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

Book quiz: do you know these classic first lines?

Book quiz: do you know these classic first lines?

Opening lines are an important part of any piece of literature. A writer has to grab the attention of the reader with that first line or run the risk of them putting the book down. While that might sound a little alarmist, there is no doubt that a punchy opening line lingers in the memory […]

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“Music in your blood and poetry in your soul”: the beauty of Welsh English

Welsh Flag

To be born Welsh requires the genes of a chameleon. You must be a geographer (how many maps have I drawn to explain to anyone not from our little island the difference between “Britain” and “England”?), a musician (try singing “Bread of Heaven” in a Welsh pub: I give you two bars before you’re accompanied […]

Leap years around the world: from freak weather patterns to good fortune and baby whales

Leap of faith

What have Italian composer Rossini and American rapper Ja Rule got in common? A number of possible answers may leap to mind here, but the one I’m looking for is that the two musicians were both born on a date that is mysteriously elusive: 29 February. Except that 2012 is a leap year, and so […]

What gets leapt in a leap year?

Calendar February 2012

2012 is a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, making it an appropriate time to consider the origin of this rather puzzling term. After all, leap implies that something is being skipped over, but a leap year has an extra day, making it longer than an ordinary year, not shorter. Where is the metaphorical leap […]

Linsanity: a star is born

Basketball game

The Internet in general and the sports world in particular (as least that aspect of it that follows basketball) have been fairly agog of late, following the sudden elevation of the New York Knicks latest star, one Jeremy Lin. This is not surprising, given that the story of an Asian-American player from Harvard achieving stardom […]

Cyberchondriac, LARP, and scratchiti: ODO quarterly update February 2012

ODO quarterly update

Are you a schwag-grabbing, scratchiti-daubing, shootie-wearing, smart home-owning, social gaming addict keen on sleep hygiene who lives in the slurbs? Then you may be interested in the new words added to our free online dictionary. And even if you’re none of these things, our latest update to Oxford Dictionaries Online includes oodles of other new […]

Word in the news: a chink in the armor

Medieval Armour

A lesson on the perils of saying what you don’t mean Recently, followers of US basketball got a stark reminder that words often have connotations which stretch beyond our intentions when using them. An editor for ESPN’s mobile website was dismissed from his position for using the phrase a chink in the armor in a […]

Lights, camera, lexicon: the language of films in the OED

Film Projector

Film, that great popular art form of the twentieth century, is a valuable window on the evolving English language, as well as a catalyst of its evolution. Film scripts form an important element of the Oxford English Dictionary’s reading programme, and the number of citations from films in the revised OED multiplies with each quarterly […]

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