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

Tag: English in use

Bigger and stronger hearts: poetry and memory

Bigger and stronger hearts: poetry and memory

Oxford University Press is partnered with The Poetry Archive to support Poetry by Heart, a new national poetry competition in England which will see thousands of students aged 14 to 18 competing to become national champion for their skill in memorising and reciting poems by heart. OUP will provide free content from OED Online, the […]

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Rigger-jiggers, feathers, and crabs: the language of rowing

Rigger-jiggers, feathers, and crabs: the language of rowing

Every November Oxford’s Isis river is overrun with novice crews and coxes trying to win their first race, the Christ Church Regatta. Rowing is a huge part of student life here, underlined rather explicitly in this apt quotation which features in the entry for rowing in the Oxford English Dictionary: “Rowing was more than a […]

A heap of broken images: the varied voices of T. S. Eliot

A heap of broken images: the varied voices of T.S. Eliot

Today, September 26th, is the 124th anniversary of the birth of the poet, playwright, and critic T. S. Eliot. Apart from being one of the twentieth century’s most important writers, Eliot is, more importantly, one of my top-five favourite poets of all time. He is a poet of language, a poet of many voices, and today […]

Feelin’ “aight”?

Feelin' "aight"?

In the early 90s hip-hop artist Doug E. Fresh released a single called “I-Ight (Alright)”. The song wasn’t what you’d call a smash hit, but I mention it today because the editors of the OED have just put its namesake aight into the dictionary. Looking at the entry, it seems that Mr. Fresh was a bit of a lexical trail-blazer in […]

chocolate

Ten facts about the word ‘chocolate’

On 13 September we celebrate the birthday of arguably one of the most famous producers of chocolate in history. Milton Hershey, who was born 155 years ago today, opened the doors of his US chocolate factory in 1900, and his chocolate bars and kisses came onto the market shortly thereafter. But where did chocolate, as […]

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May the odds be ever in your favour: the language of The Hunger Games

The language of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a trilogy of books set in a post-apocalyptic country in which the Capitol holds hegemony over the rest of the nation. Within that world, the Hunger Games are an annually-televised bloodbath in which 24 children from outside the Capitol fight to the death in penance for the rebellion […]

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Why is something that is the very best known as ‘the bee’s knees’?

The bee's knees

This curious expression is one of many similar sayings for something that is the acme of excellence. We are all familiar with the cat’s whiskers (or the cat’s pyjamas, the cat’s meow, and the cat’s nuts), which originated in the roaring 1920s and which might well have been the first of its kind—it is said […]

The language of cooking: from ‘Forme of Cury’ to ‘Pukka Tucker’

The language of cooking: from 'Forme of Cury' to 'Pukka Tukka'

The earliest surviving English-language recipes came from the kitchens of kings and their great nobles. Richard II’s Master Cooks boasted that their Forme of Cury contained only the ‘best and royallest viand of all Christian Kings’, and, what’s more, had been approved by the king’s physicians and philosophers. Healthy eating issues and celebrity endorsements are […]

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