today, OUP announced their Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the Year for 2012. Katherine Martin was one of the lexicographers on the judging panel, and here are her reflections on the shortlist. GIF verb to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event): he GIFed the highlights of the […]

The fiscal cliff

The fiscal cliff

On Wednesday morning, after months of focusing on the electoral horserace, Americans awoke to find themselves in a perilous position; we had been sleeping at the edge of the fiscal cliff. But how did we get here? The metaphor of a fiscal cliff – meaning an anticipated event which will have dire economic consequences unless an […]

Remacadamize? Hybrid words and the development of the English language

Remacadamize hybrid words

I’ve recently noticed a trend for recipes to insist that I absolutely must use unsalted butter. Now I love the creamy taste of locally produced organic butter as much as the next person, it tastes much nicer with honey on bread than the salted sort. Nevertheless I just don’t get why, when I’ve melted my unsalted […]

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