Pies and cakes in English idioms

It is assumed that the word pie came into English via Old French, from Latin pica ‘magpie’, which in turn is related to picus ‘green woodpecker’. Here, the allusion is perhaps to the various combinations of ingredients of a pie being comparable to the objects randomly collected by a magpie. Its sweet equivalent, the cake, on the other […]

Holy lexicon, Batman! Comic book language from Agitron to Zod

The most hotly-anticipated film of the summer, Suicide Squad, shows that even supevillains can make a contribution to society. But what contribution have superheroes, supervillains, and comic books in general made to the English language? Here’s an A-Z of words and terms from comic book culture. Some have yet to gain the traction to make […]

George R. R. Martin’s invented language in A Game of Thrones

This post includes spoilers for Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. This blog has hosted several pieces relating to the fantasy series Game of Thrones, including a guest post by the brilliant David Peterson, who created the fictional languages that appear on the television show. However, the blog has not yet discussed the invented words […]

Laughing, crying, and disgust in languages around the world

Interjections like oh!, ah!, or phew! are natural ejaculations expressive of some feeling or emotion.  They are so called because they’re interjected (from Latin inter- ‘between’ and jacere ‘to throw’) between sentences, clauses, or words, mostly without grammatical connection. Although the interjection is often imitative, it is quite different from the onomatopoeia, which is the formation of a word […]

Which ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ character are you?

Are you the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, or one Lewis Carroll’s other surreal creations? Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by taking our quiz and finding out which character you are most like.

Kapow! The language of comics

Original here. Chances are, if asked to think of the language of comics, terms like kapow!, blam!, and zap! wouldn’t be far from your mind. This is largely thanks to pop art and the Adam West Batman TV show, which emblazoned these terms across our screens, often accompanied by shrill trumpets blaring madly. I used […]

29 ways to say no

Sometimes you need somebody to get the point, and a simple no won’t do it. We’ve taken a look through the Historical Thesaurus of the OED and other sources to find out how best to say no to something. Now you can say no daily for almost a whole month without repeating yourself (and then […]

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