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Curly-murly, flippy-floppy boom-booms

By Mark Peters
There are many words I love. Some of my favorites are abyss and buttmunch. I also love many categories of words, such as euphemisms and variations of the f-word. One of my favorite types of word makes my heart go thump-thump and pit-a-pat: reduplicative words. Reduplicative words are far more than a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, though they’re often a load of gaga.

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Fake squid, psychiatric patients, and other Muppet meanings

By Mark Peters
With the arrival of the new Muppet movie, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Beaker, and our other felt friends are everywhere. There’s no escaping Jim Henson’s creations, and few of us would want to (unless the movie happens to suck, which is doubtful, given the stewardship of Jason Segel, who showed major Muppet mojo in the heartbreaking and spit-taking Forgetting Sarah Marshall). It’s a good time to look at the history of the word Muppet, which has some meanings that would make the Swedish Chef bork with outrage.

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Not a Euphemism

I write about euphemisms for Visual Thesaurus every month, and I love collecting and discussing evasions, dodges, lies, and straight-up malarkey, such as the terms sea kitten and strategic dynamism effort. However, I am also a fan of words and phrases in the “not a euphemism” category: especially the phrase not a euphemism itself, which is used in speech and writing to both downplay and heighten the filthiness of dirty-sounding phrases.

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Denim venom: future products in the style of jweats

By Mark Peters
Word blends are the bunnies of language: they breed like motherfathers. During the recent American Dialect Society meeting in Portland, plenty of blends were singled out. Assholocracy is an apt description of America, especially in an election year. Botoxionist refers to a doctor specializing in the forehead region of vain people. A brony is a bro who loves The Little Pony. That word was voted Least Likely to Succeed, but you can bet similar words will keep sprouting: particularly in the world of fashion.

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A Smidget of Regional Terms

By Mark Peters
There are some things I love to an unhealthy degree, such as The Shield, Russian imperial stouts, George Carlin’s comedy, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and Evil Dead 2. My heart beats equally fast for the Dictionary of American Regional English, which recently published its long-awaited final volume.

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The First World War and the development of international law

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo, setting off a six week diplomatic battle that resulted in the start of the First World War. The horrors of that war, from chemical weapons to civilian casualties, led to the first forays into modern international law. The League of Nations was established to prevent future international crises and a Permanent Court of International Justice created to settle disputes between nations.

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Living Anthems

By Mark Clague
The Fourth of July, aka “Independence Day” (the annual federal holiday in the United States marking the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence from Britain), is cause for national celebration and certainly the celebration of nationalism. Fireworks, orchestral concerts, parades, 5-K runs, carnivals, family picnics, and political speeches are common holiday happenings. Many are accompanied by music, especially by a haphazard class of folk tunes known as patriotic song that often defy historical logic, but nevertheless have become potent cultural symbols.

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