How well do you know literary characters?

Quite a lot of literary characters are better known by the title of the book in which they appear. Many people will recognize the name Lady Chatterley’s Lover, not least due to the obscenity trial that ended on 2 November 1960, with Penguin Books found not guilty. Rather fewer will know the name of the lover […]

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dark forest

How well do you know your phobias?

Spiders. Heights. The dark. Small, enclosed spaces. When we think of phobias, our minds usually jump to the commons ones – including the aforementioned claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders). However, there’s a curious group of much rarer phobias out there as well. For example, how about iconophobia (fear of religious […]

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5 language facts about the European Union

The European Union was established on 1 November 1993; in order to mark this anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the languages spoken in the EU. 1. There are over 200 languages spoken in the countries of the EU, but only 24 official languages. You can see the full list of these 24 […]

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Halloween Pumpkin

Quiz: how well do you know Mischief Night?

As we all know, Halloween is really more about treats than tricks. The “tricking” half of the holiday has come to be celebrated by practical jokesters on a different date altogether–Mischief Night. Think you’re a master prankster? Take our quiz and find out!

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Skrike, lachryme, and water-cart: the language of crying

Crying is one of the first things that any of us do in our lives. It tends to happen again at the most important moments in life – whether as a sign of happiness or sadness – and some of us find it’s an involuntary reaction to anything from pieces of music to absorbing stories. […]

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Definitely versus defiantly – is there a difference?

The simple answer to that question: yes, there’s definitely a distinction between these words, but it’s most unlikely that there’s anything defiantly different about them! A slight spelling digression…  Up till now, I’d always reckoned that the main trouble people had with the word definitely was that they tended to misspell it as definately or […]

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Butterflies and worms: a linguistic look at pasta for World Pasta Day

Did you know that pasta had its own day? No? Well, 25 October 2014 is World Pasta Day. We’ve taken the opportunity to look at a selection of words for different types of pasta. Unsurprisingly, many of the words are simply the Italian for the shape in which the pasta comes, but they may well […]

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A closer look at hi-fi, sci-fi, DIY

Hi-fi, sci-fi, DIY. Three expressions which, for me, typify the late lamented twentieth century. Do-it-yourself The concept of do-it-yourself is the earliest of the three. Not surprisingly, the phrase is first recorded, as an adjective, in the United States in 1910: ‘the “do-it-yourself” method’, redolent of the struggle for self-improvement and self-reliance of that era. A series of ‘Do […]

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