In an English country garden

What could be nicer on a sunny Sunday afternoon in spring, than a spot of gardening? Though the language of horticulture proper can seem somewhat bewildering and full of complicated Latin names, growing plants is an activity that people have undertaken for thousands of years– whether for pleasure, or simply for food – and so it […]

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Loving Latin

Have you ever wondered just how far your language GCSE will get you in the wild? I set out to road-test my dusty Spanish qualification last year by travelling through Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, sometimes alone and sometimes with fellow English speakers, with a short stop-off as a classroom assistant in darkest Peru. My (lack […]

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Oxford Dictionaries update May 2014

The latest quarterly update to Oxford Dictionaries sees a wide range of words, definitions, and senses added to the dictionary. The words originate in spheres as different as cycling (bikeable) and finance (cryptocurrency), from food (white pizza) to online slang (a very new type of ship). Here is a selection of some of the new […]

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real tennis

The language of real tennis

This month, in Melbourne, Australia, saw 46-year-old Rob Fahey successfully defend his Real Tennis World Championship title, which he has held since 1994. Real Tennis is the king of racket sports and a game of kings – its best-known royal exponent was undoubtedly Henry VIII, whose passion for the game led to the construction of […]

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Alles Wurst? German ‘sausage’ idioms

Bierwurst, Blutwurst, Bockwurst, Bratwurst, Currywurst, Feuerwurst, Fleischwurst, Knackwurst, Leberwurst, Mettwurst, Paprikawurst, Rindswurst, Rostbratwurst, Schinkenwurst, Weißwurst, Wienerwurst … Germans are all about diversity when it comes to their beloved ‘Wurst’. Sounds amusing, but it really is a rather serious topic. First, let me tell you a thing or two about the Germans’ famous national treasure. The […]

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Enter our limerick competition and win an iPad!

To celebrate Limerick Day on 12 May, we’ve decided to hold another limerick competition. We really enjoyed reading all your submissions to last year’s competition (which had a theme of Mother’s Day, as the two dates coincided), and you can read the winning limerick for inspiration. This year you can win an iPad (4G, 16GB, […]

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Peter Pan collars and other literary eponyms

Any avid reader has their favourite characters, whether they be from classic fiction, much-loved children’s literature, or contemporary novels. Quite a few characters have given their names to words relating to their traits or appearance – Eeyoreish, for instance, appears in our dictionaries as an adjective meaning pessimistic or gloomy, based on Eeyore from A.A. […]

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Kotodama: the multi-faced Japanese myth of the spirit of language

In Japan, there is a common myth of the spirit of language called kotodama (言霊, ことだま); a belief that some divine power resides in the Japanese language. This belief originates in ancient times as part of Shintoist ritual but the idea has survived through Japanese history and the term kotodama is still frequently mentioned in […]

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