Jimmies, spendy, and shave ice: American regionalisms

ice cream sprinkles

It goes without saying: the United States is a huge country. And while this certainly has some drawbacks (the formidable amount of time it takes to get from one coast to the other, for instance), the United States’ significant landmass also yields significant diversity—particularly when it comes to language. I’m not only talking about the […]

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Puppets, peaches, and other womanly words

Peach

Last month, we took a tour around the world of the macho man, taking in some words in the grand tradition of beefcake on the way. We also discovered that the term beefcake, referring to muscular male physique, was formed on the model of cheesecake, a sexually alluring image of a woman. Sugar and spice […]

Interactive map: places that shaped the English language

Wordsmiths and Warriors_map

‘If you love history, on your holidays you can visit museums and castles. If you love plants, you can visit botanical gardens. But if you love language, what do you visit?’ In the summer of 2012, supreme language-lovers David and Hilary Crystal set off on a tour round Britain, visiting 57 sites associated with key […]

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Cinderella

What’s the difference between ‘will’ and ‘shall’?

Cinderella, you shall go to the ball! The story of Cinderella is decidedly appealing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a fairy godmother? She’d magic you away from your humdrum existence, ensure that you’re the belle of the ball, and make all your wishes come true. Even better (for the purposes of this blog post), […]

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From batchmates to siestas: Philippine English

Philippines

My country, the Philippines, is home to over 90 million other people spread across 7,107 islands in Southeast Asia. Among the more than 100 mostly Austronesian languages spoken in our densely populated archipelago is one that has travelled a long way to get there: English. Unlike most postcolonial Anglophone nations, we did not inherit English […]

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A TV quiz (for viewers like you)

Retro_tv

The broadcast of the Primetime Emmy Awards, usually in late September each year, is the preeminent event in the US to celebrate and honor the great moments and performances of the previous television season. It’s also a prime opportunity to participate in the regular roasting of an awards show telecast by the viewing audience. Live-blogging […]

pirate flag

Talk Like A Pirate Day: pirate phrases and their origins

Be it from the pages of Treasure Island, the exploits of Captain Jack Sparrow on the silver screen, or the Guybrush Threepwood’s adventures on Monkey Island, the fictional pirate has long held a fascination for landlubbers everywhere. On this International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we take a look at a few of the words […]

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‘Intelligence’, the CIA’s expanded definition

CIA

The launching of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on 18 September 1947 signaled an American addition to the customary use of the word ‘intelligence’. In the past, as well as referring to mental capacity, the word had carried one of two principal meanings. The first, by 1947 archaic, simply indicated news. The second meaning covered […]

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