From ‘amigo’ to ‘ven’: a mapping of ‘friend’ around the world

friend map_small

If you’ve ever travelled to a country in which you don’t speak the language, you’re probably aware that there are always a few key vocabulary words and phrases travel guides recommend you stock up on. I don’t speak [insert language]… Where is the restroom?… Help… Thank you. We would offer an additional word to learn—one […]

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Mae West’s linguistic legacy

MaeWest

Maritime safety and early-Hollywood sex symbols may not seem to have much in common, but the etymology of the Mae West life jacket manages to connect these two very different worlds. 17 August is the birthday of Mae West, the American actress whose controversy and fame help to explain the many ways in which she […]

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We need to talk about literally

Literally

Hold the front pages, literally. Or not. There has been much excitement this week over the discovery that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has recorded a sense of the word literally that seems to cause particular irritation. I am speaking of its use in a sentence like “I literally died laughing and had to run […]

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Poll results: fount or font of knowledge?

fount of knowledge

There are few things more likely to cause fierce argument between language-lovers than variant spellings of everyday expressions, especially if one is celebrated by language traditionalists and the other by the linguistic vanguard. You may remember the heated arguments that arose over the topic of pronouncing scone (some friendships have never truly recovered) – well, […]

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Dreadtalk: the language of Rastafari

VSI Rastafari

An extract from Rastafari: A Very Short Introduction In rejecting Babylon’s aesthetic of grooming and Babylon’s language conventions, Rastas have developed the iconic dreadlocks hairstyle and their own argot, commonly referred to as ‘dreadtalk’ or ‘Rasta talk’ and as ‘Iyaric’ by others. Dreadtalk, as an in-group language that surfaced among Rastas in the 1940s, was […]

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Love triangles and cliffhangers: soap operatic language

soap

As my family have long since learnt, it’s never worth trying to call me between the hours of 5.30-6pm or 7-7.30pm. That is when the rest of the world is as nothing to me, earthquakes and hurricanes would not disrupt me, for I am watching my soaps. (Neighbours and Emmerdale, since you ask.) Since soap […]

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Should ‘tweeps’ be in the dictionary?

twitter birds

“NO” and even, “NOOOOOO!” were some of the more emphatic reactions of many of Library Journal’s and Oxford University Press’s (OUP) Twitter followers who were recently posed with the question, “Should ‘tweeps’ be in the dictionary?” OUP asked the question ahead of the publisher’s June 18 webcast, hosted by Library Journal, which explored how social […]

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pseudonyms

Call Me Maybe – a quiz of literary pseudonyms

As mentioned in our blog post about noms de plume, it was recently discovered that J. K. Rowling had written a crime novel under the pen name “Robert Galbraith”. Regretting the exposure of her alter-ego, Rowling said that she longed to relive the experience of beginning a writing career, without the media hype or expectations […]

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