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

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 […]

The life of slang… dot com

Slang wordle

At my son’s recent tenth birthday party, I was struck by differences in the slang used between two groups of friends from different schools. We tend to think of slang as ‘British’, ‘American’, or ‘Australian’ or perhaps as belonging to sub-groups like teenagers or rappers, but it isn’t really that simple because individual social networks […]

Martin Luther King, Jr., Rhetorically Speaking

Martin Luther King, Jr

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday in the U.S., we commemorate the birthday of the eponymous leader and activist, and reflect on his significant contributions to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. King’s legacy, while forged in the midst of a tumultuous time in U.S. history, transcends categorical […]

Which words do we love to hate?

Banned

Every year since 1976, Lake Superior State University in Michigan has released a small list of select words – those that they have decided should be banished from everyday use of English. The list is released on the first day of the year, and is composed of words submitted by the public that are thought […]

From warring rutabagas to human beef: the wonderful world of typos

Error

Years ago I learned a valuable twofold editorial lesson: respect the precision of a good keyboarder, and don’t get cute in the margins. The project was an encyclopedia of Japan, and it was back in the era of editing only on paper. One morning, I sat down with the freshly typed arts entries and my […]

What were the most looked-up words in 2011?

Interactive search monitor

In our occasional search monitor series, we take a look at your most searched-for words of the past month. But what were your top look-ups for the past year? Below is a word cloud containing the top 300 most looked-up words in our free online dictionary. Hover over the words to find out more or […]

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Where does the expression ‘to mind your Ps and Qs’ come from?

etiquette

If you have you ever been told to mind your Ps and Qs, it might have struck you as a rather odd thing to do. The concept seems reasonable enough– behaving well and not giving offence – but quite what the letters P and Q have to do with this is a little more mysterious. […]

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Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?

Conjunction wordle

‘No, young lady, it is an unspeakable offence against the English language, and I will mark any such errors with a large red circle and make a public example of you by reading out your ungrammatical prose to the whole class.’ An imaginary conversation, true, but hands up all those whose English lessons at school […]

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