Narnia language

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wordbook

Many dictionaries and guides are careful to warn readers about the difference between a faun and a fawn. However, anyone familiar with the tales of C. S. Lewis is unlikely to confuse these two shy inhabitants of woodland glades, since the goat-footed, part-human faun of classical Roman mythology is the first strange creature we encounter […]

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Big Society Word of the Year

The OUP UK Word of the Year 2010 is … ‘big society’

Let’s hear a woot (or not?) for the Big Society! Each year, as the announcement of Oxford’s Word of the Year approaches, I’m reminded of some words from the playwright Dennis Potter: ‘the trouble with words is that you never know whose mouth they’ve been in’. I sometimes wonder whether that’s why I like new […]

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chocolate

Nom nom! 2010 was a deliciously rich year for our language

Popular culture . . . In 2010, much of our uneasy fascination turned from zombie banks to plain old zombies. Well, maybe not “plain old.” It’s been a phenomenal year for zombies, who have commanded huge markets in the entertainment industry and a seemingly insatiable fan base. As zombies roamed the planet, another breed of […]

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Refudiate: An understandable mistake?

Refudiate: An understandable mistake?

Refute, repudiate, refuse? They can be confusing! When Sarah Palin keyed the word “refudiate” into some Twitter messages in 2010, it became an instant sensation, especially among her critics, who mocked the former governor for her use of a word that does not exist. But Palin was by no means the first person to say or […]

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Sarah Palin's use of 'refudiate' sparked a flurry of media activity.

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2010 is refudiate

Followers of Sarah Palin’s Twitter account will undoubtedly recognize the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2010: refudiate verb used loosely to mean “reject”: she called on them to refudiate the proposal. [origin — blend of refute and repudiate] Refudiate: A Historical Perspective An unquestionable buzzword in 2010, the word refudiate instantly […]

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box

Try thinking outside the box!

When it’s all said and done at the end of the day, I can say I made a difference in the world. Does the above cliché-ridden sentence (taken from a transcript of a 2004 TV show) make you cringe? If so, join the club (whoops, another one). Although it can be hard to avoid them, […]

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linguistic blunders

The Burds and the Bees

Sarah Palin, the once and (perhaps) future candidate for higher political office, recently discovered the perils of neologizing, when she several times used the previously unknown word refudiate in a series of tweets about the potential building of a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan. The condemnation of her word choice was swift and brutal, and […]

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A South African supporter blows a vuvuzela at a World Cup 2010

Vuvuzela, staycation, and tweeting: new words in the Oxford Dictionary

Did you spend part of your staycation this year watching the World Cup and tweeting about the infuriating sound of the vuvuzela? A lot of people did. These words are now so familiar that it’s easy to forget how recently they were coined – staycation is first recorded in 2005, while Twitter wasn’t set up […]

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Tweets