Category Archives: Uncategorized

The lost art of letter writing

There’s a generation of young people for whom letters – especially handwritten letters – must seem old-fashioned and quaint. In an age of instant communication via text, emails, Twitter and Facebook, most young people won’t have written any letters themselves, … Continue reading

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Diana Nyad: nominative determinism strikes again

On August 31 2013, record-breaking long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, aged 64, became the first person ever to swim the 110 miles of open water from Havana, Cuba, to Florida. She swam this distance in 53 hours and without the aid … Continue reading

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The Atlas of True Names: making the familiar seem strange

Did you know that Great Britain can also be called ‘Great Land of The Tattooed’? Not because of the popularity of tattoos in this country. Rather, it’s the name you arrive at if you look deeper into the etymology of … Continue reading

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Sorry seems to be the hardest word: or, the art of the non-apology

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” ― Benjamin Franklin “Never apologize, mister, it’s a sign of weakness.” ― John Wayne Every once in a while, people in public life have to apologise for something they’ve said or done. While … Continue reading

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A celebration of oddness – the 2012 Diagram Prize

One of the quirkiest literary prizes on the publishing scene is the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year, run by The Bookseller since 1978. I don’t think the prize was run last year but in 2010 the … Continue reading

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What Words of the Year can tell us

As the end of the year approaches, lexicographers and word nerds start to compile their Word of the Year (WOTY) lists. The WOTY is usually selected to reflect the ethos of the year. Often they are words that have been … Continue reading

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Halloween typography

Now my children are teenagers, I’m beginning to get a bit grumpy about Halloween. When I was young we had parties where we would bob for apples. Today, we’ve imported an American version of Halloween in which children are encouraged … Continue reading

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Helping kids get literate for life

I love this quote: Outside of a dog a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.   Groucho Marx Words, books and reading have been – and still are – an essential part of … Continue reading

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Speak with conviction

One of the most interesting discussions to emerge after the ‘riots’ in the UK earlier this month focused on the impact of language. The issue of whether the language that young people speak is a corrupting influence was raised in … Continue reading

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Opening sentences – so bad they’re good

The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest has found a worthy winner this year in Sue Fondrie, an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Her winning line: Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, … Continue reading

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