drunk tank pink1

Drunk tank pink? International Klein blue? Charting the outer-reaches of the colour spectrum

As Katherine Shaw noted in a rather colourful article for this blog, the origins of the English primary colour names are ultimately either non-referential, in that they aren’t derived from the colour of some previously known entity, or have such long histories that their origins are simply unknown. This, she notes, is in contrast with […]

Read more »
Entering the comfort zone of comfort food

Entering the comfort zone of comfort food

A friend of mine who is a world-class chef once surprised me when his serious answer to the joking question, “Do you ever go to McDonald’s?” was, in his native French accent, “Yes, yes, certainly.” He explained that when he’s on the run and has a grumbling stomach, McDonald’s is just the ticket. No matter […]

Read more »
Henry Bradley

Henry Bradley: ‘sméaþoncol mon’

In the second instalment of an ongoing series on some of the Oxford English Dictionary’s editors, following on from an article about James Murray, Peter Gilliver looks at the life, work, and legacy of Henry Bradley. An obituary is often the place where people first really find out about a person. In the case of Henry Bradley, the […]

Read more »
Answer a question about the bikini, and win a Kobo Glo!

Answer a question about bikinis and win a Kobo Glo!

On 5 July 1946, the first bikini went on sale. The first modern bikini, that is, since there is evidence that bikini-like garments have existed for thousands of years – the mother-goddess of Çatalhöyük, in southern Anatolia, is depicted in a costume similar to a bikini in the Chalcolithic era, around 5600 BC.  Similar depictions were […]

Read more »
Centre Court Wimbledon

Wimbledon, Shakespeare, and strawberries

It’s time to dust off your racket and wrestle the tennis balls from your dog’s mouth. Wimbledon 2013 is upon us! Wimbledon is now as much a feature of the British summer as barbecues, Henley Royal Regatta, and summer rain. Whether you grew up shouting ‘Come on Tim!’ or ‘Don’t cry Andy!’, Wimbledon seemingly captivates every generation of the […]

Read more »
Seinfeld

Sein-Language

Unarguably one of the most influential TV shows of all time, Seinfeld played a major role in shaping the social culture of the ‘90s. Famously self-defined as a “show about nothing,” Seinfeld’s insistent concern with the mundane often manifested itself as an obsession with the ultimate, universally-relatable everyday practice: language. Since the show had no […]

Little green men to the men in black: alien words in the OED

Little green men to the men in black: alien words in the OED

When responding to the argument that extraterrestrial life cannot exist because humans have not found it yet, Neil deGrasse Tyson—the well-known American astrophysicist—retorted: “That’s like going to the ocean, taking a cup of water, scooping it up, and saying, ‘There are no whales in the ocean.’” It is clear we earthlings have a complicated relationship […]

Can or could?

Can or could?

My recent post about may and might generated quite a buzz: many of you seemed to find it helpful, some picked up on my intentionally split infinitives, while other readers raised queries about two other modal auxiliary verbs, can and could. Understanding how all the modal verbs are used is vital to speaking and writing […]

Read more »

Tweets