Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year

It’s been a rather shocking year for politics. First, the UK decided to vote itself out of the European Union. In the aftermath (actually, before that), the remain campaigners accused the leave campaign of lying. Leave were told to stop using several key strategies, one of which was the claim that the UK sends £350m … Continue reading Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year

Origins of the English Language: The Norman Conquest

Other titles in this series: Anglo-Saxons; Vikings Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start… whether you call him William: Duke of Normany, William the Bastard or William the Conqueror the man who invaded England from Normandy was not French. He hated the French and they hated him. He was actually of … Continue reading Origins of the English Language: The Norman Conquest

Words With Different Meanings (US vs UK)

(Depending on where you live in the world and which version of English you speak). I went to an Asian pre-wedding party on Saturday night. The person getting married is the best friend of my brother. But hold it there for a moment. When I used the word “Asian” what did you assume I meant? … Continue reading Words With Different Meanings (US vs UK)

Favourite and Least Favourite Words of a Linguistics Nerd

The pen is mightier than the sword -Edward Bulwer-Lytton. (And just as deadly in the wrong hands as Jack Nicholson’s Joker proves in Batman: The Movie). Words can do many things. They can hurt an individual or they change humanity for the better or worse. They can be used to spread the truth and to … Continue reading Favourite and Least Favourite Words of a Linguistics Nerd

Figurative Speech: Portmanteau

What is portmanteau? Doesn’t that sound a little posh to be an English word? What sort of strange airy-fairy linguistics stuff are you presenting us now, Matt, in the name of edutainment? There you go, there’s the first one for you – edutainment. Portmanteau in its original meaning refers to a type of bag that … Continue reading Figurative Speech: Portmanteau

Figurative Speech: Idioms

We love idioms in English and it’s often a peculiarity that confuses non-native speakers when they hear us using them without a second thought for how they confuse people. What do we mean by idioms? It means when we use bywords that are unrelated to what they actually mean; it has figurative meaning but is not … Continue reading Figurative Speech: Idioms

Figurative Speech: Paradox

Paradoxes make my head hurt – at least the scientific ones do – and a couple of years ago I went to a talk at Winchester Discovery Centre on the world’s greatest paradoxes given, no less, than by Jim Al Khalili. Those are not the sorts of paradoxes I want to talk about here. I … Continue reading Figurative Speech: Paradox

Figurative Speech: Alliteration

What is alliteration and how do we use it? It is the use of a sequence of words where the consonant sounds are similar or each word in the sentence begins with the same letter or letters. The words may not sound the same, but by starting with the same letter(s) it feels as if … Continue reading Figurative Speech: Alliteration

Figurative Speech: Hyperbole and Meiosis

It’s often hard to present the idea that language studies and linguistics can be fun or funny, but when we look at issues like syntactic ambiguity we can see that it can be. I’m starting a new series, sort of, with no promises on how many I will do or how often I will publish posts on … Continue reading Figurative Speech: Hyperbole and Meiosis

Wrong Word Wednesday Special: “Fall” vs “Autumn”

What season are we in now? Depending on the country you were born in if English is your first language, or which “version” of English you learnt as a second language, you will give one of two words: autumn (if you are British, Australian or from New Zealand) or fall (if you are American; Canadians I understand … Continue reading Wrong Word Wednesday Special: “Fall” vs “Autumn”