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

Confessions of a pedant

Pedantry

We all know what a taxi is There are two big problems about working for a dictionary. The first is that everyone assumes you know the meaning of every word, which is setting the bar rather high. There are about 600,000 words and senses in the OED. Any one of them could crop up at […]

Flaunting the rules or flouting your bewilderment?

flauntflout

Have you ever had a moment’s pause about whether to use flaunt or flout… and then plumped for the wrong one? You may be confused, but you’re not alone! The erroneous heading above illustrates the misunderstanding that many people experience over the correct meanings of these words. However, while flaunt and flout sound fairly similar […]

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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Invented languages: from Na’vi and Elvish to Standard English?

From Elvish to Klingon

When you hear the term ‘invented language’, you probably think first of the famous imaginary languages of fiction, for instance, the mind-numbing Newspeak of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or the Russian-based criminal argot Nadsat in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, or Elvish and other languages in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. […]

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Performance-wise, adverbs are alive and kicking!

Adverbs

Thankfully, most of us negotiate post-educational life very well without having to do much (or any) conscious grammatical analysis. My hunch is that if you put twenty people into a room and asked them to say what an adverb is, they might look rather uncomfortable or even try to flee. If you applied some metaphorical […]

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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Hyphens in the headlines

Man eating chicken

Who’d have thunk it? The humble hyphen, the shorter sibling of the dash, is in the media spotlight, and for once it has nothing to do with dictionaries, either. The celebrity gossip websites have been buzzing with news of Lauren Pierce Bush, niece of former US President George W. Bush. Lauren’s marriage to David Lauren […]

Truly. Madly. Deep.

Truly. Madly. Deep.

A few years ago, I became unusually vocal over a particular bit of linguistic abuse. Unusually, because the lexicographical instinct is to be descriptive of language change at all times, and sanguine about those bugbears that others decry. But this particular trend had me sufficiently riled that I wrote an article entitled ‘The Adverb is […]

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