Tag: Greek

golden compass

The language of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Northern Lights (published in the US as The Golden Compass), the first novel in Philip Pullman’s hugely successful His Dark Materials trilogy. In the preface, the author tells us that the story is set in a universe ‘like ours, but different in many ways’. One […]

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Ancient Greece

Why it’s all Greek to you and that shouldn’t be a problem

“Give me a word, any word and I’ll show you how the root of that word is Greek. Ok? How about arachnophobia? Αράχνη, that comes from the Greek word for spider, and φοβία is a phobia, it means fear. So fear of spiders. There you go!” “OK Mr Portokalos. How about the word kimono?” “Hmm, […]

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squirrel_large

9 interesting word facts you didn’t know

The English language has a varied and ever changing vocabulary, which makes it an ideal candidate for etymological studies. In this list below, we take a look at the interesting histories of some common English words. For more interesting word facts and origins, browse the ‘Explore’ section on OxfordDictionaries.com, or follow @OxfordWords and @OED on […]

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sax

How the saxophone got its name: an A-Z of instruments

6 November is World Saxophone Day, apparently. It’s the anniversary of the day the inventor was born – we’ll share his name a little later. We thought it was a good opportunity to produce an alphabet of interesting instrument names, from accordion to zither. As far as possible, we’ve tried to stick to common instruments […]

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tightrope

Tightrope walking and ambulances: what do they share in common?

In the early hours of 7 August 1974, after six years of planning and months of subterfuge, Philippe Petit stepped out onto a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. A crowd of thousands gathered to watch the breathtaking 45 minute display, as Petit walked, danced, and even […]

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10 tricky pronunciations

10 tricky pronunciations

Recently we learned – if we were in any doubt – that Nike want their name pronounced Nikey (or, to put it in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), ˈnʌɪki). Those of us familiar with our Greek deities already knew that the company’s namesake and goddess of victory pronounced her name that way, but opinion differed […]

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10 medical words you thought you knew

medicine

For many, thoughts of October immediately wend to visions of changing leaves, warm sweet beverages, and costumed children plying neighbors for candy. But October can make a further claim on our interest: it’s also known as Health Literacy Month. As anyone who has taken an anatomy class or tried to read a prescription may attest, […]

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German loanwords in the English language

German loanwords in the English language

Cockroach, lantern, algebra, sabbath – these are only a few of the loanwords that we use in the English language without them striking us as being particularly unusual. Appropriately, ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation (a so-called calque) of the German Lehnwort (Lehn from leihen = ‘lend’ + Wort = ‘word’). Throughout history, English has […]

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