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Embiggening English: The Simpsons and changing language

The first episode of The Simpsons aired twenty-five years ago, on 17 December, 1989, and since then, English has never been the same. Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and their friends in Springfield, Wherever-it-is, have given us fancy words of pure invention, worthy of Lewis Carroll, like cromulent ‘legitimate, but not really’, and words built from […]

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OED 2 min

Interactive map: the OED in two minutes

This animation uses data from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to show how English has developed by borrowing or adapting words from different languages and regions of the world, from 1150 to the present day. These patterns of word-borrowing reflect the changing demography of the English-speaking world; cultural and economic influences on Britain; the spread […]

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Hanukkah menora

How do you spell Chanukah? (Hanukkah? Hanukah? Chanukkah?)

Each winter, as the Jewish festival of lights approaches, English speakers grapple with the question of how to spell its name. The Oxford English Corpus records at least 13 different contemporary spellings, and there are even more in the historical evidence. While the vowels of the word (-a-u-a-) remain constant, there is wide variation in […]

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monkeys

9 monkey phrases and their meanings

Monkeys have it tough in the English language. Generally speaking, being called a monkey (or invoking one) does not bode well. While silliness is certainly the most common connotation, association with a monkey can also mean foolishness, aggravation, environmental terrorism, and cold. Here are nine examples of monkey language: cold enough to freeze the balls […]

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Gone With the Wind poster

Gone with the Wind‘s “damn” and other vulgar language

Liz: You can’t just take away all these words we’ve been using for the past six years. Kenneth: Oh, that reminds me. You can’t say “using” on TV. It implies drug use. —30 Rock Season 6, Episode 11 On 15 December, 1939, Gone with the Wind premiered at Loew’s Grand Theatre in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. […]

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Lolcat generator

Lolcat generator: turn your words into lolcat speak

Among the words added in the latest OxfordDictionaries.com update was lolcat (or LOLcat). It is defined as ‘(on the Internet) a photograph of a cat accompanied by a humorous caption written typically in a misspelled and grammatically incorrect version of English’. The lol stands for ‘laughing out loud’ or ‘laugh out loud’. You may well […]

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Seinfeld jerk store

The Jerk Store called…and called and called

Seinfeld famously added a ton of terms to English, such as low talker, high talker, spongeworthy, and unshushables. It also made obscure terms into household words. Shrinkage and yadda yadda yadda existed before Seinfeld, but it’s doubtful you learned them anywhere else. Another successful Seinfeld term has gone under the radar: Jerk Store. The term was coined in “The Comeback,” when George is unselfconsciously stuffing his face with […]

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writing competition

Join our Word of the Day writing competition!

The days are getting colder, and everyone is slowly retreating to the cosy comfort of their homes. What better opportunity, then, to make good use of the quietness and solitude of the season by getting pen and paper (or a computer) out to write? OxfordWords is calling all aspiring authors out there to take part […]

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