Words must advertise: Dorothy L. Sayers in the OED

Words must advertise: Dorothy L. Sayers in the OED

13 June 2013 would have been the 120th birthday of Dorothy L. Sayers, born on that date in 1893. Detective novelist, Christian writer, Dante translator, and glorious wordsmith, she was a true daughter of Oxford, blood and bone: her father was chaplain of Christ Church Cathedral School, and she took first class honours in medieval […]

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Cole Porter: the tinpantithesis of poetry

Cole Porter: the tinpantithesis of poetry

Cole Porter was one of the few songwriters of his era who wrote both music and lyrics. Another was his friend Irving Berlin. The two men shared a private joke. Whenever a songwriting team–such as Ira and George Gershwin, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, or Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern—had a hit, Porter and Berlin […]

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Chasing the rainbow connection

Chasing the rainbow connection

Reflect and refract When was the last time you looked out the window and said, “Oh look! There’s a many-coloured refraction of light from drops of water!”? Well – OK, if you said that last week then feel free to skip the next paragraph, but most of us refer to the sudden splash of colours […]

You Can Say That Again: On Poetry Reading(s)

You Can Say That Again: On Poetry Reading(s)

Invite someone to a poetry reading and, even in today’s verse-enlightened times, they’ll generally say ‘No, you’re alright’ – meaning ‘I would rather shoot myself.’ And you understand because you know how it can be, trapped in the audience of a bad reading. Now and then people are obliged to faint and the whole row helps […]

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Celebrating Russian Language Day

Celebrating Russian Language Day

Pushkin 6 June is UN Russian Language Day, which coincides with the birth of Aleksandr Pushkin (Александр Пушкин), possibly the most well-known Russian poet, and often referred to as the founder of modern Russian literature. Pushkin was exceptional for not only writing about life as it was known, something unusual at the time, but also […]

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 2)

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 2)

Earlier in the year, inspired by the anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, OxfordWords discussed a variety of eponymous French inventions, from madeleine to nicotine. In this second part, we turn our attention towards other French inventions which bear the name of the person who discovered, invented, or inspired them… A shadow of his former self […]

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Roosting on your laurels: chickens, champions, and the Pulitzer Prize

Roosting on your laurels: chickens, champions, and the Pulitzer Prize

“In 1957, Eugene O’Neill won a Pullet Surprise”. I read this recently in a book of classroom howlers, a collection of humorous mistakes that students have made in their schoolwork. It’s easy to laugh, but perhaps it signifies that not everyone is familiar with Pulitzer Prizes. It turns out that 4 June is a good […]

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette If you had aspirations of being a disaffected youth in the mid-1990s, chances are you had a copy of Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill. That’s not quite fair; you might, after all, have been the sort who dealt with angst by listening to Black Sabbath, or […]

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