The rise of the portmanbro

How an abbreviation of brother became a word-forming dynamo For most of its existence in English, the word bro led a quiet and unassuming life. For centuries, it was merely a graphic abbreviation of brother (properly bro.), occasionally put to colloquial use, like sis, to refer to a person’s male sibling. It wasn’t until the […]

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Beltway buzzwords – inside the jargon on Capitol Hill… and beyond (part 2)

Washington DC map

Following on from yesterday’s blog post looking at the language used to describe the people of Washington D.C, from staffers to POTUS, Lorna Shaddick continues to explore the jargon of the Hill with lame ducks, slug lines, and Beltway Bandits. Filibuster: from pirates to politics With so many people on the Hill involved in the […]

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Beltway buzzwords – inside the jargon on Capitol Hill… and beyond (part 1)

Capitol building

A move to Washington D.C as a journalist requires several things. Alongside your plane ticket, map of the city, and Congressional press pass, you’ll also need a knowledge of the myriad terms used on ‘The Hill’ (as all locals call the Capitol), where staffers and wonks mingle with lobbyists and of course the lawmakers themselves… […]

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Words for wafflers

20 wonderful words for wafflers

Rather aptly, there are many wonderful words to describe someone who tends to think that silence is anything but golden. If you know a talkative soul, but tire of using the same old adjectives to describe them, then today is your lucky day. We’ve delved into the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary to […]

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America’s pastime: sabermetrics and rotisserie leagues


Baseball fans, whether casual or diehard (such as sabermetricians), know that October means one thing: the World Series. First played in 1903, this “Fall Classic” series of games (which, this year, begins on 23 October) determines the World Champion of the professional sport. While its name implies an international contest, the competition actually only includes […]

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Going Dutch: English words of Dutch origin

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins Is your boss a bit gruff? Maybe he is given to snooping–you probably wish he would go for a cruise on his yacht, maybe to the Netherlands, where all of these words come from. The English and Dutch languages are closely related, and despite three 17th-century […]

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Jimmies, spendy, and shave ice: American regionalisms

It goes without saying: the United States is a huge country. And while this certainly has some drawbacks (the formidable amount of time it takes to get from one coast to the other, for instance), the United States’ significant landmass also yields significant diversity—particularly when it comes to language. I’m not only talking about the […]

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Puppets, peaches, and other womanly words

Last month, we took a tour around the world of the macho man, taking in some words in the grand tradition of beefcake on the way. We also discovered that the term beefcake, referring to muscular male physique, was formed on the model of cheesecake, a sexually alluring image of a woman. Sugar and spice […]

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