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

Which word is older?

Which word is older?

  As part of our occasional series, have a look at these five pairs of related words and see if you can guess which entered the language first. 1)      Telephone and annoyance 2)      Bodacious and badass 3)      Patriot and traitor 4)      Chauvinism and sexism 5)      Sexy and anaphrodisiac   Answers 1) It will perhaps come as […]

Five events that shaped the history of English: part two

History of English: part two

1066 and after The centuries after the Norman Conquest witnessed enormous changes in the English language. In the course of what is called the Middle English period, the fairly rich inflectional system of Old English broke down. It was replaced by what is broadly speaking, the same system English has today, which unlike Old English […]

Punctuational perplexities

Punctuation

Are you punctilious about punctuation, or do you regard it as a hassle or a minefield? Many people, including no doubt the person who posted the example below on a social networking site, seem to share the latter view. It often appears that, rather than get it wrong, there are those who prefer to omit […]

We plough the fields and scatter…

We plough the fields and scatter…

To drive away from our base here in Oxford and out into the surrounding countryside at this time of year is to witness a scene of intense activity. It’s harvest time, and since the British climate can be unpredictable the farmers are moving as quickly as they can to bring in their crops before the […]

Five events that shaped the history of English: part one

Anglo-Saxon alphabet

The Anglo-Saxon settlement It’s never easy to pinpoint exactly when a specific language began, but in the case of English we can at least say that there is little sense in speaking of the English language as a separate entity before the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain. Little is known of this period with any certainty, […]

The swishwifflingly scrumdiddlyumptious language of Roald Dahl

The swishwifflingly scrumdiddlyumptious language of Roald Dahl

A teacher friend of mine claims that she can spot them by the way they hang around her desk before assembly waiting to be asked something. She’s a kind soul, far more Miss Honey than Miss Trunchbull [...]

A journey through spin

A journey through spin

Spin is one of those words which could perhaps now do with a bit of ‘spin’ in its own right. From its beginnings in the idea of honest labour and toil (in terms of etymology, spin descends from the spinning of fabric or thread), it has come to suggest the twisting of words rather than […]

I could’ve danced all night (if only I knew how)

I could've danced all night

As the names of the participants in both Dancing With the Stars and Strictly Come Dancing have been announced, it seems natural that our thoughts should turn to the dance floor and all of the associated terminology. The difference between an Olympic sprinter and a performer on DWTS, or Strictly, or any of their thirty-two […]

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