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English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

A to Z Index

The Language of Balnibarbi
Music: Francesco Geminiani
Lemuel Gulliver finds that the people of Balnibarbi just don’t appreciate their hardworking academics.
By Jonathan Swift
(1667-1745)

THE other project was, a scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health, as well as brevity. For it is plain, that every word we speak is, in some degree, a diminution of our lunge by corrosion, and, consequently, contributes to the shortening of our lives.

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The Peculiar Customs of Lilliput
Music: John Stanley
The people of Lilliput are strangely small, but their ideas are bizarre in a big way.
By Jonathan Swift
(1667-1745)

SHALL say but little at present of their learning, which, for many ages, has flourished in all its branches among them: but their manner of writing is very peculiar, being neither from the left to the right, like the Europeans, nor from the right to the left, like the Arabians, nor from up to down, like the Chinese, but aslant, from one corner of the paper to the other, like ladies in England.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Greek Myths’ (30 posts)
page 1
1 Heracles and the Cattle of Geryon
Heracles must get the better of a three-bodied giant and steal his cattle.
2 Heracles and the Girdle of Hippolyte
A princess covets the belt of a warrior-queen, so Heracles is despatched to get it for her.
3 Heracles and the Mares of Diomedes
Eurystheus pits his cousin against a son of Ares and some man-eating horses.
4 Heracles and the Cretan Bull
Heracles seems to be the only one who can keep Poseidon’s rampaging white bull under control.
5 Heracles and the Birds of Lake Stymphalia
Our hero is sent to deal with some man-eating birds, but cannot reach their lakeside refuge.
6 The Tragedy of King Oedipus
Oedipus flees home in an attempt to escape a dreadful prophecy, unware that it is following at his heels.
page 2
7 Heracles and the Augean Stables
Heracles shows his capacity for thinking outside the box, but spoils it by trying to be just a little bit too clever.
8 Heracles and the Erymanthian Boar
Snaring a wild boar turns out to be much less dangerous than keeping centaurs away from their wine.
9 Bellerophon and the Chimera
The wronged hero vanquishes a dreadful monster with the help of a winged horse, but then it all goes to his head.
10 The Sword of Damocles
A reminder that those with extreme wealth and power have everything but the peace to enjoy it.
11 Heracles and the Cerynaean Hind
Eurystheus sends his cousin on another labour, this time hoping the task is too delicate for the big man.
12 Hera and the Boeotian Bride
Zeus employs a little psychology to effect a reunion with his offended wife.
page 3
13 Apple of Discord
Thetis snubs Eris, goddess of Discord, and sets off a series of events leading to the Trojan War.
14 The Siege of Troy: the Abduction of Helen
Paris, prince of Troy, takes the not unwilling Queen of Sparta back home with him, and sparks twenty years of retribution.
15 The Gordian Knot
Alexander fulfilled the letter of a prophecy and he did become ruler of the world, but it wasn’t quite fair.
16 The Midas Touch
An ancient Greek myth about the dangers of easy wealth.
17 Damon and Pythias
A tale of two friends with complete confidence in each other, and loyal to the death.
18 Pygmalion and Galatea
Pygmalion discovered that prudishness is not the same as purity.
page 4
19 Heracles and the Hydra
The Greek hero thinks he has paid off more of his debt to the gods, but an unpleasant surprise awaits him.
20 Phrixus and the Golden Fleece
Long before Jason came to claim it, the golden fleece had already saved a boy’s life.
21 Jason and the Golden Fleece
A political rival sends Jason on a hopeless errand, to fetch the golden fleece.
22 Perseus and the Gorgon
When Polydectes, King of Seriphos, sent Perseus to get the Gorgon’s head, he hoped the boy would never come back.
23 Heracles at the Crossroads
The gods had given Heracles every grace of body and mind, but there was one thing he must do for himself: choose how to use them.
24 Hephaestus and the Love Net
When he caught his wife with her lover, the ugly blacksmith of the gods showed that he was not without his pride.
page 5
25 The Hunt for the Wild Boar of Calydon
Artemis, goddess of the hunt, pursued a bitter and relentless vengeance upon a king who carelessly slighted her.
26 Odysseus Comes Home
The wandering King was alive after all - unknown to his “widow’s” suitors.
27 Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus would lose his beloved wife Eurydice to death not once, but twice.
28 Theseus and the Minotaur
A warning not to be forgetful of others, even in triumph.
29 Heracles and the Nemean Lion
Sending a hero off to ‘certain death’ never seems to work out...
30 Perseus and Andromeda
Wielding the Gorgon’s head, Perseus saves a beautiful maiden from a ravening sea-monster.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Verb or Noun?

Use each of the words below once as a noun and once as a verb:

Man. Sun. Hang.

The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Lift’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Do you know ‘glittering crown’ (6 letters), and ‘dark and gloomy’ (5 letters)?
Do you know ‘conscientious’ (7 letters), and ‘unreturned serve’ (3 letters)?
Do you know ‘cunning’ (3 letters), and ‘Phobos’s primary’ (4 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (80)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

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numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Maths Gym Mental arithmetic