On a wild goose chase for the origin of wayzgoose

Wayzgoose notice

Here in the UK we have been enjoying the hottest summer since 2006. For many, this has meant getting together with friends for day trips and outings in the sunshine. For employees at Oxford University Press there have been a variety of organized events for staff to enjoy, from sports evenings to open-air Shakespeare. But […]

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Should we be happy that the English language is changing?

Once upon a time

‘When you come to those parts of the body which are not usually mentioned,’ C. S. Lewis once said, ‘you will have to make a choice of vocabulary. And you will find that you have only four alternatives: a nursery word, an archaism, a word from the gutter, or a scientific word. You will not […]

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Hammer of the gods: the lyrics of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Confession: I grew up in the 1990s. I admit freely that the only musical artists I knew for a while were N’Sync, the Spice Girls, and Blink-182. But then one day I heard a song called Dazed and Confused by a little band named Led Zeppelin and— after several jaw-dropping minutes of that insanely heavy […]

From ‘amigo’ to ‘ven’: a mapping of ‘friend’ around the world

friend map_small

If you’ve ever travelled to a country in which you don’t speak the language, you’re probably aware that there are always a few key vocabulary words and phrases travel guides recommend you stock up on. I don’t speak [insert language]… Where is the restroom?… Help… Thank you. We would offer an additional word to learn—one […]

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Mae West’s linguistic legacy

MaeWest

Maritime safety and early-Hollywood sex symbols may not seem to have much in common, but the etymology of the Mae West life jacket manages to connect these two very different worlds. 17 August is the birthday of Mae West, the American actress whose controversy and fame help to explain the many ways in which she […]

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We need to talk about literally

Literally

Hold the front pages, literally. Or not. There has been much excitement this week over the discovery that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has recorded a sense of the word literally that seems to cause particular irritation. I am speaking of its use in a sentence like “I literally died laughing and had to run […]

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Poll results: fount or font of knowledge?

fount of knowledge

There are few things more likely to cause fierce argument between language-lovers than variant spellings of everyday expressions, especially if one is celebrated by language traditionalists and the other by the linguistic vanguard. You may remember the heated arguments that arose over the topic of pronouncing scone (some friendships have never truly recovered) – well, […]

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Dreadtalk: the language of Rastafari

VSI Rastafari

An extract from Rastafari: A Very Short Introduction In rejecting Babylon’s aesthetic of grooming and Babylon’s language conventions, Rastas have developed the iconic dreadlocks hairstyle and their own argot, commonly referred to as ‘dreadtalk’ or ‘Rasta talk’ and as ‘Iyaric’ by others. Dreadtalk, as an in-group language that surfaced among Rastas in the 1940s, was […]

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