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

railway track

Word histories: conscious uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (better known as an Oscar-winning actress and the Grammy-winning lead singer of Coldplay respectively) recently announced that they would be separating. While the news of any separation is sad, we can’t deny that the report also carried some linguistic interest. In the announcement, on Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop, the pair […]

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toilet

How we stopped wearing toilets and started using them

It’s a fascinating fact of linguistic history that some words hardly change their main meaning or develop new meanings, while other words swing Tarzan-like from one semantic treetop to another leaving their past completely behind. One such word is toilet. ‘A kind of Toilet on their Heads’ As you might expect of a word derived […]

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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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sharknado

Language review 2013: from bitcoin to sharknado

Everyone loves a new word. When Oxford announces its Word of the Year, I sometimes detect behind the buzz of expectation a pang of disappointment that the chosen ‘winner’ isn’t a brand new invention. The romantic allure of a mint-new coinage, the inspiration of a single moment in time, is hard to resist. The truth […]

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bitcoin

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013: runners-up

Earlier today, we announced that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013 is ‘selfie’. You can learn more about the rise of ‘selfie’ with our infographic. But what about the runners-up? Below we take a closer look at the words on the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 shortlist, from ‘bedroom tax’ […]

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Bromance

The rise of the portmanbro

How an abbreviation of brother became a word-forming dynamo For most of its existence in English, the word bro led a quiet and unassuming life. For centuries, it was merely a graphic abbreviation of brother (properly bro.), occasionally put to colloquial use, like sis, to refer to a person’s male sibling. It wasn’t until the […]

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Puppets, peaches, and other womanly words

Peach

Last month, we took a tour around the world of the macho man, taking in some words in the grand tradition of beefcake on the way. We also discovered that the term beefcake, referring to muscular male physique, was formed on the model of cheesecake, a sexually alluring image of a woman. Sugar and spice […]

Should we be happy that the English language is changing?

Once upon a time

‘When you come to those parts of the body which are not usually mentioned,’ C. S. Lewis once said, ‘you will have to make a choice of vocabulary. And you will find that you have only four alternatives: a nursery word, an archaism, a word from the gutter, or a scientific word. You will not […]

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