Tag: language

paper cut figures

Clarity about ‘the gay thing’

Sometimes, we say what we don’t really mean. ‘You look really tired’, for example, when we mean to be caring rather than disparaging of appearance. ‘I thought you were older than that!’ when we mean to applaud maturity rather than further disparage appearance. And so it is with the gay thing. The accidental difference between […]

Read more »

foreign life

Read more »
man shape_large

Do gay people speak their own language? A linguistic look at Polari

Nellyarda, zhoosh the riah, titivate, schlumph your Vera down, and palare that omee for the bevvies because I’ve nanti dinarli. (Translation: Listen, style your hair, make yourself look pretty, drink up your gin, and talk to that man to get a drink because I’m skint). The words you’ve just read are Polari words. Polari encompasses […]

Read more »
Language quiz: does the world look the same in any language?

Language quiz: does the world look the same in any language?

The Japanese language has a single word that encompasses both green and blue colors, whilst the Russian language has separate terms for different shades of blue. So does this mean that people who speak Russian and Japanese perceive these colors differently from English speakers? And even more questionably: are we only able to form concepts […]

Read more »
Map

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 […]

Read more »
roses

How well do you know the language of love?

Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can sign and seal a foil-embossed card and attach it to a heart-shaped box of chocolate, all addressed to a loved one for Valentine’s Day. But it takes someone truly versed in romantic delights to know the difference between an allumeuse and an amourette, a chocolatier and a ballotin, an […]

Read more »

Word of the Year 2013: blips on our radar

Detail of selected items from the previous graph

As OUP’s lexicographers go about our quiet work, occasionally a novel word, spied in a newspaper, a post, or a tweet, catches our fancy. “Possible WOTY?!!!” we might email to a colleague, anticipating the year’s end. When we go back through those old emails months later, it is sometimes difficult to remember what inspired such […]

Read more »

Extra sausages, tap-dancing bears, and idiomatic tomatoes

dog in pan

What makes idioms so wonderful is that they make communication easier and, in my opinion, add an element of fun to language. By definition, an idiom is a figure of speech where the ‘meaning [is] not deducible from those of the individual words’. Thus, if you’re not a member of a certain ‘language club’, the […]

Tweets