arabic

Fun with words or why I love Arabic

‘Somebody once said that every Arabic word means itself, its opposite or a camel.’  The professor I was trying to impress threw cold water on this vision of the language I had chosen to study: ‘Very funny, but not true’. Sigh. I owed the quote to Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Arabist and travel-writer known as the sage […]

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language identity

Does learning a second language lead to a new identity?

Every day I get asked why second language learning is so hard and what can be done to make it easier. One day a student came up to me after class and asked me how his mother could learn to speak English better. She did not seem to be able to break through and start […]

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Lazy bear

Quisby, lollop, and other names for a lazy person

Today, to celebrate Lazy Day, we wanted to share some of the many synonyms for ‘lazy’ from our Historical Thesaurus. From the fashionably lazy lounge lizard to the idle slouch, you’ll find plenty of terms to confess your laziness. Maybe you are feeling like a couch potato who favours lounging in front of the TV […]

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football redskins

What is the definition of redskin?

What is the definition of redskin? This week Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder told ESPN, “Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride.” The reclamation of the word — often seen as a derogatory to Native Americans — has become a major […]

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film book quiz

Quiz: match the film with the book

When filmmakers turn to the world of literature for inspiration, often they decide that the author made the best choice for title, and leave well alone. It doesn’t take an expert to spot that Joe Wright’s film Pride and Prejudice (2005) is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen. Even with the […]

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tightrope

Tightrope walking and ambulances: what do they share in common?

In the early hours of 7 August 1974, after six years of planning and months of subterfuge, Philippe Petit stepped out onto a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. A crowd of thousands gathered to watch the breathtaking 45 minute display, as Petit walked, danced, and even […]

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untranslatable

Translatable vs untranslatable

In a guest blog post, and following on from her article about ‘untranslatable’ Russian words, Caroline James questions the idea that some words are simply untranslatable. For most language learners and lovers, translation is a hot topic. Should I translate new vocabulary into my first language? How can I say x in Japanese? Is this […]

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record player

James Brown in the OED

With the recent release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, directed by Tate Taylor and starring Chadwick Boseman, I thought it might be worth reflecting on the legacy of Mr Dynamite. It goes without saying that James Brown contributed in enduring ways to the history of pop music; there’s good reason for his […]

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