Bob's your uncle? He's a smart Alec? Why do certain names appear in expressions?

Bob’s your uncle and other name expressions

If you’ve ever said Bob’s your uncle or called someone a smart Alec, you might have asked yourself: why do certain names appear in common English expressions? While several (such as Champagne Charlie, Billy-No-Mates, and Nosey Parker) began life as fictional characters in popular culture, others apparently refer to real individuals. We explore some of […]

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D'oh and meh are counted among the contributions of The Simpsons to language.

D’oh, meh, and how The Simpsons embiggened English

The first episode of The Simpsons aired twenty-five years ago, on 17 December, 1989, and since then, English has never been the same. Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and their friends in Springfield, Wherever-it-is, have given us fancy words of pure invention, worthy of Lewis Carroll, like cromulent ‘legitimate, but not really’, and words built from […]

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A quick look at OED history.

Interactive OED map

This animation uses data from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to show how English has developed by borrowing or adapting words from different languages and regions of the world, from 1150 to the present day. These patterns of word-borrowing reflect the changing demographics of the English-speaking world; cultural and economic influences on Britain; the spread of […]

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A menorah and other elements of Chanukah.

How do you spell Hanukkah?

Hanukkah vs. Chanukah: Each winter, as the Jewish festival of lights approaches, English speakers grapple with the question of how to spell its name. The Oxford English Corpus records at least 13 different contemporary spellings, and there are even more in the historical evidence. While the vowels of the word (-a-u-a-) remain constant, there is […]

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monkeys

9 monkey phrases and their meanings

Monkeys have it tough in the English language. Generally speaking, being called a monkey (or invoking one) does not bode well. While silliness is certainly the most common connotation, association with a monkey can also mean foolishness, aggravation, environmental terrorism, and cold. Here are nine examples of monkey language: cold enough to freeze the balls […]

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The line "frankly my dear I don't give a damn" is one of the most famous and controversial lines in cinema history.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”

Liz: You can’t just take away all these words we’ve been using for the past six years. Kenneth: Oh, that reminds me. You can’t say “using” on TV. It implies drug use. —30 Rock Season 6, Episode 11 On 15 December, 1939, Gone with the Wind premiered at Loew’s Grand Theatre in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. […]

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Oxford Dictionaries' lolcat generator will turn your regular writing into lolcat speak.

Lolcat generator

A lolcat is defined as ‘(on the Internet) a photograph of a cat accompanied by a humorous caption written typically in a misspelled and grammatically incorrect version of English’. The lol stands for ‘laughing out loud’ or ‘laugh out loud’. You may well have seen them about online, eating cheeseburgers and offering advice to their […]

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Seinfeld jerk store

The Jerk Store called…and called and called

Seinfeld famously added a ton of terms to English, such as low talker, high talker, spongeworthy, and unshushables. It also made obscure terms into household words. Shrinkage and yadda yadda yadda existed before Seinfeld, but it’s doubtful you learned them anywhere else. Another successful Seinfeld term has gone under the radar: Jerk Store. The term was coined in “The Comeback,” when George is unselfconsciously stuffing his face with […]

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