Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

More than just moccasins: American Indian words in English

More than just moccasins

A menagerie of words Most English speakers could easily identify words like tomahawk, moccasin, or tepee as having Amerindian origins (from Virginia Algonquian, Powhatan, and Sioux, respectively), but indigenous American languages have given English many other words which have now become so fully naturalized that their roots often go unrecognized. In fact, fully half of […]

The future of language: South African English in Zoo City

South African English in Zoo City

Earlier this year South African author Lauren Beukes won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction for her second novel Zoo City. It was a big moment for the author as it puts her in the company of illustrious recent winners such as, among others, China Miéville (who has won it three times […]

The language of fandom: from Twihards to Tolkienites

The language of fandom

As Breaking Dawn, the film adaptation of the fourth and final Twilight novel is released, we take a look at the language of fandom. Fandom and cultural discourse What is it about fan culture? Why does it seem like ‘Team Edward’ vs ‘Team Jacob’ has become the biggest cultural divider since Coke vs Pepsi? How […]

Invented languages: from Na’vi and Elvish to Standard English?

From Elvish to Klingon

When you hear the term ‘invented language’, you probably think first of the famous imaginary languages of fiction, for instance, the mind-numbing Newspeak of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or the Russian-based criminal argot Nadsat in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, or Elvish and other languages in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. […]

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Performance-wise, adverbs are alive and kicking!

Adverbs

Thankfully, most of us negotiate post-educational life very well without having to do much (or any) conscious grammatical analysis. My hunch is that if you put twenty people into a room and asked them to say what an adverb is, they might look rather uncomfortable or even try to flee. If you applied some metaphorical […]

Our words remember them – language of the First World War

Poppies

In July 1917, after three years of bloody war, anti-German feeling in Britain was reaching a feverish peak. Xenophobic mutterings about the suitability of having a German on the throne had been heard since 1914. The fact that the Royal family shared part of its name, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, with the Gotha bombers responsible for the devastating […]

Reports of the death of the cassette tape are greatly exaggerated

Cassette tapes

A few months back Oxford University Press received a good deal of attention in response to an announcement about new words that would be added to the 12th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (among them mankini, cyberbullying, and retweet). While the responses were largely positive, there was a certain amount of disquiet, which is […]

Hungerful and dee-do – the invention of language

The invention of language

As a publicist, I spend a lot of time writing: pitch letters, press releases, emails, they take up the large part of my day. Then on rare occasions, when I unchain myself from my desk and get out into the world to have live conversations with people, it can feel like all sense of spoken […]

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