From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • They don’t shoot dead people, do they?

    Posted by on December 16, 2014

    Each Saturday a small section entitled ‘Chris Maslanka’s Puzzles’ appears on the Guardian newspaper’s puzzle page. One puzzle features a ‘Professor Pedanticus’, who – you guessed it – is a pedant, the sort of old-school fuddy-duddy who wants the English language to stay exactly as it was at some idealised point in his past – […]

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  • Real Grammar Quiz, Question 4: Is it OK to split an infinitive?

    Posted by on December 09, 2014

    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow. As we said in the introduction to this new series from Macmillan Dictionary, Real Grammar is based on the evidence of language in use. In the coming months, we’ll be bringing you blog posts and videos that give evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about grammar and […]

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  • Flat adverbs are exceeding fine

    Posted by on December 08, 2014

    We can do something quick or do it quickly, go slow or go slowly. But though we can do something fast, we don’t do it fastly – this is not a word you’re likely to hear from a native English speaker. How come? Fast, slow, and quick all belong to the set of adverbs in […]

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  • The vogue for banning words

    Posted by on November 24, 2014

    I’m not a fan of banning words. Even moist. For one thing it’s impossible, so I should say I’m not in favour of attempts to ban words either, even when those attempts aren’t serious. It strikes me as futile and rash, a casual shot at censorship motivated by capricious dislike of a word that perhaps […]

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  • Real Grammar Quiz, Question 3: Bored with it, or Bored of it?

    Posted by on November 19, 2014

    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow. As we said in the introduction to this new series from Macmillan Dictionary, Real Grammar is based on the evidence of language in use. In the coming months, we’ll be bringing you blog posts and videos that give […]

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  • Agitate for a higher milk yield

    Posted by on November 11, 2014

    Today’s guest  authors are František Čermák and Věra Schmiedtová.  Professor Čermák is a former director of the Institute of the Czech National Corpus, Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University in Prague. He is a corpus linguist, general linguist and Czech linguist, with a particular interest in the lexicon and phraseology. Dr Schmiedtová is a corpus […]

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  • Overall, there’s nothing really wrong with it

    Posted by on November 10, 2014

    Some words may seem harmless but attract prolonged disapproval from critics. One such word is overall, in its use both as an adjective meaning ‘considering something as a whole, rather than its details or the different aspects of it’ (the overall result), and as an adverb – usually a sentence adverb – meaning ‘when everything […]

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  • Mildew all around me, and other mondegreens

    Posted by on October 27, 2014

    Misheard song lyrics have been in my head again. Kerry Maxwell’s BuzzWord article on creep as a combining form reminded me of the memorably rude example ‘I drove all night, crapped in your room’ – instead of crept. Then a Twitter friend mentioned ‘Poppadum Creek’, a surreal misanalysis of Madonna’s lyric ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, and […]

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  • Enthusing about freedom of usage

    Posted by on October 13, 2014

    Writing about back-formation earlier this year, I said that enthuse – a verb back-formed from enthusiasm – occupied a grey area of acceptability. This area is worth mapping in more detail, since much of what people say about enthuse applies to other words and usages, and offers insights into what Macmillan Dictionary calls real grammar. […]

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  • Spoken English in today’s Britain

    Posted by on October 01, 2014

    Today’s guest post comes from Tony McEnery, Professor of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University, and Robbie Love, Research Student at the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science at Lancaster University. ______________ Twenty years ago, a consortium of researchers from dictionary publishers, universities, and the British Library released the British National Corpus […]

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