A Deadly Lesson - An English Murder Mystery

English in Use | Conversations | Sounds Rude

English in Use

The Activities categorised as English in Use look at the way we use English in everyday life. The Activities cover the actual use of English and examine grammar, punctuation, and functionality of the language. For any student studying English as a second language or English as a foreign language, English in Use Activities are particularly useful for improving speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. These Activities will help you to develop your confidence in using different types of text such as fiction, newspapers and magazines, as well as learning to speak and write about things such as the weather and travel, as well as preparing you for typical situations such as ordering in a restaurant or buying a train ticket.


Conversation or dialogue simulations use the latest technology to bring you as close an experience as you can get to an actual English conversation. By imitating real world conversations, you can practice your communication skills on any device and receive instant feedback on your mistakes and your accuracy. The conversation simulators also give you the chance to look at specific areas of English where you might be having problems.

Sounds Rude

There is an important subset of English which is hardly ever touched on by teachers, and never by the textbooks. This subset of English is the English which sounds rude. The swearwords and curses, which make up a surprisingly large part of daily speech, are neglected by most teachers because, well, they sound rude. This course aims not to titillate but to teach the vocabulary that other teachers shy away from. If you are not offended by strong language, and would like to learn, remember, and use this "taboo" language, then you should take a look at these Activities. Please do not complain if you are shocked by the contents. You have been warned.

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Interact with each character and ask questions to help you uncover their secrets and reveal the clues that will help you accuse the right character of the crime. Find important clues in each round and understand each character’s motives for committing the crime. As you investigate the characters you will come to understand them and the little secrets they keep hidden. To correctly solve the mystery, the player must understand what they are reading, hearing, and learning.    

From the OED:

murder, n. (ˈmɜːdə(r)) 

Forms: α. 1 morþor, -ur, 3–4 morþre, 3–4, 6 murthre, 4 myrþer, 4–6 murthir, morther, 5 Sc. murthour, murthyr, 5–6 murthur, 6 mwrther, Sc. morthour, 4–9 (now dial. and Hist. or arch.) murther; β. 3–5 murdre, 4–5 moerdre, 4–6 mordre, 5 moordre, 6 murdur, mourdre, 6– murder. 

[OE. morðor neut. (with pl. of masc. form morþṙas) = Goth. maurþr neut.:—OTeut. *murþrom:—pre-Teut. *mrtro-m, f. root *mer-: mor-: mr- to die, whence L. morī to die, mors (morti-) death, Gr. µορτός, βροτός mortal, Skr. mṛ to die, mará masc., mṛti fem., death, márta mortal, OSl. mĭrěti, Lith. mirti to die, Welsh marw, Irish marþ dead. 

   The word has not been found in any Teut. lang. but Eng. and Gothic, but that it existed in continental WGer. is evident, as it is the source of OF. murdre, murtre (mod.F. meurtre) and of med.L. mordrum, murdrum, and OHG. had the derivative murdren murder v. All the Teut. langs. exc. Gothic possessed a synonymous word from the same root with different suffix: OE. morð neut., masc. (murth1), OS. morð neut., OFris. morth, mord neut., MDu. mort, mord neut. (Du. moord), OHG. mord (MHG. mort, mod.G. mord), ON. morð neut.:—OTeut. *murþo-:—pre-Teut. *mrto-. 

The change of original ð into d (contrary to the general tendency to change d into ð before syllabic r) was prob. due to the influence of the AF. murdre, moerdre and the Law Latin murdrum.] 

1. a.1.a The most heinous kind of criminal homicide; also, an instance of this. In English (also Sc. and U.S.) Law, defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought; often more explicitly wilful murder.

   In OE. the word could be applied to any homicide that was strongly reprobated (it had also the senses ‘great wickedness’, ‘deadly injury’, ‘torment’). More strictly, however, it denoted secret murder, which in Germanic antiquity was alone regarded as (in the modern sense) a crime, open homicide being considered a private wrong calling for blood-revenge or compensation. Even under Edward I, Britton explains the AF. murdre only as felonious homicide of which both the perpetrator and the victim are unidentified. The ‘malice aforethought’ which enters into the legal definition of murder, does not (as now interpreted) admit of any summary definition. Until the Homicide Act of 1957, a person might even be guilty of ‘wilful murder’ without intending the death of the victim, as when death resulted from an unlawful act which the doer knew to be likely to cause the death of some one, or from injuries inflicted to facilitate the commission of certain offences. By this act, ‘murder’ was extended to include death resulting from an intention to cause grievous bodily harm. It is essential to ‘murder’ that the perpetrator be of sound mind, and (in England, though not in Scotland) that death should ensue within a year and a day after the act presumed to have caused it. In British law no degrees of guilt are recognized in murder; in the U.S. the law distinguishes ‘murder in the first degree’ (where there are no mitigating circumstances) and ‘murder in the second degree’ (though this distinction does not obtain in all States). 

α    Beowulf 2055 Þara banena byre‥morðres ᴁylpeð.    971 Blickl. Hom. 63 Maniᴁe men wenaþ þæt morþor sy seo mæste synne.    13‥ Cursor M. 1072 (Gött.) Again abel her raised a strijf, wid murther he broght his broþer o lijf.    a 1375 Ibid. 1121 (Fairf.) Þar-wiþ come our creatour for-to speke wiþ þat traytour [Cain] of þat myrþer [earlier texts murth] and þat tresoun.    1423 Jas. I Kingis Q. clvii, The wolf, that of the murthir noght say[is] ‘ho!’    1535 Coverdale Mark xv. 7 There was in preson with the sedicious, one called Barrabas, which in the vproure had committed murthur.    1588 Shakes. Tit. A. iv. iv. 54 His traytrous Sonnes, That dy'd by law for murther of our Brother.    1649 Bp. Reynolds Hosea ii. 77 Jezebel binds her self by an oath unto murther.    1726 Butler Serm. Rolls viii. 151 But let us suppose a Person guilty of Murther.    1836 Lytton Athens (1837) II. 342 In despotic Persia all history dies away in the dark recesses and sanguinary murthers of a palace governed by eunuchs and defended but by slaves.

β    ? a 1366 Chaucer Rom. Rose 1136 He wende to have reproved be Of thefte or mordre, if that he Hadde in his stable an hakeney.    1390 Gower Conf. I. 270 Than se so gret a moerdre wroght Upon the blod which gulteth noght.    1470–85 Malory Arthur iv. xv. 118 He gaf them londes and charged hem neuer to doo outragyousyte nor mordre.    1604 Shakes. Oth. i. ii. 3 Though in the trade of Warre I haue slaine men, Yet do I hold it very stuffe o'th'conscience To do no contriu'd Murder.    1671 Milton Samson 1186 Hadst thou not committed Notorious murder on those thirty men At Askalon.    1782 Priestley Corrupt. Chr. II. ix. 152 Ten years penance [was] enjoined for a murder.    1855 Macaulay Hist. Eng. xviii. IV. 211 The peal and flash of gun after gun gave notice, from three different parts of the valley at once, that murder was doing.    1891 C. Roberts Adrift Amer. 107 The farmer lived‥for 48 hours; however he lived long enough to make it only murder in the second degree.

fig.    1809 Malkin Gil Blas iii. iii. ⁋6 This brutal importunity is downright murder to one's feelings.

b.1.b Proverb. murder will out (also murder cannot be hid, etc.). the murder is out: said when something is suddenly revealed or explained. 

   13‥ Cursor M. 1084 (Gött.) For-þi men sais into þis tyde, Is no man þat murthir may hide.    c 1386 Chaucer Nun's Pr. T. 232 Mordre wol out that se we day by day.    1433 Lydg. St. Edmund ii. 225 in Horstm. Altengl. Leg. (1881) 400 Moordre wil out, thouh it abide a while.    1596 Shakes. Merch. V. ii. ii. 83 Murder cannot be hid long.    1706 Farquhar Recruiting Officer iii. i, Now the murder's out.    1852 Dickens Bleak Ho. xxviii, Sir Leicester's cousins, in the remotest degree, are so many Murders, in the respect that they ‘will out’.

c.1.c Often applied to a death-sentence of a tribunal, killing of men in war, or any other action causing destruction of human life, which is regarded as morally wicked, whether legal or not. judicial murder: see judicial a. 1. 

   1551 Turner Herbal i. Prol. A iij b, By occasyon of thys boke euery man, nay euery old wyfe will presume not without the mordre of many, to practyse Phisick.    1662 Stillingfl. Orig. Sacræ ii. ix. §11. 276 Condemn them for the Murther of Socrates.    1665 Dryden Ind. Emperor v. ii. (1668) 60 Slaughter grows murder when it goes too far, And makes a Massacre what was a War.    a 1674 Clarendon Hist. Reb. xi. §244 This unparalleled murder and parricide was committed upon the 30th of January.    1790 Burke Fr. Rev. 108 The actual murder of the king and queen, and their child, was wanting to the other auspicious circumstances of this ‘beautiful day’. The actual murder of the bishops‥was also wanting.    1849 Macaulay Hist. Eng. iv. I. 487 Murder by false testimony is therefore the most aggravated species of murder.    1858 W. Arnot Laws fr. Heav. for Life on Earth Ser. ii. xiii. 104 [War] is, rather than does, murder.

d.1.d personified. 

   1593 Shakes. Rich. II, i. ii. 21 His summer leafes all vaded By Enuies hand, and Murders bloody axe.    1812 Shelley Devil's Walk xxvi, The hell-hounds, Murder, Want and Woe, Forever hungering, flocked around.

e.1.e Phr. to get away with murder: see get v. 61 c. 

f.1.f An excellent or marvellous person or thing. U.S. slang. 

   1940 Music Makers May 37/3 Murder, something excellent or terrific.‥ ‘That's solid murder, gate!’    1943 M. Shulman Barefoot Boy ix. 90 We got on the dance floor just as a Benny Goodman record started to play. ‘Oh, B.G.!’ cried Noblesse.‥ ‘Man, he's murder, Jack.’    1948 H. L. Mencken Amer. Lang. Suppl. II. 707 The vocabulary of the jazz addict is largely identical with that of the jazz performer…anything excellent is killer-diller, murder or Dracula.    1970 C. Major Dict. Afro-Amer. Slang 83 Murder, (1930's–40's) excellent; the best.

†2.2 Used without moral reprobation: Terrible slaughter, destruction of life. Obs. 

   1297 R. Glouc. (Rolls) 11717, & sir simond was aslawe & is folk al to grounde More murþre [v.r. morþre] ȝare nas in so lute stounde Vor þere was werst simond de mountfort aslawe alas & sir henri his sone [etc.].    1412–20 Lydg. Chron. Troy iii. xxii. (1513) O v, Pryamus‥suche a mordre gan vpon them make That many grekes lay dede on the playne.    c 1449 Pecock Repr. v. vi. (Rolls) 516 Sowdiers wagid into Fraunce for to make miche morther of blood.    1590 Disc. Sp. Fleet inv. Eng. 23 The same day‥the L. Henrie Seimer and sir William Winter did so thoroughly beate two Spanish Galeons‥that they were inforced to withdraw themselues to the coast of Flanders, where forsomuch as they were in a very euill taking, as well in respect of the murther of their men, as the manifolde leakes of their ships, they were surprised, and without fight rifeled by the Zelanders.

3.3 As a cry or exclamation uttered by one who thinks or pretends to think himself or some one else in danger of murder. Also, in trivial use, as a comic ejaculation of horror. to cry blue murder (slang): to make an extravagant outcry or lamentation; also blue murder, a loud or alarming noise, a great commotion, din, or disturbance; used in intensive phrases as like blue murder, at a terrific pace, at top speed (colloq.). 

   c 1470 Henryson Mor. Fab. iv. (Fox & Cock) xiii. 478 The wedow hard, and‥Seand the cace, scho sichit and gaif an schout: ‘How, murthour, hay! with ane hiddious beir, Allace, now lost is gentill chantecleir!’    1604 Shakes. Oth. v. i. 27, I am maym'd for euer: Helpe hoa: Murther, murther.    1788 Burns Epigr. on Elphinstone's Martial, Heard'st thou that groan—proceed no further; ‘Twas laurelled Martial roaring murther!    1837 S. Lover Rory O'More xlvi, Pooh! pooh!—murdher! there's not a dhrop o' wather in the pot.    1859 Hotten Dict. Slang 8 Blue-murder, a desperate or alarming cry.    c 1874 D. Boucicault in M. R. Booth Eng. Plays of 19th Cent. (1969) II. 228 They were standing by and thrying to screech blue murdher. ‘Stop their mouths,’ said a voice.    1887 ‘J. S. Winter’ in Eng. Illustr. Mag. Dec. 179 The dingy person dropped his victim and howled what the half-dozen officers‥afterwards graphically described as ‘blue murder’.    1893 G. B. Shaw in World 10 May 28/2 What it [sc. the slow movement of Stanford's Irish Symphony] does end in is blue murder.    1900 Pollok & Thom Sports Burma iii. 78 The foolish beast would not budge, but kept yelling ‘blue murder’ whilst the bull was cruelly punishing her.    1914 Evening News 1 Oct. 2/1 They were off down the road like blue murder.    1921 G. B. Shaw Back to Methuselah ii. 84 You couldnt produce it. There would be blue murder. It's out of the question.    1959 ‘A. Gilbert’ Death takes Wife xiii. 164 Corpses don't yell blue murder.

4.4 Hist. Used occas. to render Anglo-Latin murdrum: The fine imposed, in the 12th and 13th c., on the hundred in which a ‘murder’ (i.e. felonious homicide of an unknown by an unknown person: see note under sense 1) had been committed. 

   1823 Lingard Hist. Eng. (1854) I. 247 [Norman Conquest]. In legal language the penalty was denominated the ‘murder’.

5.5 In fig. and hyperbolic use: (an act of) destruction or spoliation supposed to be tantamount to murder. Also in weakened senses: a situation or condition that is very unpleasant or undesirable. 

   1857 Trollope Barchester T. II. ii. 37 This cellar is perfectly abominable. It would be murder to put a bottle of wine into it till it has been roofed, walled, and floored.‥ Goodenough never had a glass of wine that any man could drink.    1878 ‘R. Boldrewood’ Ups & Downs ix. 90 What a murder that one should have all these hundredweights of nails,‥ and forests of posts and wallplates to get all over again!    1924 Kipling Debits & Credits (1926) 316, I was never keen on bombin' myself.‥ But bombin'-instruction's murder!    1951 J. B. Priestley Festival at Farbridge ii. ii. 255 Cook's gone, and it's murder trying to do it all myself.    1956 A. J. Lerner My Fair Lady (1958) i. i. 8 By right she should be taken out and hung For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue!    1960 H. Pinter Room in Birthday Party, etc. 105 Rose. You look cold. Mrs Sands. It's murder out. Have you been out?    1965 M. Bradbury Stepping Westward i. 64 Private life was simple enough, but the communal centres were murder.    1973 A. Ross Dunfermline Affair 69 An old hip injury.‥ Not so bad when I'm just walking‥but murder climbing stairs.

6.6 A popular parlour or children's game for a number of participants, which involves a mock murder hunt, led by a ‘detective’, to find the ‘murderer’ of one who is playing dead, having been ‘murdered’ in the dark. Also called murders, the murder game, murder in the dark. 

   1933 Phillips & Westall Bk. Indoor Games iv. 276 To give as good an idea of ‘Murder’ as we can, we will describe in narrative form an actual game.    1934 N. Marsh Man lay Dead i. 14 Silly games are played.‥ It's going to be Murders this time.    Ibid. 20 Are we really going to play the Murder Game?    1937 M. Hillis Orchids on your Budget (1938) vi. 103 You can still serve refreshments after bingo played for pennies or the murder game.    1948 C. Day Lewis Otterbury Incident v. 59 We'd get him interested if we made a detective job of it—sort of Murder Game.    1964 R. Jeffries Embarrassing Death xii. 147 Did you ever play the game ‘Murder’?‥ Everybody but the murderer must tell the truth: the murderer may lie.    1972 G. Brandreth Party Games 24 Murder in the Dark. 6 or more players. A chilling game, definitely not for those with weak hearts.

7.7 attrib. and Comb., simple attrib., as murder bout, murder case, murder charge, murder film, murder-fine (= sense 4), murder gun, murder hunt, murder-haunt, murder-oath, murder story, murder-tool, murder trial, murder victim, murder weapon; objective, as murder-aiming, murder-darting adjs.; instrumental, as murder-wasted; murder bag (see quot. 1938); murder book (file, log), a book or file in which are kept details of a police investigation of a murder; murder game: see sense 6; murder inquiry, a police investigation into a case of murder; murder investigation = murder inquiry; murder-man, (a) a murderer; (b) a writer of murder stories; cf. murdermonger; murder mystery, a mysterious murder; spec. a murder story in which the murderer's identity is concealed by a complicated plot until the dénouement; murder one U.S. colloq., (a charge of) first-degree murder; murder rap slang (orig. U.S.), a charge of murder; murder room, after the discovery of a murder, a (nearby) room used as a centre for directing a police inquiry into the crime; murder squad, a division of the police appointed to investigate crimes of murder. 

   1789 Burns On Seeing Wounded Hare i, Blasted be thy *murder-aiming eye!

   1938 F. D. Sharpe S. of Flying Squad vi. 65 In the Superintendent's office at Scotland Yard repose two plain cowhide bags.‥ They are the *Murder Bags which contain all the tools which a detective is likely to need in solving a major crime.    1962 ‘J. Bell’ Crime in our Time v. iii. 156 He takes with him all the necessary apparatus for a detailed examination on the spot, the so-called ‘murder bag’.    1972 ‘A. Garve’ Case of Robert Quarry i. i. 8 Methodically checking the contents of his murder bag.

   1972 J. Wainwright Requiem for Loser viii. 162 The final write-up would be bound into a single volume, called ‘The *Murder Book’.    1973 Murder Book [see murder log below].

   1906 Hardy Dynasts II. vi. vii. 298 Bonaparte and Alexander‥Are closing to a mutual *murder-bout.

   1930 A. Christie Murder at Vicarage xv. 118, I should never have suspected that Hawes would take such a keen interest in the details of a *murder case.    1974 M. Birmingham You can help Me iii. 52 This is a murder case.‥ To answer a few questions will hardly hurt her.

   1937 ‘M. Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge! iii. v. 297 There is nobody‥who would wish to incriminate me in a *murder charge.    1974 Times 15 Feb. 1/3 (heading) Murder charge after London shooting.

   1972 J. Wainwright Requiem for Loser viii. 162 The enquiry was still ‘The *Murder Enquiry’.    1973 Murder enquiry [see murder log below].

   1967 W. Keenan Lonely Beat iv. 39 He picked up the thick *murder file.‥ The reports were in chronological order.    1973 Murder File [see murder log below].

   1947 M. Gilbert Close Quarters xvi. 244 It was a *murder film.

   1898 E. Jenks in Contemp. Rev. Dec. 884 The three neighbouring villages must pay the *murder-fine.

   1939 E. S. Gardner D.A. draws Circle (1940) v. 57 ‘What are they, Doug, finger⁓prints?’ ‘Yes, on the *murder gun.’

   1968 Observer 28 Apr. 8/2 (heading) *Murder-hunt police appeal to motorists.

   1937 ‘M. Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge! iii. i. 220 The scene‥suggested‥a riot rather than a *murder-investigation.    1973 R. Lewis Blood Money iii. 28 This is a murder investigation. Give me your assistance.

   1972 J. Wainwright Requiem for Loser viii. 162 The log was still ‘The *Murder Log’.    1973 ― High-Class Kill 123 Bits and pieces which are part of a murder enquiry—the Murder File, the Murder Log‥and the Murder Book.

   c 1412 Hoccleve De Reg. Princ. 3166 Bet it is to sle þe *mordreman, Than suffre hym regnë.    c 1420 Virgin's Compl. 32 in Pol. Rel. & L. Poems (1903) 239, I criede on deth, ‘why wilt þu fle? Cum, sle his moder, þu morder man!’    1889 Murder-man [see blood-curdler (blood n. 20)].

   1900 Ade Fables in Slang 198 The Book that begins with a *Murder Mystery.    1960 Auden Homage to Clio 26 The sin of Gluttony Is ranked among the Deadly Seven, but in murder mysteries One can be sure the gourmet Didn't do it.    1973 A. MacVicar Painted Doll Affair vi. 68, I bought two of the paperbacks described as ‘murder mysteries’.    1975 Times 22 Sept. 11/5 They‥worked out a scheme about two lexicographers involved in a murder mystery.

   c 1470 Henryson Mor. Fab. xiii. (Frog & Mouse) xiii, Bot gif thou sweir to me the *murthour aith But fraude or gile to bring me ouer this flude But hurt or harme.    Ibid. xvi, Thow swore the murthour aith richt now, that I.

   1971 ‘H. Howard’ Murder One xiv. 177 Murray's going to stand trial charged with *murder one.    1972 G. V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle xxvi. 162 The three of them're up on murder one, they're gonna be having a hearing this afternoon.

   1929 D. Hammett Dain Curse (1930) xv. 169 He hasn't a chance in the world of hanging *murder-raps on them.    1972 J. Potter Going West 57 Sergeant O'Leary said how about pulling her in on a murder rap.

   1968 P. N. Walker Carnaby & Gaolbreakers xv. 143 I'd like a room set aside as a *Murder Room.    1972 G. Sereny Case of Mary Bell i. iii. 38 The ‘Murder Room’ at Newcastle's West End Police‥was a hive of activity all night.

   1929 M. A. Gill Underworld Slang, *Murder squad, police who investigate murders.    1958 S. Hyland Who goes Hang? xlv. 220 A straightforward fact‥accepted by Macaulay and his murder squad.    1972 C. Drummond Death at Bar iii. 84 Sergeant Reed had retired from the pub before the City of London murder squad arrived.

   1831 M. Edgeworth Let. 16 Mar. (1971) 490 Rogers‥told me‥a capital *murder-story.    1929 F. N. Hart Hide in Dark i. 27 It's despicable to tell a murder story with the lights on.

   1843 Carlyle Past & Pr. iii. x, Fighting with steel *murder-tools is surely a much uglier operation than Working, take it how you will.

   1888 Kipling Let. 2 May in C. E. Carrington R. Kipling (1955) v. 97 He has been concerned in most of the more distinguished *murder trials of the past twenty years.    1973 D. Westheimer Going Public iii. 42 Lee went to the Houston Post and looked through back issues, studying murders and murder trials.

   1971 Guardian 11 Dec. 10/5 The weekly number of *murder victims [in India] is 283.

   1870 Morris Earthly Par. III. iv. 30 Of Sigurd, who the dragon slew Upon the *murder-wasted heath.

   1959 M. Gilbert Blood & Judgment vii. 71 He had turned up‥the *murder weapon, ready furnished with a print of the murderer.    1962 K. Orvis Damned & Destroyed xii. 84 Fay's cap of heroin burned like a murder-weapon in my pocket.    1973 R. Lewis Blood Money iv. 36 Frust‥confirmed that‥the poker‥is the murder weapon.


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