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

stack of books

Deadly games, a blaze, and a song: book titles in translation

Speaking from experience, it is often incredibly difficult to come up with a good title for a book. A buzzword we often use is ‘catchy’. But what makes for a catchy title? And what are the implications for other markets? Once you’ve decided on what you proudly think is the best book title anyone has […]

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Writing doggedly: dog idioms from around Europe

Writing doggedly: dog idioms from around Europe

In film and literature dogs are often shown as the protagonist’s companion through thick and thin. Dog owners will tell you that their pets are loyal and loving – yet the portrayal of dogs in many languages shows that man’s best friend is often regarded as lowly in status. You can read this earlier post about […]

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Why learn Italian?

Florence

“Marjorie!” Sighing with relief, I looked around the rows of old-fashioned single desks, wondering who the unfortunate Marjorie was. Our fierce and flame-haired Italian professoressa was picking on lone students to perform grammatical acrobatics. It was eight o’clock on a dark December morning and my Introduzione all’italiano module was not going well. “Marjorie!” – poor […]

Obrigado! Takk! Di ou mèsi! Celebrating World Gratitude Day across time and language

gratitude map

How many ways can we say ‘thank you’? In English alone, there are plenty. The Oxford English Dictionary first cites the simplest, thanks, in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1598. The OED also treats us to some oldies (gramercy [c. 1330], thank thee [1631], thankee [1824]) and contextualizes some goodies (British colloquialism cheers stumbled out […]

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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 […]

Did you say macaroni? Why everyone can enjoy Italian opera

Did you say macaroni? Why everyone can enjoy Italian opera

On the third of August, 1778, one of the world’s most famous opera houses La Scala staged its inaugural performance. Sadly, opera isn’t as popular as it might be. It seems there are still negative preconceptions associated with it that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Unlike the theatre, opera can’t seem to shake off […]

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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 […]

A Word a Day keeps the cobwebs away

global_languages

Did you know that the Oxford Language Dictionaries Online Words of the Day are handpicked by teams of editors who scour the dictionaries looking for a little quirkiness to brighten up your day? Or that you can easily sign up to receive these Words of the Day by email in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, […]

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