Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

90s language

Achy-breaky words: the language of the nineties

Though they’re well over a decade past, the nineties occupy an unusual place in the cultural zeitgeist. A whole new decade has come and gone since, and yet popular culture still has yet to decide what precisely the nineties were “about”. For better or for worse, many of the decades preceding the nineties have their […]

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on the radar

On the radar: July 2014

Oxford’s lexicography team monitors many new English words which are still too new or rare to be included in our dictionaries. Here is a roundup of a few neologisms that have caught our eyes recently. oxt Lexicographers typically discover new words when we encounter them “in the wild”, used unselfconsciously by people who are confident […]

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bread idioms

The greatest thing since bread idioms

When it comes to offering both nutritional and linguistic value, no food is more nourishing than good ol’, plain ol’ bread. For centuries, bread has been a symbol of the ultimate sustenance – and bread idioms and proverbs further emphasize its dual status as a provider of life and a measure of how well that […]

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fashion words

Fedoras to mullets: decades of fashion words

It can be pretty difficult to keep track of current fashion trends; it seems as soon as you finally become accustomed to one (and have incorporated it into your own wardrobe), another style invariably comes along to replace it. However, even decades after the trends themselves are no longer to be found behind storefront windows […]

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Quebec French

Quebec French and the question of identity

A brief history of the French language in Quebec The French language came to North America with the first French settlers in the 17th century. French and British forces had long been at war before the final victory of Britain in the mid 18th century; after the loss of New France, France lost contact with […]

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hotdog

Hot diggety dog: the language of hotdogs

In my local supermarket there is a section of shelving devoted to sausages in tins and jars. American-style hot dogs whose label reveals them to be made in England from mechanically recovered turkey, frankfurters made from slightly more identifiable meats, Bockwurst from Germany, and jars of Polish kiełbasa. European harmony expressed through the medium of […]

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cows in the oed

The peculiar history of cows in the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has hundreds of words that relate to cows. For most English speakers, the idea that anyone would need so many words for one specific animal probably seems absurd. Especially cows. Perhaps it’s their mysterious ubiquity throughout children’s books and TV shows or just the dull empty look in their eyes, […]

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Extant

Extant’s slippery title confuses even the cast members

With the debut of the Steven Spielberg-produced Halle Berry vehicle Extant, one question has been on a lot of people’s minds: what does the title mean? Following the show’s premiere on July 9, Oxford Dictionaries saw a noticeable increase in the number of searches for the definition of extant. But it wasn’t only the Internet […]

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