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

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 […]

Presidential: what can we learn about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from their debate transcripts?

Presidential: what can we learn about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from their debate transcripts?

  On September 26, 1960, over 60 million viewers tuned in to watch John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon take the stage for the first televised debate ever between the presidential nominees of the two major US political parties. The contrast the audience perceived that evening between a sickly and tired Nixon and a rested […]

Do you know your -ibles from your -ables?

Do you know your -ibles from your -ables?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that we’ve featured postings on homophones over the past few months, but all of them have been complete words, such as pedal and peddle. Of course, suffixes (word endings) and prefixes (word beginnings) can also sound the same in English, causing no end of […]

Glissandos and glissandon’ts

Glissandos and glissandon’ts

“GLISSANDO. A term unfortunately used by composers anywhere but in Italy to indicate a rapid glide over the notes of a scale on keyboard instruments and the harp, as well as a slur with no definite intervals on strings and on the trombone. Italians do not use it for the simple reason that it is […]

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