There are 38 posts.
This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day, also known as Mothering Sunday, in the UK: that day of the year on which mothers are particularly honoured by their children. In North America and South Africa, Mother’s Day is on the second Sunday in May instead. According to A Dictionary of English Folklore, Mother’s Day as we […]more
Words can be difficult and scary. Everyone has words that they can’t spell or can’t pronounce. I always say rhetoric wrong, and inevitably still get the ‘i’ and ‘e’ in receive the wrong way around. But words also scare us when they come with memories of difficult school lessons, or signify something that we only […]more
When you hear or read a new word, it can be difficult to work out what the meaning might be intuitively. That, of course, is partly what dictionaries are for. When a word sounds like another, though, you might be misled into thinking you can guess its meaning… Here are some definitions of words which […]more
Is your boss a bit gruff? Maybe he is given to snooping–you probably wish he would go for a cruise on his yacht, maybe to the Netherlands, where all of these words come from. The English and Dutch languages are closely related, and despite three 17th-century naval conflicts Britain and the Netherlands have long been […]more
Have you heard of the zonkey? It sounds like we made it up, but it’s actually a widely-recognized word. Zonkey, it turns out, is only one of several words for the semi-striped offspring of zebras and other equine mammals. For whatever reason, these creatures have inspired generations of would-be wordsmiths to name them—and rename them. Interbreeding […]more
It is no secret that the Harry Potter series is heavily influenced by the classics. JK Rowling studied Latin as a subsidiary subject at the University of Exeter, and often draws upon classical myth, rhetoric, and nomenclature in her writing. In particular, Rowling usually draws her magical words from classical Latin, and many of the […]more
Unarguably one of the most influential TV shows of all time, Seinfeld played a major role in shaping the social culture of the ‘90s. Famously self-defined as a “show about nothing,” Seinfeld’s insistent concern with the mundane often manifested itself as an obsession with the ultimate, universally-relatable everyday practice: language. Since the show had no […]more