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

Spelling can be a hot potatoe

Spelling can be a hot potatoe

The 2012 presidential election is but a little more than nine months away, which means that there are a host of candidates all furiously vying for the attention of the public and the money of the donors. Many of these candidates are speaking extemporaneously a good deal, and as is inevitable in such cases, gaffes […]

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Interactive quiz: Dickens or what the dickens?

Dickens quiz

2012 sees the bicentenary of one of the great and prolific authors of the English literary canon – Charles Dickens. His contribution to literature speaks for itself, but his contribution to the English language is also significant. In particular, the names of some of his characters have entered the language as words in their own […]

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A look at Australian English past and present

Australian English

The 26th of January is Australia Day. In this post, we look at Australian English. Professor Bruce Moore, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian National University , has this to say about Australian English in an article on the OED website: Australian English differs from other Englishes primarily in its accent and vocabulary. […]

Burns suppers: neeps, tatties, and A Toast to the Lassies

Burns supper

January 25th is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, when Burns suppers are held in commemoration of the Scottish poet and lyricist. Despite being the national bard of Scotland, his influence spreads much further than those national borders, and his works have been translated into many languages including Russian and Czech. There are […]

Why do we call false sentiment ‘crocodile tears’? Can crocodiles really cry?

crocodile

To shed crocodile tears is to put on an insincere act of being sad. The expression is very old, dating back to the mid-sixteenth century. An account of the life of Edmund Grindal, the sixteenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury, quotes him as saying, ‘I begin to fear, lest his humility . . . be a counterfeit […]

It’s a quotation! It’s a proverb! It’s a phrase!

A leopard can't change his spots

Superman himself would often have problems deciding whether a saying is a quotation, a proverb, or a phrase. The lines are blurred: a proverb can be defined as ‘a short, well-known pithy saying’, but a quotation is ‘a group of words repeated by someone other than the original author’ and in any case a phrase […]

Creating a textbook: my first year as a Modern Foreign Languages Editor

Creating a textbook

Harriette Newcombe provides an insight into the life of an Oxford University Press editor. This article was first published in the Independent Schools’ Languages Association magazine. At school I was far too busy trying to distinguish my relative pronouns from my infinitives to give any thought to the work that goes into breathing life into […]

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Flaunting the rules or flouting your bewilderment?

flauntflout

Have you ever had a moment’s pause about whether to use flaunt or flout… and then plumped for the wrong one? You may be confused, but you’re not alone! The erroneous heading above illustrates the misunderstanding that many people experience over the correct meanings of these words. However, while flaunt and flout sound fairly similar […]

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