A Trojan Horse in the Tardis: it’s all an allusion…

Tardis

At the beginning of October the Guardian newspaper published a survey of the best independent bookshops in the UK. Two were described in strikingly similar terms: ‘A Tardis among bookshops, [it] appears narrow at first glance, but packs a lot inside’ in one case, and ‘The Tardis-like bookshop is beautiful, with a stained-glass window depicting […]

Is it true that the word ‘tragedy’ originally meant ‘goat-song’?

Grinning goat

It is absolutely true. Many theories have been offered to explain it. One is that Greek tragedies were known as goat-songs because the prize in Athenian play competitions was a live goat. The contests were part of worship to Dionysus, involving chants and dances in his honour. The Romans knew Dionysus later as Bacchus, god […]

Swaggering bullies, strutting models, and parading bands

Swaggering bullies, strutting models, and parading bands

He marched forward on to the lectern with the possessive insouciance of a hoodie swaggering on to his sink estate. [Guardian 5 October 2011] This evocative description of British PM David Cameron as he stepped up to address the recent Conservative Party Conference prompted me to think about the verb ‘swagger’ and how it’s often […]

Wednesday’s child is full of woe, and Thursday’s child is … who knows?

Pile of words

Corpora studies – what they can and cannot tell us Corpora studies (examining large bodies of text for evidence on how language is used) are a relatively recent thing, born in the 19th century. Small corpora were used early in the century, but one of the first to use a significant number of words was […]

‘The Real Thing’? The language of advertising slogans

The language of advertising slogans

‘The Antidote to Civilization’ – so stated the famous Club Med advertising slogan. The highly educated always claim to be immune to the blandishments of advertising slogans. At best they are clever word and image manipulations for the masses; at worst, they are a torture rack for grammar and language. Great literature they are not. […]

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imply_infer wordle4

Imply or infer?

What’s the difference in meaning between imply and infer? If you’re scratching your head, it’s not surprising:  many people get these two verbs confused. Here are two sentences in which the wrong one has been chosen: X  He seems to be inferring, only days after the appointment, that Michael is the wrong man for the […]

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Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball: America’s national language?

Baseball is one the oldest professional sports played in North America today. The first recorded baseball game took place in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1845; the first televised game between professional teams pitted the Cincinnati Reds against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939; and this year marks the 107th Major League Baseball (MLB) Championship, more commonly […]

The rise of the app

The rise of the app

With Apple’s latest iPhone released today, and its Google rival reportedly soon to follow, there will soon be more ‘apps’ in use than ever before. For the increasing number of us who own a smartphone or tablet, apps have become a part of 21st century life. And they’re big business: the market in apps is […]

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