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

Hip-hop’s “dead presidents”

Hip-hop's "dead presidents"

With the 2012 election looming next week, are you sold on another four years with Obama? Perhaps you’re looking to change things up with Mitt. Which candidate will you choose to represent you? I’m out for dead presidents to represent me. Say what?! Rather than get mixed up in all that political business, I’m here […]

British, American, and both: a history of Halloween words

British, American, and both: a history of Halloween words

The holiday of Halloween has its roots in the British Isles; the word itself (short for All Hallows’ Eve, the night before All Saints’ Day on November 1), originated in Scotland. Nonetheless, it was in North America that disparate regional customs were amalgamated into the celebration we recognize today. The vocabulary of the holiday reflects […]

The Hobbit: Tolkien’s Old English fairy tale

The Hobbit: Tolkien's Old English fairy tale

As Peter Jackson celebrates his birthday this week many Tolkien fans across the world are eagerly awaiting the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, due to hit the cinemas in December. To many, The Hobbit is the clumsier younger brother of The Lord of the Rings, less epic and with a Middle Earth that […]

The birth of disco

The birth of disco

It was this month in 1959 when a nightclub opened its doors in the quiet city of Aachen, West Germany, and a small revolution in music took place. The Scotch-Club was similar to many restaurant-cum-dancehalls of the time, with one exception: rather than hire a live band to provide the entertainment, its owner decided instead […]

On culinary vocabulary

On culinary vocabulary

We tend to take the names of the things we put in our mouths for granted. But once in a while we may do a double take. At bang-bang chicken, for example: why on earth is it called that? Who dreamed up such outlandish terms as death by chocolate and pigs in blankets? Where did […]

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The Lexicographer who Loved Me

The Lexicographer who Loved Me

What’s your favourite James Bond film? That’s a question that gets bandied about a fair bit, especially on a Friday night in the pub, once the subject of children’s TV of yesteryear has been exhausted. And what better week to posit the question than in the one when Skyfall, Bond’s 23rd cinematic outing, hits our screens? […]

How many Chaucers does it take to change a language?

How many Chaucers does it take to change a language?

After 600 years, what do we think of when we hear the name Geoffrey Chaucer? The straightforward, factual answer – that he was the son of London wine merchant, born sometime in the 1340s, who spent his life, after youthful forays to the French wars and diplomatic missions, working as a civil servant and building up […]

Thick with meaning: 6 UK political terms explored

Thick with meaning: 6 UK political terms explored

The final episode of Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick of It will air in the UK this Saturday. Journalists love comparing plotlines in The Thick of It to real-life political events, and sometimes life has even imitated art: politicians picked up and popularized the word ‘omnishambles’, first used by foul-mouthed The Thick of It […]

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