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

tea

All the tea in China: English words of Chinese origin

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins Chinese civilization stretches back at least to the 3rd millennium BC. It is the source of many of the world’s great inventions, including paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing, not to mention china (porcelain) itself. But maybe the greatest contribution that the country and its language have […]

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OED appeals image

The OED needs you: can you find earlier evidence of these First World War words?

To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often […]

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roses

How well do you know the language of love?

Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can sign and seal a foil-embossed card and attach it to a heart-shaped box of chocolate, all addressed to a loved one for Valentine’s Day. But it takes someone truly versed in romantic delights to know the difference between an allumeuse and an amourette, a chocolatier and a ballotin, an […]

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currencies

Origins of currencies: from jagged edges to flowers

A fistful of dollars The dollar is one of the most common currencies in the world used by the US, Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, and Singapore to name a few. The origin of the dollar, also the Slovenian tolar, is from a coin called the Joachimsthaler, shortened to Thaler (or daler in early Flemish […]

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twins

Make mine a double: speaking of twins

As a twin, I spent my childhood being called the wrong name. I still turn around if I hear someone say ‘Colin’, which can be difficult to explain to people who have no idea about my not-so-secret double. Truth be told, I never found that particular mishap as annoying as “Can you read each other’s […]

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Facebook

What happens when language becomes “Facebook official”?

It’s hard to imagine that just 10 years ago, few of us had even heard of Facebook. What initially started out as a social network for students of Harvard University has grown into one of the most frequented (and valuable) domains in all of the vast space of the Internet. As quickly as the now […]

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champagne

A Melchizedek of champers: 9 word facts about champagne

It’s always difficult to say “Hello!” to January and “Good-bye…” to the holidays. Suddenly we find ourselves bogged down by the usual January blues—not to mention subjected to Blue Monday’s annual arrival — and burdened by certain debts after all that sweet and savory celebrating. Cookies, cakes, candy…butter cast haphazardly into every bubbling pot or […]

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kangaroo

Kangaroo: the international and regional word

26 January is Australia Day, a commemoration of the day in 1788 when Governor Arthur Phillip and his fleet of ships arrived in Australia, in the area that would become Sydney, in order to establish a convict colony. Governor Phillip had in his possession a list of Aboriginal words, provided to him by the botanist […]

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