Tag: mythology


A comma in Catullus

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” –Oscar Wilde Only Oscar Wilde could be quite so frivolous when describing a matter as grave as the punctuation of poetry, something that causes particular grief in our […]

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night sky

Pluto and its underworld minions

Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those intrigued by the dark dwarf planet. Pluto has special significance not only because it is the only planet in our solar […]

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How did the chemical elements get their names?

Etymologically, chemical elements are in a class of their own. Unlike much of the English language, the names of elements tend to have been chosen by the researchers who first discovered them rather than developing organically over time. There are no rules as to how these names are decided, but the history of chemistry reveals […]

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The formation of plurals, from sheep to minotaurs

It’s probably safe to say that most of us don’t give much thought to how plural nouns are formed in English. In fact, add –s or –es, whatever a word’s origin or meaning, might be one of the easiest grammatical rules in the language. So we have book / books, church / churches, hula / […]

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Ye Gods! Praise the Days

In this last week of December 2012, I am gazing at the calendar above my desk and wondering how it is possible that in a few days I will have to hang up a new calendar for a new year (as my past gets longer, are the years getting shorter??). My mind wanders as I […]


Which classical character are you?

The many and varied characters of classical mythology played such a large role in the cultural identity of Ancient Greece and Rome that tales of their exploits have endured and have been incorporated into literature and language worldwide. The names of the characters themselves are often listed in dictionaries and are frequently associated with particular […]

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Harry Potter and the Linguistic Innovator

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 world premiere in Trafalgar Square

This is not a shockingly grammatical sequel to the acclaimed series, but a chance to revel in the magically inventive language of the Harry Potter books. The release of the final Harry Potter film this week marks the end of an era for a generation of book and film lovers, having made author J. K. […]

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