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

tea

All the tea in China: English words of Chinese origin

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins Chinese civilization stretches back at least to the 3rd millennium BC. It is the source of many of the world’s great inventions, including paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing, not to mention china (porcelain) itself. But maybe the greatest contribution that the country and its language have […]

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Dim sum small

Having a yen for dim sum this Chinese New Year: English words of Chinese origin

Chinese New Year traditionally means a time for families to gather together, usually over some delicious foods. There are certain foods that are associated with Chinese New Year, such as Buddha’s Delight, a dish made with many different vegetables, fish, dumplings, and mandarin oranges. These particular foods are chosen because the words used to describe […]

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Some Chinese wisdom for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

10 February is an important date this year because it is the first day of the new lunar year, marking the first day in the Chinese New Year. The Chinese calendar names each of the years (in a twelve year cycle) after an animal, and 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year, also […]

Leap years around the world: from freak weather patterns to good fortune and baby whales

Leap of faith

What have Italian composer Rossini and American rapper Ja Rule got in common? A number of possible answers may leap to mind here, but the one I’m looking for is that the two musicians were both born on a date that is mysteriously elusive: 29 February. Except that 2012 is a leap year, and so […]

Chinese lanterns

How difficult is it to learn Chinese?

When other English speakers find out that I’m learning Chinese, they often admit that they are too daunted to even try. But just how difficult is it for the average English speaker to learn Chinese? The answer is, surprisingly, that it’s not that difficult if you’re willing to commit to learning a new language. As […]

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Let’s just “call a cat a cat”

Cat

Just a few weeks ago Christine Lindberg explored phrases and idioms that revealed the somewhat surprising way in which the English language describes man’s best friend. But what about that equally popular household pet – the beloved, fluffy, crazy cat? (Those three adjectives are among some of the most popular in the English language to […]

The Oxford Chinese Dictionary is online!

Chinese characters

Chinese characters not displaying properly? Oxford University Press is excited to announce the online launch of the Oxford Chinese Dictionary, a landmark publication that has already established itself as the must-have printed companion of students and teachers of Chinese around the world, since it was published in 2010. But how is a Chinese dictionary made? […]

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Are Chinese characters pictures?

Have you ever wondered if Chinese characters began life as ‘pictures’ of physical objects? If not, what is the meaning of the symbols and do they hold any significance? As a non-native speaker of Chinese, I’m often asked about this. The subject is of interest to many, not just those who study Sinology. While some […]

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