27 March is Dick King-Smith’s birthday and, although his name might not immediately be ringing bells in your head, there’s a strong possibility that you’ve come across one of his creations. Of the dozens of children’s books he wrote before his death in 2011, perhaps the most famous is The Sheep-Pig (1983), published in the […]
How many ways can we say ‘thank you’? In English alone, there are plenty. The Oxford English Dictionary first cites the simplest, thanks, in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost in 1598. The OED also treats us to some oldies (gramercy [c. 1330], thank thee , thankee ) and contextualizes some goodies (British colloquialism cheers stumbled out […]
What have Italian composer Rossini and American rapper Ja Rule got in common? A number of possible answers may leap to mind here, but the one I’m looking for is that the two musicians were both born on a date that is mysteriously elusive: 29 February. Except that 2012 is a leap year, and so […]
As an English speaker learning French, it is always a relief to come across a familiar word and to be able to guess its meaning without having to trawl through a bilingual dictionary: restaurant, hôtel, accompagnement. The English equivalents haven’t strayed too far from the French words they derived from, so it’s simple to work […]
Just a few weeks ago Christine Lindberg explored phrases and idioms that revealed the somewhat surprising way in which the English language describes man’s best friend. But what about that equally popular household pet – the beloved, fluffy, crazy cat? (Those three adjectives are among some of the most popular in the English language to […]
Today’s English owes much to many of the world’s languages, from French and German to Chinese and Hindi. Our interactive map below is the first of an occasional series which will offer you a glimpse of the range of linguistic influences that English has absorbed.
Click on the map to see how English has been shaped by French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Flemish. Your armchair travels should give you some interesting discoveries: could you guess the origins of fluff, anchovy, vamoose, and baize?
Word of the Day: alliteration - repetition of a sound beginning adjacent words…... oxford.ly/1BgjdOn
ICYMI: Word of the Day: punctum - a small, distinct point... oxford.ly/1qhzvBz
Did the word ‘loo’ really derive from the medieval cry of 'gardyloo'? oxford.ly/1AoJBu8