From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • Your favourite portmanteau words

    Posted by on January 27, 2015

    Today is the 183rd birthday of the English mathematician, logician, photographer and clergyman Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. If you’re wondering why such an obscure figure deserves to be celebrated, I should quickly add that Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was the author of the children’s classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through […]

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  • #Blacklivesmatter and words of the year

    Posted by on January 19, 2015

    The final, and foremost, Word of the Year selection in language lovers’ winter calendar is the American Dialect Society’s, which took place in Portland earlier this month. With no clear front-runner for its overall WOTY, it was open to surprises – like last year’s winner because. And a surprise duly occurred: the word of 2014 […]

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  • Real Grammar Quiz, Question 5: Is it OK to use impact as a verb?

    Posted by on January 14, 2015

    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow.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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  • Accent prejudice in the mainstream

    Posted by on January 05, 2015

    The rules of TV-watching change at Christmas, with the result that even a habitual tube-avoider like me can end up seeing shows like Channel 4’s Big Fat Quiz of the Year. I didn’t expect it to contain material of any great sociolinguistic interest, but it did, and it wasn’t good. On at least three occasions […]

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  • Are you feeling Christmassy?

    Posted by on December 24, 2014

    In countries where Christmas is celebrated, the population probably divides fairly neatly into those who love Christmas and revel in every aspect of the festive season, and those who actively dislike it. I suspect there aren’t many who can take it or leave it. The patron saint of those who shun Christmas and everything to […]

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  • Anti-multiple-hyphen tendencies

    Posted by on December 22, 2014

    A leading story in Irish current affairs this year has been the government’s controversial creation of Irish Water, which will charge people for their use of water, and the ensuing nationwide protests. The outcry is about much more than the water charges – there is deep, widespread anger about how the country is being run […]

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  • 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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