Pregnant was something of a metaphor when it first started being used in relation to a baby. Its earlier meaning (which is still in use) was ‘full of meaning, highly significant’, and the word pregnant began being used as a synonym for the more self-explanatory term with child. There are plenty of historical synonyms for […]
When people think of world varieties of English and their contribution to the language, they tend to think in terms of unusual loanwords that conjure visions of exotic, faraway lands. Indeed, in countries such as India, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, where English is primarily used as a second or even third language alongside local […]
Australia is well known for its unique, and often dangerous, contributions to the animal kingdom. In March’s update, we’ve been working to bring some more Australian and New Zealand vocabulary into our dictionary, and inevitably this includes words and phrases that involve or describe some of the critters found in the bush. Pet names Most […]
We recently tested non-Brits on their knowledge of British English; now it’s time to turn the tables and see how well English-speakers outside of North America can handle the mysteries of American English. Have a go, and let us know how you do. Good luck!
In these times of mass media and global communications, it is comforting to think that regional lexical variation in British English is alive and well—in fact it seems to be right up many people’s alley. When linguists set out to collect distinctive local vocabulary, one of the classic questions informants are asked is “What do […]
One of the first spelling rules that young children are taught is ‘i before e except after c’. Once they encounter words like neighbour, foreign, and weight, it soon becomes clear that there are exceptions. The same is also then true of another rule, namely ‘always use u after q’. There are at least a […]
English, we often hear, is the world’s first truly global language, spoken in more places by more people than any other language in history. Partly this is so, simply, because there are more people today than at any previous time and because more of the world is known than was in Antiquity. In the time […]
Language has always been more fashion than science: as Bill Bryson once said, the way we use it ‘wanders around like hemlines’. A couple of weeks ago, the Washington newspaper the Olympian ran an article headed ‘When visiting the South, please leave fake accent at home’. Its writer, Kathleen Parker, finds political charlatan accents among […]