eu

5 language facts about the European Union

The European Union was established on 1 November 1993; in order to mark this anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the languages spoken in the EU. 1. There are over 200 languages spoken in the countries of the EU, but only 24 official languages. You can see the full list of these 24 […]

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Halloween Pumpkin

Quiz: how well do you know Mischief Night?

As we all know, Halloween is really more about treats than tricks. The “tricking” half of the holiday has come to be celebrated by practical jokesters on a different date altogether–Mischief Night. Think you’re a master prankster? Take our quiz and find out!

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crying

Skrike, lachryme, and water-cart: the language of crying

Crying is one of the first things that any of us do in our lives. It tends to happen again at the most important moments in life – whether as a sign of happiness or sadness – and some of us find it’s an involuntary reaction to anything from pieces of music to absorbing stories. […]

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Definitely or defiantly? Avoid the spelling mistake and know the difference between the two!

Definitely or defiantly?

The simple answer to that question: yes, there’s definitely a distinction between these words, but it’s most unlikely that there’s anything defiantly different about them! A slight spelling digression…  Up till now, I’d always reckoned that the main trouble people had with the word definitely was that they tended to misspell it as definately or […]

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meanings of pasta names

The meaning of pasta names

Let’s look at a selection of words for different types of pasta. Unsurprisingly, many pasta names are simply the Italian for the shape in which the pasta comes, but they may well surprise anybody who doesn’t speak the language. Agnolotti Pasta squares stuffed with a variety of fillings, like small ravioli. The name is probably […]

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robot

A closer look at hi-fi, sci-fi, DIY

Hi-fi, sci-fi, DIY. Three expressions which, for me, typify the late lamented twentieth century. Do-it-yourself The concept of do-it-yourself is the earliest of the three. Not surprisingly, the phrase is first recorded, as an adjective, in the United States in 1910: ‘the “do-it-yourself” method’, redolent of the struggle for self-improvement and self-reliance of that era. A series of ‘Do […]

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Africa

Doris Lessing: another world of words

Doris Lessing (22 October 1919 – 17 November 2013) was an astonishing wordsmith, as any reader of her many novels, stories, plays, and poems would attest – and the genesis of this talent can be seen in her upbringing and surroundings. Childhood memories She was five years old when her family emigrated in 1925 to […]

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A pangram is a A pangram is a sentence containing all 26 letters of the alphabet at least once.

How many pangrams are there in the OED?

A pangram is a sentence containing all 26 letters of the alphabet at least once. The canonical example in English is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, which is clearly contrived to be pangrammatic. But pangrams can also occur accidentally. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) contains 66 pangrammatic quotations. Two […]

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