SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
David Crystal

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November 23, 2020
What impresses David Crystal most about the modern use of happy is the remarkable range of settings in which it is used.
October 16, 2020
I’m struck by the way this word has caught on in new guises. It’s a very old word: Chaucer used it, as did Shakespeare; and it became routinely used for any formal break from an activity, such as between university terms. It developed the general meaning of “holiday” in American English during the 19th century,
September 21, 2020
A word? Well, it was voted “word of the year” by the American Dialect Society in 1998, because it was becoming increasingly used in such expressions as email and e-business – “e” being short for electronic. But for most of us, e is just a letter – though in English an especially interesting one. I’m
August 21, 2020
Typo was originally a short form of typographer – that is, a printer. Its first known use is 1816, but by the end of the century it had come to have its present-day meaning: a typographical error. Of course it leaves open the question of whether an error is inadvertent or deliberate. I choose this
July 22, 2020
What day of the week is it? For many, during lockdown, this question proved extraordinarily difficult to answer. Days seemed to merge into each other. We needed new vocabulary to describe such novel experiences. Hence, Blursday. Blursday is what in linguistics is called a blend. Two words combine to create a new word. It’s a
June 19, 2020
If you had said to me, a decade ago, that in the next 10 years we were going to see a new suffix arrive in the English language, I would have said “Don’t be silly!” Suffixes – word-endings such as in goodness, movement, wonderful – don’t develop very often. Many have been in the language
May 15, 2020
Every year the big English dictionaries announce a “word of the year” – a word that has seen a major increase in its frequency of use, or which captures a dominant mood. A couple of years ago, most of them went for Brexit. Last year, Cambridge Dictionaries chose upcycling; Oxford chose a phrase – climate
August 18, 2016
‘You’ve been hacked.” It’s the message no internet user wants to hear. In my case, the message came at the end of February this year from French spiritual writer Didier Rance, who wanted to check a reference on the John Bradburne poetry website. He typed in www.johnbradburnepoems.com, as I’ve done thousands of times over the