Category Archives: Jokes and puns

The spelling (& Jerkish) of the President: update

IMG_3905We are humbeled, Mr President.


As the great American novelist Philip Roth has recently commented to the New Yorker: “Whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither [Richard Nixon nor George W. Bush] was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”



“I really didn’t say everything I said.”


Yogi Berra, one of America’s most famous baseball players, died yesterday. He will go down in history not just for his famous catches, but also for his catchy phrases, which came to be known as “Yogiisms”. His nonsensical witticisms took the form of obvious tautologies* or paradoxical contradictions.

Some famous Yogiisms: Continue reading

The definition and etymology of Trump



From the Oxford English Dictionary:
Trump: vt. slang break wind audibly

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
Trump (v.): “fabricate, devise,” 1690s, from trump “deceive, cheat” (1510s), from Middle English trumpen (late 14c.), from Old French tromperto deceive,” of uncertain origin. Apparently from se tromper de “to mock,” from Old French tromper “to blow a trumpet.” Brachet explains this as “to play the horn, alluding to quacks and mountebanks, who attracted the public by blowing a horn, and then cheated them into buying ….” The Hindley Old French dictionary has baillier la trompe “blow the trumpet” as “act the fool,” and Donkin connects it rather to trombe “waterspout,” on the notion of turning (someone) around. … Trumped upfalse, concocted” first recorded 1728.


Why do Brits pronounce lieutenant “leftenant”?


Back in 2013, on The Guardian‘s Notes and Queries page, a man called Jeff Rushton from London asked this very good question:

Why exactly do the British say lieutenant as ‘leftenant’? 

Armchair linguists on both sides of the Atlantic offered up various answers and suggestions: here’s a selection for your interest and entertainment … Continue reading

Glossophilia’s top 21 posts


Celebrating its 70,000th visitor earlier today, Glossophilia brings you its 21 most popular posts so far. Subjects include Cockney Rhyming Slang and other quirky Englishisms; contranyms and homophones; when to use which and when to use that; British tea – when is it low and when is it high? and British school – when is it public and when is it private?; some modern words like yolo and like, and a not-so-modern one: dildo. And, of course, some American-British differences that we can never get enough of — this time in the kitchen pantry  …

Enjoy (them)! Continue reading

To take or not to take an object: verbs that used to just do are starting to do something too


It’s a strange verb, to grow. Usually we talk about things or people growing intransitively — ie. without an object. “The size of the crowd grew.” “She has grown so tall.” “The government’s power is growing.” There’s really no limit to what can grow, on its own, in an intransitive sense. However, when it comes to using the verb transitively — ie. when we’re talking about “growing something“, rather than seeing it grow under its own steam, then most bets are suddenly off: we only grow transitively when we’re referring to natural, living things. We grow plants, flowers and our own food; we grow beards, and our hair; we even grow pot-bellies — whether we like it or not. But it’s only recently that the transitive use of the verb itself has begun to grow: now embracing  inanimate objects and abstract items, grow is beginning to mean “expand” — and you can grow anything from your circle of friends to an economy or an international corporation’s revenue (whereas before they grew only intransitively). The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage advises against this growing trend of growing anything unnatural transitively: “The newer usage of grow to mean expand (grow the business; grow revenue) is business jargon, best resisted.”

Disappear is another dodgy suspect when it comes to its transitive use. Continue reading

It’s Shakespeare’s 450th birthday!


Today is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday: Happy Birthday Wills!

To celebrate, Glossophilia first shows you how you can talk like Shakespeare (courtesy, where you can find many more activities and much more ado about the Bard himself). Then, we offer a selective list of major Shakespeare productions taking place around the world during his birthday year.

How to Talk Like Shakespeare

  1. Instead of you, say thou or thee (and instead of y’all, say ye).
  2. Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  3. Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
  4. Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms orpoisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  5. Don’t waste time saying “it,” just use the letter “t” (’tist’will, I’ll do’t).
  6. Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  7. When in doubt, add the letters “eth” to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, hefalleth).
  8. To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth orwherefore.
  9. When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say “Get thee to a nunnery!”
  10. When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

 Shakespeare productions around the world in 2014:


New York:

King Lear
Presented by: Theatre for a New Audience
Two-time Olivier Award nominee Michael Pennington plays the title role of Shakespeare’s tragedy for the first time, with director Arin Arbus continuing her string of Shakesepeare stagings for TFANA.
14 March – 4 May at Polonsky Shakespeare Center

Like You Like It (concert)
Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes, Glee star Jenna Ushkowitz, and Dexter and The Following actor Sam Underwood are among the performers who will celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday in a concert version of the award-winning musical Like You Like It, based on As You Like It and set at a mall in the 1980s,
April 23 at 54 Below

Presented by Park Avenue Armory and Manchester International Festival.
Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston make their much anticipated New York stage debuts in the U.S. premiere of the intensely physical, fast-paced production by Branagh and Rob Ashford, which places the audience directly on the sidelines of battle, where blood, sweat, and the elements of nature can be directly felt as the action unfurls across the traverse stage.
May 31–June 22 at Park Avenue Armory

Much Ado About Nothing
Presented by Public Theater / Shakespeare in the Park.
Hamish Linklater and Tony nominee Lily Rabe return to Central Park this summer as the wise-cracking, would-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy. Central Park becomes sun-drenched Sicily at the turn of the last century.
June 3 – July 6 at Delacorte Theater in Central Park

King Lear
Presented by Public Theater / Shakespeare in the Park.
Revenge, rage, grief and delusion thunder upon the Delacorte as Tony- and Emmy-winner John Lithgow takes the stage as one of theater’s great tragic heroes, King Lear. Tony winner Daniel Sullivan directs
July 22 – August 17 at Delacorte Theater, Central Park



Henry IV parts I & II
Presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company
With Stacy Keach starring as Falstaff.
March 25 – June 8, Sidney Harman Hall



Titus Andronicus
Presented by Shakespeare’s Globe.
The full cast has been announced for the return of Lucy Bailey’s 2006 production of Titus Andronicus to Shakespeare’s Globe, The production will feature William Houston as Titus and Indira Varma as Tamora.
April 24 to July 13 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Presented by Shakespeare’s Globe.
This production of Hamlet opens at Shakespeare’s Globe on the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth before embarking on a two-year tour of the world (see below).
April 23 – April 26 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (in British Sign Language)
Presented by Deafinitely Theatre.
“Deafinitely’s aim has always been to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing audiences, and the gap gets smaller here. It’s not only a new approach for existing Shakespeare fans; it also provides a great introduction to the playwright, especially for children. Definitely, I’d say, theatre for everyone’.” — The Guardian
June 2 – 6 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

All’s Well That Ends Well (in Gujarati)
Presented by Theatre Arpana.
When Bharatram (Bertram) flees his native Gujarat for Bombay, his mother’s ward Heli (Helena), desperately in love, decides to pursue him. But Bharatram feels differently, and attaches two obstructive conditions to their marriage – conditions he is sure will never be met.
May 5 – 10 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Henry IV Parts I & II
Presented by Royal Shakespeare Company.
The RSC returns to the Barbican with Henry IV Parts I and II. RSC Associate Artist Antony Sher returns to the Company to play the infamous comic knight Falstaff in Shakespeare’s thrilling and comic vision of a nation in turmoil.
29 November – 24 January 2015 at the Barbican.


Henry IV Part I
Presented by Royal Shakespeare Company.
RSC Associate Artist Antony Sher returns to the Company to play the infamous comic knight Falstaff in Shakespeare’s thrilling and comic vision of a nation in turmoil.
18 March – 6 September 2014 at Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Henry IV Part 2
Presented by Royal Shakespeare Company.
King Henry’s health is failing as a second rebellion threatens to surface. Hal must choose between duty and loyalty to an old friend in Shakespeare’s heartbreaking conclusion to this epic pair of plays.
28 March – 6 September 2014 at Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Presented by Royal Shakespeare Company.
Set in the Summer of 1914, love and merriment ensue in Shakespeare’s sparkling comedy before the lives of the blissfully unaware lovers are about to be utterly transformed by the war to end all wars.
23 September – 14 March 2015  at Royal Shakespeare Theatre.


Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 
Presented by Royal Shakespeare Company.
Directed by Gregory Doran with a cast including Antony Sher, Jasper Britton and Alex Hassell, this is an epic, comic and thrilling vision of a nation in turmoil.

Theatre Royal, Norwich 14 – 18 October
The Lowry, Salford 21 – 25 October
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford 28 October – 1 November
Theatre Royal, Bath 4 – 8 November
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury 11 – 15 November




Henry V
Presented by Bell Shakespeare.
Damien Ryan’s unflinching production will explore war, the eloquence of leaders and the brotherhood of soldiers from every angle. Is King Henry V a courageous leader, a cowardly manipulator or simply a little boy lost?
October 21 – November 16 at Sydney Opera House


A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Presented by Bell Shakespeare.
Peter Evans will reawaken Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a breathless 90-minute production that amplifies the magic, mirth and mayhem.

CANBERRA  28 August – 13 September at Canberra Theatre Centre, The Playhouse
MELBOURNE  18 September – 4 October at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
WOLLONGONG  8–11 October at Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, IMB Theatre


Presented by Shakespeare’s Globe.

On 23 April 2014 – the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth – Shakespeare’s Globe will embark on a two-year global tour of Hamlet that will take in every country in the world. The ‘Globe to Globe Hamlet’, directed by the Globe’s Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole, will be a completely unprecedented theatrical adventure.