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A Study in Sherlock: Holmesian homages for Benedict’s birthday

It’s the inimitable Benedict Cumberbatch’s birthday today, so I’m told. Most recently seen on the big screen playing an iconic Star Trek baddie, Cumberbatch has enthralled viewers and theatre audiences as characters ranging from Vincent van Gogh and Stephen Hawking to Frankenstein’s monster and a Tolkienian dragon. But one of his most successful roles to […]

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Which Jane Austen heroine are you?

It’s been nearly 200 years since Jane Austen died, leaving behind only six completed novels, and yet she has never been more popular. To her millions of readers, she is renowned for her humour, her incisive observation, and her memorable characters – who range from lovable to ridiculous to frustrating, and sometimes all of the […]

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“Intelligence Officer”: A gentleman and patriot, or a scoundrel seeking reputational refuge?

“Intelligence Officer”: a gentleman and patriot, or a scoundrel seeking reputational refuge?

The Oxford English Dictionary gives interesting examples of how the term intelligence officer has changed its meaning: An example from American usage in 1847 still conveys the eighteenth-century sense of a person who simply transmits information. Then there is a reference to the poet Rupert Brooke, who in the Great War served as an “intelligence […]

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Speaking Holden Caulfield’s language

Although it’s been 62 years since The Catcher in the Rye was first published, J.D. Salinger’s seminal coming-of-age novel doesn’t look a day over 16. What’s often remarked about The Catcher in the Rye is how universal experience seeps out of a deeply subjective narrative. The story is told from Holden Caulfield’s point-of-view, and so […]

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From teddy bears to berserkers – the language of bears (part 2)

From teddy bears to berserkers – the language of bears (part 2)

Following on from the first instalment about the word bear, today’s post looks at real bears, fictional bears, and (of course) teddy bears. A bear, or not a bear? That is the question. Most taxonomists agree that there are eight species of bear in five genera in the world today. However this does not include the koala, […]

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From teddy bears to beserkers – the language of bears (part 1)

From teddy bears to berserkers – the language of bears (part 1)

There is a bear alongside me as I write this post. That bear is named Brutus and is famous for being the best man at naturalist Casey Anderson’s wedding – sadly though the bear in question is only on my desktop background (and not available as a best man in general; I checked). This internet […]

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dog idioms

Writing doggedly: dog idioms from around Europe

In film and literature dogs are often shown as the protagonist’s companion through thick and thin. Dog owners will tell you that their pets are loyal and loving – yet the portrayal of dogs in many languages shows that man’s best friend is often regarded as lowly in status. You can read this earlier post about […]

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Drunk tank pink? International Klein blue? Charting the outer-reaches of the colour spectrum

As Katherine Shaw noted in a rather colourful article for this blog, the origins of the English primary colour names are ultimately either non-referential, in that they aren’t derived from the colour of some previously known entity, or have such long histories that their origins are simply unknown. This, she notes, is in contrast with […]

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