Happy faces

9 different ways to say ‘smile’

You may be familiar with that old joke: what is the longest word in the English language? Smiles – there is a mile between s and s! Well, those of us in the know would cite the supposed lung disease pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis as the longest word in English, and that certainly isn’t something to smile about. […]

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alley

Alleyways of language: regional words for ‘alleyway’

In these times of mass media and global communications, it is comforting to think that regional lexical variation in British English is alive and well—in fact it seems to be right up many people’s alley. When linguists set out to collect distinctive local vocabulary, one of the classic questions informants are asked is “What do […]

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How good is your British English?

How good is your British English?

If you’re an English speaker and have spent any time in an English-speaking country not your own, you know how different the language can be. Sometimes the differences are slight – for example, the stress on different syllables of weekend between British and American English (wiːkˈɛnd vs. ‘wēkˌend, respectively) – but sometimes the differences are […]

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Orwell's Newspeak is a fascinating example of language manipulation.

A look at Orwell’s Newspeak

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four astounded the literary world when it first was published in 1949, and its significance and cultural impact have only grown stronger in the years since. Orwell’s warnings against totalitarian authority and omnipresent surveillance are as relevant as ever. Beyond the familiar message that “Big Brother is always watching you,” what many […]

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Check out our list of coffee words

A list of coffee words

Let’s set aside our mugs and cups to take a look a list of coffee words that any self-respecting java lover should know. Always confused by what all those names on the chalkboard behind the counter mean? Then look no further! Coffee words will be a mystery no more: Americano or café Americano: a drink of […]

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feminism

Feminist language: 5 terms you need to know

The film star Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations this September to launch “He For She” — a campaign asking men to get involved in the fight for gender equality. The speech drew approbation and ire in equal measure. Vanity Fair called it a “game changer” but fourth wave feminists were less […]

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dinner

Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U

The release of The Riot Club, a fictionalized version of the Oxford University Bullingdon Club, based on Laura Wade’s 2010 play Posh, seems a fitting moment to consider how to talk posh. In 1954 the linguist Alan C. Ross published a study of ‘Linguistic Class-Indicators in Present-day English’, which first introduced the concept of ‘U’ […]

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terms of endearment

Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things

In Words in Time and Place, David Crystal explores fifteen fascinating sets of synonyms, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve turned selections from six sections of Words in Time and Place into word clouds, arranged in a shape related to the topic in question. Take a look at the images below to see […]

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