Oyez, oyez, oyez! Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage

Oyez, oyez, oyez!

Legal English is not just for the legally-minded. It can be arcane, yes, but it’s certainly not irrelevant – whether we’re agreeing a mortgage, reading about changes to the law, or (tut, tut) standing as a defendant in a trial, legal language is not something we can easily ignore. But it is still arcane – […]

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prepositions

Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?

Stranded prepositions are nothing to fret about There are numerous myths relating to grammatical dos and don’ts, many of which were drummed into us at school. The one that stubbornly refuses to budge from my mind is the diktat ‘never begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and or but’. And why not, pray?* […]

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Lost in translation. . . so I was

Lost in translation… so I was

We were lost – having turned off a brand new and completely empty motorway that cut across the lush green hills of the West coast of Ireland in a quest to visit my Irish mother’s third cousins twice removed. So we finally pulled up next to an old road sign, which confusingly said: ← Knockroe           Knockroe […]

The Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower

Having undertaken . . . a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends […]

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011: ‘squeezed middle’

Squeezed middle

You’d think that choosing the standout word of the year would be a contentious affair. So many possibilities, you’d guess, and so many linguistic loves, hates, and indifferences to deal with amongst those who debate it. The truth is that, normally, choosing the word of the year is a slam dunk. Take ‘bling’, the obvious […]

Squeezed middle, hacktivism, Occupy, or facepalm: what makes a Word of the Year?

What makes a Word of the Year?

Every year, the dictionaries teams at Oxford University Press in the UK and the US put their heads together and come up with a Word (or Phrase) of the Year. And this year has been no different, although for the first time ever, the UK and US dictionaries teams have agreed on a global Word […]

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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 […]

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