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

Was a parting shot once a real bullet?

Bullet hole

A parting shot, a phrase used to mean a final remark, usually pointed or cutting, made by a person at the moment of leaving, started out as something quite different: a ‘Parthian shot’. And it was indeed both live and dangerous. The Parthians were an ancient race living in southwest Asia; they were skilled warriors […]

Grammar myths #3: Don’t know nothing about double negatives? Read on…

Double negatives

Is there a specific grammatical slip that’s guaranteed to make you wince? I bet there is! While it’s hard to say why certain linguistic errors cause our hackles to rise rather than others, everyone has their own bête noire. You could split your infinitives till kingdom come and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but whenever […]

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Delve into Dickens with our interactive text analyser

Delve into Dickens

It’s easy to get lost in a good book. If you’re not careful, you can lose hours, or even days immersed in a fictional land; forgetting to eat, postponing sleep while you read just one more chapter… But have you ever wanted to physically climb into a book so that you can get your nose […]

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Long to reign over us: the language of anniversaries

Diamond

On 6 February, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II began her reign as monarch of the United Kingdom. Although she would not be ceremonially crowned until 2 June 1953 (the same day that news reached London of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful ascent of Mount Everest), she was proclaimed queen of the Commonwealth upon the […]

What is the origin of the word ‘posh’?

P.O.S.H

There have been many attempts to explain the etymology of posh, with some theories being more persuasive than others. Stylish dandies and cash Posh, meaning ‘smart, stylish, splendid, luxurious’ is first recorded in 1914, with the chiefly British strand of meaning, ‘typical of the upper classes; snooty’, following soon after. As the Oxford English Dictionary […]

‘I’ or ‘me’?

'I' or 'me'?

Choosing whether to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ can be tricky, but it’s something that often pops up in both written and spoken communications, and it’s important to get it right. As the results of our poll shows, it’s not always clear which is the right choice. Here’s some advice taken from our Better writing section, […]

Confessions of a pedant

Pedantry

We all know what a taxi is There are two big problems about working for a dictionary. The first is that everyone assumes you know the meaning of every word, which is setting the bar rather high. There are about 600,000 words and senses in the OED. Any one of them could crop up at […]

This blog is a he

This blog is a he

Cast your mind back to your twelve-year-old self stuck in the classroom on a Friday afternoon in the middle of a French lesson. (Or German, or Spanish, for that matter.) If you grew up as a native monolingual English speaker, what was the thing you struggled with the most when learning a foreign language? Was […]

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