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

book quiz

Book quiz: can you identify these classic novels by their working titles?

If someone were to ask you whether or not you’d read Trimalchio in West Egg, your first instinct might be to say ‘no’, and your second might be to marvel at the curious range of titles given to cookery books nowadays. Sorry to say, you’re possibly wrong on both counts – you might well have […]

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Borrowed words in English: tracing the changing patterns

In Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English I examine how words borrowed from different languages have influenced English throughout its history. The above feature summarizes some of the main data from the book, focussing on the fourteen sources that have given the most words to English, as reflected by the new and revised […]

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OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?

Do you know which words entered the English language around the same time you entered the world? Use our OED birthday word generator to find out! We’ve scoured the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to find words with a first known usage for each year from 1900 to 2004. Simply select the relevant decade and click […]

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Quiz: Bob Dylan or Dylan Thomas?

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Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan: what else do the Welsh poet and American singer-songwriter have in common besides their names? A lot more than you’d think. A tale of two Dylans It is often remarked that Bob Dylan credits Dylan Thomas as an influence. As we’ve noted in a previous post, they share thematic interests—both […]

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Book quiz: can you recognize these classic last lines?

Our previous book quiz, which tested your knowledge of first lines in novels, yielded some very high scores. But how well do you know last lines? Though a book’s opening lines may determine whether or not you take the book home at all, it’s as likely to be the last lines that stick in your […]

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Interactive map: places that shaped the English language

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‘If you love history, on your holidays you can visit museums and castles. If you love plants, you can visit botanical gardens. But if you love language, what do you visit?’ In the summer of 2012, supreme language-lovers David and Hilary Crystal set off on a tour round Britain, visiting 57 sites associated with key […]

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From ‘amigo’ to ‘ven’: a mapping of ‘friend’ around the world

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If you’ve ever travelled to a country in which you don’t speak the language, you’re probably aware that there are always a few key vocabulary words and phrases travel guides recommend you stock up on. I don’t speak [insert language]… Where is the restroom?… Help… Thank you. We would offer an additional word to learn—one […]

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What kind of writer are you?

What kind of writer are you?

Writing styles are as distinct as personality traits—and debates about which way of writing is “best” can often be just as volatile. Where one writer might luxuriate in the complexities and varieties of the lexicon, another might prefer to tell it like it is in the most familiar way possible. Such was the case, in […]

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