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

I’ll teach you how to “stunt”

bling dollar

In 2003, 50 Cent and his fellow G-Unit rappers released a song called “Stunt 101”, in which they claim to “teach you how to stunt”. I’ve been listening to this song for years without a second thought, but now it occurs to me that this verb stunt is completely baffling–what on earth does it mean!? […]

Hammer of the gods: the lyrics of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Confession: I grew up in the 1990s. I admit freely that the only musical artists I knew for a while were N’Sync, the Spice Girls, and Blink-182. But then one day I heard a song called Dazed and Confused by a little band named Led Zeppelin and— after several jaw-dropping minutes of that insanely heavy […]

Lily-white hands and scarlet gowns: formulas in British traditional ballads

Lily-white hands and scarlet gowns: formulas in British traditional ballads

Traditional song can be a tricky beast. Stubbornly slippery in form, content, and definition, its remit encompasses an amorphous mass of vernacular songs that have been cherished by everyday people over time. These songs are of varying vintages, of both known and unknown authorship, some passed through generations by word of mouth, others emerging from […]

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Cole Porter: the tinpantithesis of poetry

Cole Porter: the tinpantithesis of poetry

Cole Porter was one of the few songwriters of his era who wrote both music and lyrics. Another was his friend Irving Berlin. The two men shared a private joke. Whenever a songwriting team–such as Ira and George Gershwin, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, or Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern—had a hit, Porter and Berlin […]

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Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette

Jagged little words: the language of Alanis Morissette If you had aspirations of being a disaffected youth in the mid-1990s, chances are you had a copy of Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill. That’s not quite fair; you might, after all, have been the sort who dealt with angst by listening to Black Sabbath, or […]

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The language and influences of the early Bob Dylan

The language and influences of the early Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, celebrates his 72nd birthday on 24 May 2013. The singer-songwriter, music producer, and writer has been one of the most influential figures in popular music and culture since the release of his first album in 1962. There is no systematic way of analysing Dylan’s song lyrics or poems; they […]

‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’, find out what it means to me

‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’, find out what it means to me

Most of us can rattle off the ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ bit of Aretha Franklin’s signature tune, but how much do you know about the rest of the lyrics? See if you can fill in the blank below: I’m about to give you all of my money, And all I’m askin’ in return, honey, Is to give me […]

Ghost like Swayze: a bit of hip-hop slang

Ghost like Swayze: a bit of hip-hop slang

As we rolled on, I seen the patrol on creep, so we got ghost. —“Alwayz into Somethin’” , from N.W.A.’s Efil4zaggin (1991) For me, this lyric represents one of the great potentials of hip-hop. An otherwise unremarkable sentiment, when channelled through the mind and mouth of a deft MC, can become something poetic and memorable. […]

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