What makes Christmas merry? A brief history of yuletide adjectives

What makes Christmas merry?

From Happy Easter to Happy Halloween to countless Happy Birthdays, our felicitations hardly vary from one celebration to the next. Christmas is the notable exception, with the dominant descriptor being Merry. We wish our friends a Merry Christmas but a Happy New Year. Is there any difference? Not everyone’s Christmas is merry. Happy Christmas has […]

Sing a song of Christmas

Sing a song of Christmas

A change is not as good as a rest Christmas brings out the conservative in us all, especially in children. This summer we dismantled a ridiculously large stone clad shelf that was built in the sixties to support a weighty cathode ray tube. Now there’s a space beside the fire which would be, I suggested, […]

Cheers, slainte, bottoms up… the language of beer

The language of beer

I have a school friend who follows Arsenal F.C. wherever they go. His devotion to the team takes him on a yearly tour of the English Premier League, but has also sent him to football-crazy cities all over the world. He has a simple philosophy with respect to learning foreign languages that would probably shock […]

The lexicon of consumerism and America’s Christmas season

Christmas shopping

For those of us immersed in preparations for Christmas, the time remaining feels insufficiently brief, and the few weeks since Thanksgiving seem more like a few days. As fleeting as time is between Turkey Day and December 25, we in the US possess a peculiarly American interpretation of when the Christmas season “begins.” My British […]

A Word a Day keeps the cobwebs away

global_languages

Did you know that the Oxford Language Dictionaries Online Words of the Day are handpicked by teams of editors who scour the dictionaries looking for a little quirkiness to brighten up your day? Or that you can easily sign up to receive these Words of the Day by email in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, […]

Ka-ching – all you need is money

Ka-ching – all you need is money

David Mamet once wrote “Everyone needs money – that’s why they call it money”, although he wrote this in a screenplay, and so the words were uttered by a fictional character. Even though this quote of Mamet’s is not overburdened with clarity, it is amusing, and serves as a useful reminder to look at some […]

Verily, this tomfoolery must be quashed!

Verily, this tomfoolery must be quashed!

‘Cripes! What bally tomfoolery are those diabolical cads in the media coming up with now?’ I asked my betrothed, when confronted with a spate of recent news reports. ‘Verily, I must quash this balderdash forthwith.’ Had I perhaps been hit on the head with the King James Bible or been immersed for a year in […]

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thunder

Why do we talk about stealing someone’s thunder?

This idiom, defined as using the ideas devised by another person for your own advantage, has a gratifyingly literal story behind it. It is quite rare for etymologists to pinpoint the very first use of a word or phrase. In this case, however, the eighteenth-century actor and playwright Colley Cibber, in his Lives of the […]

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