Tag: slang

surfing

Surf’s up at the OED

The vocabulary of surfing in the English language has a long history. In 1798 Ebenezer Townsend, Jr., the supercargo (a representative of the ship’s owner) on the sealing ship Neptune, sailed into the Hawaiian Islands and recorded in his diary of 30 August, “They [sc. the natives] sometimes make use of surf-boards. The surf-board is […]

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Beatles

Apple Corps to Beatlemania: the language of The Beatles

The Beatles are regarded by many – including me – as the greatest band of all time, and few would doubt the significance of their impact on popular music. Their impact on the lexicon is less clear, though, since using the word ‘na’ 217 times in the lyrics of Hey Jude really doesn’t count. (Incidentally, […]

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Baseball

Play ball! Looking at the language of baseball

In spring, as the saying goes, “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to love.” Who first penned that immortal mush, anyway? You well-read literary types probably know it was Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem “Locksley Hall,” and I suppose that was romantic of him, but the way I see it, when love becomes a […]

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samuel johnson

Johnson and Grose: lexicography’s odd couple

April 15 marks the anniversary of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), a work that’s today universally recognized as an astonishing feat of solo lexicography. The publication, in 1755, rightly attracted great attention; David Garrick wrote a poetic eulogy to mark the achievement in the Public Advertiser, describing Johnson as ‘like a hero […]

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Laptop wires

Surfing the Information Superhighway: the changing face of Internet language

It’s common to associate the Internet with all things modern and new, and so it’s perhaps unexpected that it can be considered to be nearly half a century old; the ‘symbolic birth date’ of the Internet has been declared 7 April 1969, the date of publication of the first RFC (Request for Comments) document. Much […]

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heist

Heists and mayhem: the language of crime

There has been a lot on British minds recently, with horsemeat and obesity coming high on the list of preoccupations. But amid the furore over such unpalatable subjects, it was a different headline altogether that caught my eye. ‘Diamond heist at Brussels airport nets gang up to £30m in gems’, was the Guardian’s version, while […]

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Hip-hop on ‘ice’

Hip-hop on ‘ice’

Hearing the noun ice used outside of the frozen-water context has got me thinking about the lyrics of “Thrift Shop”, a song by the hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Check it out: I’m just pumped, I bought some sh*t from a thrift shop. Ice on the fringe, it’s so damn frosty, the people like, “Damn, that’s a cold-ass […]

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Dead presidents is slang referring to US banknotes.

Hip-hop’s “dead presidents”

Whenever election time rolls around in the US, I think… I’m out for dead presidents to represent me. Say what?! Rather than get mixed up in all that political business, I’m here to talk about the slang dead president. The following lyrics are from “The World is Yours”, a song from the hip-hop artist Nas on […]

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