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

Poetry quiz

Poetry quiz: can you match these first lines to their poem titles?

Many of us have memorized a poem in our day—and may even be able to call it quickly to mind right now. However, even if it’s difficult to recall at will the verses you had recited carefully in school, often all it takes is the first line or two for the entire poem to come […]

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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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A Durrellian Dictionary

By Yani papadimos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

7 November marks the anniversary of Lawrence Durrell’s death. He was an author for readers of dictionaries par excellence. And while that may seem peculiar praise, it also shapes one way of reading the man. Dictionaries have an indexical nature, and the most labour intensive word for a reader is “See…” Durrell tells us he […]

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Pseudonym

Call Me Maybe – a quiz of literary pseudonyms

As mentioned in our blog post about noms de plume, it was recently discovered that J. K. Rowling had written a crime novel under the pen name “Robert Galbraith”. Regretting the exposure of her alter-ego, Rowling said that she longed to relive the experience of beginning a writing career, without the media hype or expectations […]

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Language play in noms de plume and stage names, from Bono to the Brontës

noms de plume

With the discovery that mystery writer Robert Galbraith and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling are one and the same, the massively successful novelist has become one of many known popular fiction writers—including Stephen King and Anne Rice—to employ a nom de plume, or pen name, masking the true identity behind their work. There are several […]

Jane-Austen-homepage

Which Jane Austen character are you?

It’s been nearly 200 years since Jane Austen died, leaving behind only six completed novels, and yet she has never been more popular. To her millions of readers, she is renowned for her humour, her incisive observation, and her memorable characters – who range from lovable to ridiculous to frustrating, and sometimes all of the […]

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From teddy bears to berserkers – the language of bears (part 2)

From teddy bears to berserkers – the language of bears (part 2)

Following on from the first instalment about the word bear, today’s post looks at real bears, fictional bears, and (of course) teddy bears. A bear, or not a bear? That is the question. Most taxonomists agree that there are eight species of bear in five genera in the world today. However this does not include the koala, […]

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What the Nobel laureates did for us

What the Nobel laureates did for us

19 February isn’t a great day, should you happen to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chances are, you might meet your maker – Nobel laureates André Gide and Knut Hamsun both died on 19 February, in 1951 and 1952 respectively. And that’s before we widen the net to other Nobel Prizes (step forward […]

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