A tale of two militias: finding the right label for the Oregon protests

When an armed group occupied a federal building in Oregon to protest against the US government’s land management, the media quickly seized on the word ‘militia’ to describe them. The Guardian
When an armed group occupied a federal building in Oregon to protest against the US government’s land management, the media quickly seized on the word ‘militia’ to describe them. The Guardian [More]

From teaspoons to tea-sots: the language of tea

Tea was first imported into Britain early in the seventeenth century, becoming very popular by the 1650s. The London diarist Samuel Pepys drank his first cup in 1660, as recorded in his famous
Tea was first imported into Britain early in the seventeenth century, becoming very popular by the 1650s. The London diarist Samuel Pepys drank his first cup in 1660, as recorded in his famous [More]

Manspreading: how New York City’s MTA popularized a word without saying it

New York City, home of Oxford Dictionaries’ New York offices, has made numerous contributions to the English lexicon through the years, as disparate as knickerbocker and hip hop. The post
New York City, home of Oxford Dictionaries’ New York offices, has made numerous contributions to the English lexicon through the years, as disparate as knickerbocker and hip hop. The post [More]

Analysing what Shakespeare has to say about gender

Humans are very good at reading from start to finish and collecting lots of information to understand the aggregated story a text tells, but they are very bad at keeping track of the details of
Humans are very good at reading from start to finish and collecting lots of information to understand the aggregated story a text tells, but they are very bad at keeping track of the details of [More]

The AUTO- age

How readily someone may be understood when using a new word will depend on several factors: the intuitable transparency of meaning, its clarity in context, the receptiveness of the audience, and so
How readily someone may be understood when using a new word will depend on several factors: the intuitable transparency of meaning, its clarity in context, the receptiveness of the audience, and so [More]

George Orwell and the origin of the term ‘cold war’

On 19 October 1945, George Orwell used the term cold war in his essay "You and the Atom Bomb," speculating on the repercussions of the atomic age which had begun two months before when the United
On 19 October 1945, George Orwell used the term cold war in his essay "You and the Atom Bomb," speculating on the repercussions of the atomic age which had begun two months before when the United [More]

Istanbul, not Constantinople

Throughout history, many cities changed their names. Some did it for political reasons; others hoped to gain an economic advantage from it. The post Istanbul, not Constantinople appeared first on
Throughout history, many cities changed their names. Some did it for political reasons; others hoped to gain an economic advantage from it. The post Istanbul, not Constantinople appeared first on [More]

The curious case of culprit

Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit. At first glance, the
Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit. At first glance, the [More]

Clues, code-breaking, and cruciverbalists: the language of crosswords

The recent release of The Imitation Game has revealed the important role crosswords played in the recruitment of code-breakers at Bletchley Park. The Daily Telegraph organised a contest in which
The recent release of The Imitation Game has revealed the important role crosswords played in the recruitment of code-breakers at Bletchley Park. The Daily Telegraph organised a contest in which [More]

Putting two and two together

As somebody who loves words and English literature, I have often been assumed to be a natural enemy of the mathematical mind. If we’re being honest, my days of calculus and the hypotenuse are behind
As somebody who loves words and English literature, I have often been assumed to be a natural enemy of the mathematical mind. If we’re being honest, my days of calculus and the hypotenuse are behind [More]